Here is my account of my latest ear piercing procedures, done at a local tattoo and body piercing studio (Sacred Heart Tattoo in Vancouver, BC, for those interested), provided here so that those wanting to get their earlobes done can have an idea of what goes on during the procedure.
I have to explain that, though someone whose opinions I greatly respect scoffed at my nervousness about piercing guns, I nevertheless went through with the more expensive needle procedure because a) Vancouver is a very large city, meaning that many, many people go to get their piercings done; b) in a very large city, there will be many, many people with blood-borne diseases, and probably a sizeable population that has such a disease and doesn't know it; c) I have someone I consider a significant other and do not care to acquire one of those previously-mentioned blood-borne diseases and pass it on; d) I can't guarantee that the piercing guns themselves have not come into any contact with the bodily fluids of a previous client, and the piercing guns are partly made of plastic and cannot be autoclaved; e) the studs used in the piercing guns are huge and blunt and they make a much larger hole than is necessary, which incidentally hurts like hell; and f) I know several different people who have had earlobe piercings done both with the piercing gun and the needle, and they say that the needle procedure hurts less, the piercings take much less time to heal, and they found the people who did the needle piercings tended to inspire trust more than those using the piercing gun at department stores.
2:20 PM: I check in for my appointment at 2:30. After verifying that I am not a minor, the person at the cash register gives me a waiver form to read, fill out and sign. This waiver states that it is possible for healing to just randomly not go the way it is meant to for reasons out of my and the piercer's control, and that I understand that and will not hold the studio liable for these things. I pick a gauge of surgical steel captive bead rings from the display counter, then the person at the cash register tallies up the cost of the piercing, jewellery and taxes. She recommends buying a bottle of witch hazel for aftercare, but I dither a bit because I don't want to buy it and then only use some of it, so she tosses a small bottle in for free. It turns out to be much less than I expected, and I cheer quietly to the amusement of other patrons in the waiting room.
2:30 PM: I meet my piercer, named Amber, and after pulling out four sealed bags of the earrings I want from the storage cabinet, she takes me to one of the piercing rooms. It is outfitted almost exactly like a doctor's office, with a cabinet of medical instruments and disposables on one side, a padded examination table-like bench on another, and a chair on which to put my coat and bag--definitely a room to inspire trust in the nervous, unless they happen to be afraid of doctors as well as of piercings. The only difference I notice between the doctor's office and this room is the color of the walls (mid-blue) and the full-length mirror across from the bench.
2:35 PM: Amber tells me that she will use a skin marker (the same kind used to mark incisions before surgery) to pinpoint where the piercings will go to make sure that I like the spacing. She puts on a pair of latex gloves and disinfects my earlobe with something in a brown bottle (I forget to ask her what it is, but Excalibre tells me it's betadine) and marks two dots on each ear. She provides me with a mirror so that I can see whether they are in the right spot, and I approve the spots after we discuss different possible placements.
2:40 PM: Amber then changes her gloves, takes out the jewellery from the plastic pouches, unscrews the steel beads to open the rings, and uses a pliers-like instrument to position the rings over the marks she made on my earlobes. After I survey how the spacing looks, I ask her to make a minor adjustment to one, and then okay the result when she does (using the pliers).
2:45 PM: I sit down on the bench and Amber removes a disposable needle from its package. She explains to me that since it is the same kind of needle used in syringes, its end is not a point but a slanted blade, and so it will cut through the skin and flesh quickly and with a minimum of trauma to the surrounding tissue. She also explains how she will use a set of forceps with D-shaped rings at the ends to lightly clamp the area of the piercing so that the flesh will not move while the needle passes through. She and I chat idly between explanations.
2:50 PM: Amber clamps my left earlobe, places the tip of the needle lightly on the mark, and asks me to take a deep breath; on the exhalation, I feel a brief, tiny stab in my ear, and then my earlobe starts feeling noticeably warm. I did not have my eyes open for this part, as I wasn't too keen on seeing someone pushing a needle through my ear, but Amber explains that she used the steel ring to push the last part of the needle through so that she wouldn't have to hunt for the hole and prolong the process. I express my appreciation for her swiftness. She takes a square of gauze and dabs the small amount of blood and clear fluid from the new piercing, then takes a cotton swab, pours a bit of witch hazel onto it, and swabs the area. She throws both the gauze and the Q-tip into the garbage can beside the bench.
2:52 PM: Amber repeats the process for the remaining three piercings.
3:00 PM: I hop up and examine my new piercings using the wall mirror and the hand mirror provided as Amber disposes of the needles used (I do not notice how she disposes of them). She gives me a sheet of notes for proper care of the new piercings. I am happy and give to her the chocolates and cash tip that I had saved for her, even though she told me earlier that a tip is not expected. Since she treated me in a friendly, courteous, and professional manner, and made getting new holes made in my body as much fun as I could imagine it being, the non-necessary gratuity is definitely worth it. Generally, tipping in chocolates isn't a good idea since you don't know what your piercer will be able to/like to eat, but I wanted something a bit more personal than just hard cash, so I did both. YMMV.