Teenagers experiment with piercings, tattoos

Tabitha Parent, Senior Reporter

Do-it-yourself projects normally involve crafts like friendship bracelets and tie-dying, but now a new and potentially dangerous DIY project is on the rise. Teenagers are engaging in self-piercings as well as stick and poke tattoos. 

“I’m a really impulsive person, so in freshman year I decided I wanted to pierce my ears,” junior Olivia Meere said. “I pierced my lobes three times on each side, then about six months later I decided I wanted a cartilage piercing so I pierced my right cartilage. Two summers ago I pierced my other cartilage.” 

Meere soaked her tools — a sewing needle and a push pin — in rubbing alcohol to sanitize them and she cleaned her ears and the earrings before piercing. Tattoo and piercing parlors are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to utilize single-use tools or tools that can be completely sterilized. 

“Self-piercings are potentially dangerous so it’s best to go with a pro because they have years of experience,” AJ, who asked to keep his last name anonymous and who works at Rose Gold’s Tattoo and Piercing in the Haight, said. “They understand the anatomy, what’s going to work long term, how the body heals itself, and how the tissue heals.” 

Rose’s is a member of the Association of Professional Piercers, a nonprofit organization aiming to educate individuals about body piercing. Although the association does not certify members, it distributes materials, hosts conferences and runs a website that distributes information about safe piercing techniques. 

Infection is a common side effect of an unsanitary piercing environment or jewelry, according to APP. Although Meere’s piercings did not become infected, the potential for infection is increased when the piercing technique or aftercare is crude or nonexistent. 

“The equipment that we use is on the same level that a hospital uses for their surgical equipment,” an employee from Mom’s Body Shop on Haight, who declined to give his name, said. “You are running a substantial risk when choosing to self-pierce.” 

Aside from potential risk, a Convent student who asked to remain anonymous said that her stick and poke tattoo comes with secrets. 

“I did not tell my parents — and they still don’t know since it’s on my upper thigh and I can hide it easily,” the student said. “I knew that they would get mad at me for it because they never wanted me to get a tattoo in the first place.” 

Teenagers are more likely to give themselves self piercings and stick and poke tattoos, according to the Mom’s Body Shop employee. Despite the risks, many students see self-piercings and stick and poke tattoos as a form of self-expression. 

“I knew that stick and pokes faded over the years, so I thought it could be a good way to see what it was like to have a tattoo before I committed to one that would last the rest of my life,” the student said. “My tattoo is really basic — of a tree, mountain and sun — but I like it because it reminds me of nature and my favorite place, Tahoe.” 

Parents who do not want their children to get tattoos can refuse to sign the consent forms that professional parlors require before piercing and tattooing minors. Some teens alternatively choose to self-pierce and give themselves stick and pokes in the name of affordability, as some avoid the expensive prices professional parlors charge based on the size and complexity of the tattoo. 

It’s a very rebellious thing because there has been so much stigma around tattoos, especially for our parents’ generation,” the student said. “Tattoos are becoming more and more popular and normal so this is a not too serious way teenagers can participate in the trend.”