Since December 2014, I have officially been a person with alternative piercings. I personally define ‘alternative piercings’ as any body piercing which isn’t located in the earlobe. I consider myself to have three alternative piercings: my tragus and helix on my left ear, and my left nostril. I also have each earlobe pierced twice, and I have further plans for more alternative piercings, such as a microdermal on my chest, my other nostril and septum, and potentially more cartilage piercings on my right ear.
Now, before I get into this post, I’d like to make the disclaimer that my experiences as a person with alternative piercings are fairly mild compared to some people with more body modifications. However, I thought I’d write about my experiences navigating the world as a person with alternative piercings, and how I interact with people who don’t have them.
1 – The pain you feel when you snag your piercing on your hair/clothes/bed sheets/towel
I still snag my nose piercing all the time when I’m washing my face, or I catch my helix piercing when I pull a t-shirt over my head. No matter how long you’ve had a piercing, and whether it’s fully healed or not, it will still take you by surprise and you’ll end up snagging it on something. I’ve had my tragus pierced for nearly two years and I still catch it on my towel when I dry my hair.
2 – Is my piercing infected, or does it have hypertrophic scarring? Or a keloid? Or an irritation bump?????
There are all sorts of things that could potentially go wrong with a piercing. If you irritate it, as mentioned in the first point, you could end up with an irritation bump. These are harmless and will reduce in size and eventually disappear when the irritation stops, for example I finally stop knocking my nose when I’m applying face scrub. There are other possibilities, however: you could have a hypertrophic scar, which is essentially a build up of collagen. These aren’t really harmful, but if they’re large enough and close to your piercing the size of it may push on your piercing and cause it to migrate. Alternatively, you could have a keloid, another type of scar tissue, which is more of an issue. If all of these have been ruled out it’s possible that you may have an infected piercing, which is a risk when trying to heal an open wound. If you think that might be the case, speak to your piercer and ask for their advice, or if you think it looks serious book an appointment with your GP.
3 – How do you cope with all the risks that come with piercings, as mentioned in point two?
Sometimes, it feels like the effort of trying to heal your piercing isn’t worth the hassle. I’ve had what I believe is an irritation bump on the back of my helix piercing for months, and it’s become infected a couple of times. However, I love how my helix looks, and I reckon that I’ve already come this far, so I ought to keep up the hard work and eventually I’ll have a fully healed piercing that I can love for the rest of my life. In my eyes, it’d be a waste of time if I just took my piercing out and gave up now.
4 – How much did it hurt? How much did it bleed?
I personally hate being asked how much my piercings hurt, because people seem to forget that every person has a different pain threshold. I’m an absolute wimp, so I’m worried that I’d scare people from getting piercings that they really want because my pain rating out of ten seems high to them. I’ve discussed pain levels with people who have the same piercings as me and we all have different perceptions of how much they hurt.
5 – How long did your piercing take to heal? Is there any way I can speed up the process?
I’m not gonna beat around the bush here: some piercings are absolute buggers to heal. And once again, the time it takes varies from person to person. My immune system isn’t particularly fantastic, so my healing times are probably longer than most peoples’. I’ve had my helix pierced for a year and a half and it still hasn’t fully healed. On the other hand, my tragus was fully healed within a few months, when others suggest it can take 12 to 18 months. You absolutely cannot predict how quickly your piercings will heal, as other influences, such as illness or poor nutrition, could slow down your immune system. Plus, there is no way to rush the healing process. You have to remember that your piercing jewellery is a foreign body that your immune system will want to fight and reject, so healing the piercing is a tricky process.
6 – You should twist your jewellery twice a day to speed up the healing process!
This is the old way that piercers recommended you heal your piercings, but nowadays this process is frowned upon. This is because it’s been discovered that twisting your jewellery only damages and tears the cells in the fistula (the hole of the piercing), which actually delays the healing process.
7 – You should use contact lens solution to heal your piercings!
This is a common misconception, because most piercers recommend using saline solution (a.k.a. salt water) to heal your piercings, and contact lens solution is very close to being pure saline. However, if you read the ingredients contact lens solution often contains other elements which could irritate your piercing and prolong the healing process.
8 – You look better natural, without any piercings.
Too bad, I like them.