Piercing Needle & Tools
Permanent body piercings are performed by creating an opening in the body using a sharp object through the area to be
pierced. This can either be done by puncturing an opening using a needle (usually a hollow medical needle) or scalpel or by removing tissue, either with a dermal punch or through scalpelling.Tools used in body piercing include:
1. The piercing needle
The standard method in the United States involves making an opening using a beveled-tip hollow medical needle, which is available in different lengths, gauges and even shapes. While straight needles are useful for many body parts, curved needles
are manufactured for areas where straight needles are not ideal. The needle selected is typically the same gauge (or
sometimes larger as with cartilage piercings) as the initial jewellery to be worn, with higher gauges indicating thinner needles.
The needle is inserted into the body part being pierced, frequently by hand but sometimes with the aid of a needle holder or pusher. While the needle is still in the body, the initial jewellery to be worn in the piercing is pushed through the opening,
following the back of the needle. Jewellery is often inserted into the hollow end of a needle, so that as the needle pulls through
the jewellery is left behind.
2. The indwelling cannula
Outside of the United States, many piercers use a needle containing a cannula (or catheter), a hollow plastic tube placed at the end of the needle. In some countries, the piercing needle favoured in the United States is regarded as a medical device and is illegal for body piercers. The procedure is similar to the piercing needle method, but the initial jewellery is inserted into the
back of the cannula and the cannula and the jewellery are then pulled through the piercing. More bleeding may follow, as the piercing is larger than the jewellery.
3. The dermal punch
A dermal punch is used to remove a circular area of tissue, into which jewellery is placed, and may be useful for larger
cartilage piercings. They are popular for use in ears, though not legal for use by nonmedical personnel in some parts of the
4. The piercing gun
Piercing guns like this one with its plastic, non-autoclavable handle, are not professionally favored or recommended,
even for ears.
The vast majority of women in the west have their ears pierced with a piercing gun. The safety of piercing guns, which were originally developed for tagging livestock, has been disputed. They are not recommending for piercing body parts other than
the lobes of ears, and the Association of Professional Piercers recommends that piercing guns not be used for any piercing,
requiring members to agree not to use piercing guns in their practice.
Cork may be placed on the opposite side of the body part being pierced to receive the needle.
Forceps, or clamps, may be used to hold and stabilize the tissue to be pierced. Most piercings that are stabilized with
forceps use the triangular-headed "Pennington" forcep, while tongues are usually stabilized with an oval-headed forcep.
Most forceps have large enough openings in their jaws to permit the needle and jewellery to pass directly through, though
some slotted forceps are designed with a removable segment instead for removal after the piercing. Forceps are not used
in the freehand method, in which the piercer supports the tissue by hand.
7. Needle receiving tubes
A hollow tube made of metal, shatter-resistant glass or plastic, needle receiving tubes, like forceps, are used to support the
tissue at the piercing site and are common in septum and some cartilage piercings. Not only are these tubes intended to
support the tissue, but they also receive the needle once it has passed through the tissue, offering protection from the sharp
point. Needle receiving tubes are not used in the freehand piercing method.
Anesthesia is supplied by some piercers, particularly in the United Kingdom and Europe. The anesthesia may be topical or injected. Piercers and other non-medical personnel are not legally permitted to administer anesthetics in the United States.