How to pierce your own ears

This is a story from several years ago.

I.W., who was my stepdaughter at the time, is a fiercely independent, stubborn artiste. She was about 11 years old then and had just started dyeing her hair various vivid and unnatural shades. She and her dad (now my ex) and I went out to a restaurant for dinner. Now, I.W. can have her surly moments, and at this age, they were beginning to come fast and furious. This was not one of those times. At this dinner, she was positively bubbly.

Eyes twinkling, grinning from ear to ear, she eventually asked us, "Have you noticed? What's different about me?"

I though to myself, Well, you're in a good mood! but thought that might sound tacky. "Hmm, I can't quite put my finger on it, but yeah, something does seem different about you. What is it? I give up!"

She said, "I pierced my ear."

Now, she had had normal ear piercings for several years now, and last year had added a second piercing to one of them, at one of the piercing parlors at the mall. Where was the new one? Through the cartilage at the top of her right ear. J.W and I spoke at the same time: "When did you have that done?"

"I did it last night." She had been at home, alone, last night. Wow. Yes, she did it herself! She went into a cheerful discussion of her technique, using ice to numb the ear, sterilizing the needle with rubbing alcohol, and using a cork behind her ear to push against.

"It was harder than I thought!" she said. "I had to use a shoe to push it all the way through. And you know what the creepiest part was? When I pulled it out, it squeaked."

She was so proud of herself. We had a good laugh about her use of the shoe. And you know what? This piercing never became infected or gave her any other trouble, unlike some of the ones she has had done professionally.

This should work for most run-of-the-mill piercings; specific parts of the body may require additional steps. Read the whole thing.

For this you will need:

Got everything? Now you're ready.

  1. Place the hollow needle and jewelry in separate sterilization bags. Put the bags in the autoclave and fire the sucker up for at least 45 minutes.
  2. While you're waiting, take a look at whatever you're going to pierce and find the exact spots for the piercing's entry and exit holes. Keep these spots in mind.
  3. When the needle and jewerly are done in the autoclave, tear off a hunk of gauze and pour a bit of antibacterial soap on it.
  4. Put on your gloves. Take the needle out of its bag and, careful not to drop it on the ground or touch it to anything unsterile, place it on the gauze with the pointy end dipped in the soap.
  5. Take the jewelry out of its bag and prepare it to be inserted into a piercing (i.e.: remove the bead if it's a CBR, unscrew the ball if it's a barbell, &c.). Being careful not to drop it either, put it on the gauze too.
  6. Give the area to be pierced a thorough cleaning. Put on new gloves.
  7. Take a look at the part of your body you'll be piercing today and find the spots you had for the entry and exit holes. With the Sharpie, put a small dot where each hole will be. Make sure the holes are not placed above any major blood vessels or nerve bundles. If you need to move the dots, give the area a gentle scrub with the soap and try again (do not worry about being picky; it's much easier to relocate those dots than it is to move a needle that's already through you).
  8. Sit in your chair.
  9. Looking in the mirror, gently pinch the area to be pierced with the forceps, making sure the entrance/exit holes are centered in the holes at the end of the forceps.
  10. Place the tip of the needle at the bottom hole and angle it so that the top hole is directly above the needle.
  11. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, push the needle directly upwards with a steady force until you feel it slide without piercing any more skin. This is hard the first few times, but you get used to it.
  12. Gently but steadily push the needle out with the jewelry. Once the jewelry is through the entire piercing and the needle is not, discard the needle in a sharps bin. Attach the other part of the jewelry to secure it.
  13. If the piercing bleeds at all, wait until the jewelry is through the entire piercing before dabbing up the blood with a new piece of sterile gauze.

There, you're done! Easy enough? Make sure you learn about aftercare.


The purpose of this node is not to tell you how to pierce yourself. Instead, it is to illustrate the fact that piercing is not just ice and a sewing needle — body piercing should only be done by an experienced professional with the proper tools. Professional body piercers know the potential complications the anatomy of the human body presents toward body piercing and how to avoid them, but you don't. While bleeding to death is not very likely from a botched self-piercing, a nasty infection, a deadly viral infection, ugly scar, more blood than most care to see and the loss of sensitivity to nerve endings are very possible. Wait until your 18th birthday and go to a piercing studio. If your state requires a certificate of inspection for piercing/tattoo studios to operate, make sure your studio has one. See if your piercer is registered with the Association of Professional Piercers.

The Moral of the Story:
Don't pierce yourself, go to a professional. Whatever it costs is not worth potentially knocking out a major facial nerve or bleeding all over your clothes and expensive rug.

I am not a professional piercer; I have watched the process many times, talked to several professional piercers and have read the experiences of more people than I can count. Regardless, do not take the instructions above as anything other than reasons why you should go to a professional and not pierce yourself.

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