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What are piercings?

A hole punched through the ears, face or body so that jewellery (e.g. earrings) can be attached.

What do piercings do?

  • Face

    Allows attaching jewellery, such as earrings

Who can have piercings?

  • In Scotland, you need to be at least 16 to get a piercing. In other places it depends on the shop.

How long do piercings last?

Pierced holes will grow over if the jewellery is removed but this may leave a permanent visible mark.

What should I be aware of?

Common risks of piercings are infection and scarring. Some types of piercing carry higher risks than others. Other possible complications include migration (where a piercing moves from the place it was originally pierced) and rejection (where the piercing is expelled from the body completely).

How do I stay safe?


Always have piercings performed by a professional. Never try and pierce yourself. There is a much higher risk of scarring or infection.

Make sure the person who is performing the piercing has a piercing license that is clearly displayed in their establishment. This makes sure that the equipment and facilities being used are safe and hygienic. It is illegal to perform piercing without a licence.

You may want to look for reviews or ask people you know for recommendations of places that will perform piercing.


If your piercing becomes infected, immediately seek medical attention.

Signs of infection are are:

  • significant redness around the piercing
  • pus or green or yellow fluid
  • bleeding that isn’t stopped by light pressure
  • an odd smell
  • lots of swelling
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • not wanting to or being able to move arms, legs, fingers, or another part of the body

If you are experiencing these symptoms, immediately seek medical attention 1, p.29. If left untreated an infection could lead to abscesses or in more serious cases sepsis (blood poisoning) or toxic shock syndrome.

Are there other options?

Not all jewellery requires piercing to use. Alternatives include clip-on, magnetic, or stick-on earrings, ear cuffs, and ‘fake’ nose rings. You may want to try these first to find out how you feel about wearing jewellery.

How do I get piercings?

Most parts of the body can be pierced, but not all types of piercings are suitable for everyone. Ask for professional advice if you are considering having your body pierced.

The time required for a piercing to heal will vary depending on the location of the piercing. A simple ear lobe piercing will normally take 6-8 weeks to heal properly.

While your piercing is healing, keep the area clean and dry, and make sure your hands are clean before you touch the area. It is not normally necessary to rotate or remove a piece of jewellery - try and handle it as little as possible, and touch the jewellery instead of the skin if you can 1, p.28.

Public Health England and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health have published advice on how to care for your piercing:

Where can I learn more?

You can find out more about piercing on the NHS website.


  1. 1.
    Chartered Institute of Enivronmental Health (2013) “Tattooing and body piercing guidance toolkit.” Link

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