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How to Safely Pierce Your Own Ears

Let me start with my own piercing journey: it starts at a Claire’s in suburban Illinois in 2009, where, after years of begging, my mom finally let me get a pair of lime green earrings unceremoniously punched into my lobes. It was jarring and traumatic, but my ears were popping. I felt cool, chic and stylish (although, in reality, I was none of those things), and the simple fact of having ear piercings changed my entire attitude. Throughout the next few years, I jazzed up my look with colorful studs, trendy statement pieces (such as these spicy numbers) and a handful of homemade jewelry. As I entered high school, I fell out of love with my singular set of piercings, and I stopped wearing any jewelry whatsoever. I thought earrings were boring, and I consequently abandoned an aspect of my style that had previously brought me so much joy.

It was not until this past summer that I became intrigued by piercings once again, when I discovered the trend of constellation piercings on Pinterest and was immediately hooked. The randomness, the versatility, the delicate asymmetry fascinated me. In a fit of inspiration and atypical spontaneity, I got my second lobes pierced by a needle at a tattoo shop (a much better experience than the piercing gun). The effect was immediate. I became enchanted with the idea of piercings, and realized that through curating my own ears, I felt more confident, more beautiful and more excited to explore my own taste. In short, adding two small holes to my ears transformed my self-perception and reinvigorated my waning interest in style. Thus, it comes as no surprise that a mere two days later I was buying a pack of fifty piercing needles, making a sterile saltwater concoction on the stove and mentally preparing for the new piercings I had decided I needed. Multiple self-done piercings later, I could not be more excited about how my ears look. While I would never say you should pierce your own ears, sometimes it is the most viable option, whether due to finances or otherwise (for an idea: my second lobe piercings at a shop cost $110, while for my third lobe piercings I spent $8 on a 50 pack of piercing needles and $10 on a pair of sterling silver studs). In my humble opinion, piercing yourself can be incredibly simple, quite cheap and very safe if done correctly.

1. Get your supplies

This is pretty simple, all things considered. Most supplies, such as good quality gold or silver filled earrings, rubbing alcohol, a clean sponge, a fine point pen, cotton pads or q-tips, salt and water should be readily available; however, the most essential tool in your piercing arsenal does require a bit of planning ahead. If you want to minimize risk of infection and maximize ease, investing in a pack of sterilized piercing needles is crucial. To mentally prepare, watch some piercing videos on YouTube so you know what to expect. Understanding the technique will put your mind at ease and give you a better shot at not messing up.

2. Prep your setup

Find a place with ample counter space and a good mirror with (ideally) natural lighting. Soak a cotton pad with rubbing alcohol and gently disinfect the spot you intend to pierce. Sterilize the earrings you are using with a saline mixture of some sort (either dissolve ½ tbsp salt in about a cup of warm water, or just use plain old contact saline solution), let them soak for about five minutes. Lay out a couple of cotton pads, a small towel and more saline on the counter so it’s readily available. Tip: do not ice your ear beforehand. The ability to feel what is going on in the body as you are positioning and executing is crucial while you’re piercing yourself.

3. Pierce

This is the scariest part, but it’s so worth it. Mark the spot you intend to pierce with a pen and examine it in the mirror to make sure you’re happy with the placement. Wash your hands, and take out a sealed piercing needle (don’t open it until you’re completely ready to go; it won’t be sterile once it’s exposed to the air!). If piercing your lobe, hold a square of new, clean sponge behind your ear (it will absorb the needle as it comes out the other side; with cartilage, which is much stiffer, this is less necessary). Unwrap the needle (this is where the pressure is on! You can’t wait too long! This little bit of added pressure can be a nice motivating factor). Turn slightly so you can see both the front and side of the area you are piercing, and hold the needle gently at the skin’s surface. Make sure that the placement and the angle are to your liking (for a lobe piercing, you should have the needle completely horizontal from front to back), and in one deft motion, push the needle through. It is much easier to do it quickly: if you’re going to do it, commit. When the tip of the needle exits the other side, pull it through until only a small portion of the end of the needle is visible on the front side of your ear. Piercing needles are hollow, which make them specifically designed for the insertion of an earring into the end. Put the earring post into the hole, pull the needle the rest of the way through and the earring will glide into your ear. This is much less traumatic than the usual at-home method of using a sewing needle and shoving an earring straight into the fresh hole immediately afterwards. Put the back on the earring, flush the area with saline solution and dab with a q-tip.

4. Aftercare

To cool down your ears post-piercing, wash gently with saline solution. Try not to sleep on the piercings whenever possible. Do not twist or play with the jewelry—just leave it alone! Clean two to three times a day with saline solution (it’s really all you need). And finally, wait to change your jewelry until at least six weeks after you pierce yourself. After those six weeks, feel free to mix and match, change it up and enjoy your newfound excitement over the possibilities in store for your ears.

Ava Ferry

Columbia Barnard '22

A Los Angeles transplant living in New York City, Ava is a freshman at Barnard College of Columbia University (the best college in the world), and she has no idea what she's studying. In her free time, you can find her watching Netflix, wandering around the city with her headphones in, reading Vogue, scream-laughing, and offending old conservatives with her uncouth language.
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