Do Your Research
Instead of blindly walking into a shop for a piercing, do a little digging to make sure it's the right place for you. First of all, engage in some basic internet snooping. "It's 2016. They need to have a website, and if they don't, they're not a professional business," says Brian Keith Thompson, owner of Body Electric, a Hollywood-based tattoo and piercing shop. "Second, what are people saying about them on the internet? Don't believe everything you read, but if you see consistently bad opinions, they're probably not doing the best job."
One more thing: look down at the floor. "If the floor's not clean, nothing else in the studio is clean. It starts with the floor," Thompson says. Once you've checked off those requirements, make sure to ask questions and remember—there's no such thing as a stupid question!
Eat and Drink
Sounds simple, but it's easy to overlook: eating and drinking water beforehand is crucial. Thompson says neglecting the two can cause your nerves to get the best of you and that can increase the chance of you fainting—that's the last thing you want to do.
Believe in the Buddy System
"You definitely would want to get into a good headspace," Thompson says, especially if needles make you nervous. To help you out a bit, seek the company of your friends. "Bring friends with you that are not going to freak you out and make faces to scare you. Bring the rock-solid friends you have—the ride-or-dies."
Avoid Damaging Guns
Just say no to piercing guns. "It's basically using blunt force trauma and shoving something fast through your ear, which is only going to complicate things," Thompson says. "It actually hurts more [than a single needle], and it is not very sanitary as it can't be sterilized," he adds.
Give Yourself Some Time
Congrats! You have the fun and cool piercing you've wanted! And you probably want to try on a million different earrings, right? Hold off, though, until your skin has had time to heal. Here's Thompson's suggested timeline:
Six Weeks: "If you want to change [your earrings], wait at least six weeks, but the longer you let the original jewelry stay in, the better the chances of it healing quicker."
Two Months: For a lobe piercing, Thompson says full healing takes 8 to 10 weeks.
Three to Five Months: "Anywhere on the ear besides the lobe—cartilage and tragus—is going to take three to five months to heal," says Thompson, and he emphasizes that full healing is usually toward the longer end of that range.
Keep Aftercare Simple
"All you really need is soap and water," Thompson says in reference to cleaning the piercing wound. "I give my clients the all-natural soap, Dr. Bronner's." Instead of reaching for the rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, stick to a regular soap that gets the job done.
In addition, don't touch it, because bacteria lingers on your fingers and can cause infection. "What you basically want to do is eat healthy, as healthy as you can, drink lots of fluids, and sleep," Thompson says. "Wash off the surface bacteria once a day in the shower. Up to twice when you're working out or hiking."