If you're a teenager who wants a body piercing or a parent with a child under the age of 18 who wants to get pierced, there are a few things you should know first. In the sections below, we give you the facts on state regulations regarding piercing minors, finding shops that pierce minors, what you'll need to take with you when you or your child go in to get pierced, and the basics of proper piercing aftercare.
State Rules About Piercing Minors
Did you know that no one under the age of 18 can get a body piercing in South Carolina or Mississippi? Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, D.C., Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia all share a commonality at the other extreme: they have no state-wide regulations regarding piercing minors, although interestingly, a couple of those states do require parental consent to tattoo minors. All the other states fall somewhere in between, with varying layers of requirements that must be met for a minor to get pierced. The only rule that all states share is that no one under the age of 18 can get a nipple or genital piercing.
In Kentucky, a parent must provide notarized written consent that a specific part of their child's body may be pierced. In California and Florida, a parent or guardian can either send a shop notarized written consent or accompany their child to their piercing appointment. New Hampshire, Tennessee and Texas all require that a parent (1) prove they are either related to or have custody or legal guardianship of the minor wishing to be pierced, (2) provide in-person written consent for the piercing, and (3) be on premise when their child is pierced. Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Utah simply require written parental consent, while these states require written consent and parental presence:
Kansas (Requires Notarized Consent)
|Arkansas||Maryland||New York||Rhode Island|
|Idaho (Child Must Be 14+)||
|Illinois||Minnesota||Ohio||Wisconsin (Child Must Be 16+)|
Whatever a state's rules are, it's always left to the discretion of individual piercers to decide whether or not to pierce minors who meet state-imposed eligibility criteria. Shops can also add to their state's rules as they see fit. For instance, some shops will only perform navel piercings and tongue piercings on minors over a certain age, like 16. In both regulated and unregulated states, most shops also follow a professional standard of conduct and require that a parent or legal guardian be present when their child is pierced and that they sign an informed consent form detailing the procedure and proper piercing aftercare. There are even shops that post that they have the right to refuse to pierce a minor if they feel that the child isn't mature enough to properly care for a new piercing, or just because of the child's attitude.
If you'd like to learn more about your state's regulations regarding piercing minors and whether or not certain counties or municipalities in your area have more stringent rules, read our Piercing Minors article. It contains a full chart of all 50 states and the District of Columbia and the known rules for each. It also details the punishments some states dole out for violations of their rules regarding piercing minors.
Finding a Reputable Shop That Pierces Minors
One way you know you're dealing with a reputable piercing shop is if they have rules posted on their website and in their shop regarding piercing minors. If there's a shop near you that you're considering taking your child to, or going to yourself if you're a minor, first take a look at their website and in-store literature to see what their rules are for piercing minors. If you or your child meet the shop's criteria for the desired piercing (ex. you meet the shop's 15+ age requirement for eyebrow piercings and your mom is willing to sign a consent form for you to get one), then take a look at their piercer's portfolio. If they do clean work and you find positive reviews about them or have gotten a positive referral from someone you know, schedule a piercing appointment.
If you're having trouble finding a shop in your area that will perform the piercing you or your child want at your or your child's age, then it might be best to either wait or consider getting another piercing for the time being. If your dream is to get your navel pierced, but you're 15 and shops in your area will only perform belly button piercings on patrons 16 or older, consider getting a cartilage piercing in the meantime. Alternatively, you could travel to an area that has less stringent age requirements for certain body piercings, but then you're less likely to have any familiarity with the shop you visit. If you do travel to get a specific piercing, be sure to do your homework about the shop you choose. Look over their website, online reviews and portfolios, post in body piercing forums to see what others have to say about the shop, and ask if they have any photos of clients' healed piercings that you can review.
Preparing for Your Piercing
Once you find a shop to perform your piercing, you have to make sure you're fully prepared before you go in to get it. First things first, make sure you've eaten a decent meal within 4 hours of getting pierced. You should also be well-hydrated. That way you're less likely to feel faint during the piercing procedure.
Next, make sure you have everything the shop and/or state requires for a minor to be legally pierced. If the shop doesn't provide a list of necessities, take these things with you to be safe:
- The Minor's School or State-Issued Photo ID
- The Minor's Birth Certificate
Notarized Parental Consent That Specifies the Body Part to Be Pierced, if Required in Your State
- The Minor's Parent or Guardian, Along With Their State-Issued Photo ID
- Any Legal Paperwork You Possess Regarding Custody or Guardianship
Note that if your parent is taking you to get pierced, s/he should be listed on your birth certificate, so that's all the proof you'll need that your mom or dad has legal authority to provide consent for you to be pierced. If you share the same last name with the parent accompanying you, sometimes photo IDs are sufficient proof of a parent-child relationship, particularly if you have the same address on both of your IDs. Even then, a birth certificate may still be helpful, if for no other reason than to prove your age.
Performing Proper Piercing Aftercare
It's very important to take good care of a new piercing so that it heals well and doesn't get infected. That means keeping it clean, but not with soap. Soap can be drying, so it's best to use a natural saline wash like Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray to flush your healing piercing 3-6 times per day. During the first week or two, you should also do full sea salt solution soaks twice a day. To do a soak, just saturate a clean cotton ball with piercing aftercare spray, and press it gently against your piercing for a few moments. Toss the used cotton ball, apply a fresh one, and repeat until you've applied saline wash to your piercing for a total of 5 minutes. Make sure you get both the front and back or top and bottom of your piercing (unless it's a single point piercing like a dermal), using a clean cotton ball for each side.
It's totally normal for healing piercings to form "crusties", which are just the result of clear lymph excreted by the body while any wound is healing drying to a whitish crust when exposed to air. If crusties form around your external piercing, simply soak a cotton ball with Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray, hold it against the crusties to soften them, and then gently wipe them away with a clean tissue. Do not twist, turn or slide your jewelry to loosen crusties. You could push bacteria into the piercing fistula, which is the hole where you were pierced, and that could lead to infection.
If the skin around your piercing gets dry and/or cracked during the healing process, add a drop of tea tree oil to each saline-soaked cotton ball before applying it to your piercing during your twice-a-day saline soaks. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic and moisturizer that will help your piercing heal beautifully and keep the skin around it healthy, soft and supple. Do not apply tea tree oil directly to a healing piercing; it needs a carrier, like sea salt solution, so just mix it into your saline wash or add a dab to a saline-soaked cotton ball to apply it.
While your piercing is healing, it's important to take care of yourself in general. Eat nutritiously to support a healthy immune system, drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and nicotine (which you should be doing anyway if you're a minor!), and practice good hygiene overall. You also need to keep an eye out for problems and address any that arise immediately. For instance, if at any point you suspect you have an infection because you have a fever, red streaks around your piercing, and/or discharge of thick, yellowish pus from the piercing site, visit your family doctor to see if you need an antibiotic. If you experience hypergranulation (the notorious red piercing bump) or excessive swelling, have your jewelry swapped out for longer/larger body jewelry right away. Prolonged pressure on a piercing can cause necrosis (tissue death), which can lead to infection, so don't drag your feet if your jewelry is too tight. If you have redness, itchiness and/or mildly-excessive swelling around your piercing, you may be allergic to the material from which your starter jewelry is made. In that case, have your piercer replace your jewelry with a piece made from hypoallergenic PTFE or an inert metal like titanium.
Do not try to change your jewelry yourself until your piercing is fully healed. Depending on the type of piercing you got, you may need to wait anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months or more before trying. The first time you change your jewelry, it's best to let your piercer help you. The fistula will continue to thicken and reinforce well beyond when your piercing is technically healed, but until then, it may be delicate and get easily irritated if you poke around trying to get a new piece of jewelry in yourself. The stronger the fistula becomes, the easier it will be for you to change your jewelry. In the meantime, if you try and find you can't get your new jewelry in because the fistula is still fresh and tender, the hole may close before you can get to a piercer to help you. That's why it's best to just see your piercer to begin with and pay a small jewelry fee to have him or her insert your new jewelry, which should fit more closely than your starter jewelry. (Starter jewelry is extra long to allow for swelling without putting pressure on a piercing.)
Additional Piercing Resources
If you're interested in learning more about piercing aftercare and handling any problems that arise during the piercing healing process, check out our Body Piercing Aftercare article. You may also be interested in reading through our New Body Piercing FAQs, which contains helpful info on things like avoiding infection, changing jewelry, and the best type of body jewelry for your specific piercing.
Our Information Center is filled with educational piercing and jewelry information, so you can find all the answers to your piercing questions right here on Painfulpleasures.com. We also have an online community with a forum and a photo gallery at you disposal. Use the photo gallery to research how different piercings you're considering look or to share photos of your own piercings. Use the forum to learn about other people's piercing experiences and/or to post piercing questions and get answers from our knowledgeable community members and moderators