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If you’ve ever gotten a piercing or are thinking about getting one now, you may be curious about the different kind of tools that are used by your piercer to do your piercing. Since there are so many different types of piercings, there are several different types of tools that you may see at the shop. 

Listed below is a little information about some of the main types of tools you might see, and what tools are best to avoid. 

Piercing Needles

One of the most common tools that you’ll see when you go to get pierced are piercing needles. Needles come in multiple sizes and shapes to make piercings easier and less painful so that you can heal more quickly and enjoy your piercing. 

Piercing needles are either curved or straight to accommodate different parts of the body and come in different gauges (thicknesses) to produce different sized piercings. Lower gauges are made for larger piercings and higher gauges are used for smaller sized piercings. Some of the most common gauges and the piercings they are associated with are listed below. 

  • 12g needles – navel, tongue, larger earlobe piercings
  • 14g needles – navel, nipple, lip, eyebrow, septum, tongue
  • 16g needles – cartilage, lip, eyebrow, septum
  • 18g needles – cartilage, nose
  • 20g needles – nose

While this is a general guide to the common size of each piercing, this can vary based on the size of your anatomy. For example, the most common size for a navel piercing is a 14g, but a 12g might be used to prevent migration or to match the size of your belly button. 

The same goes for eyebrow and lip piercings. These can be pierced at a 14g or 16g depending on what will look best on your face and what size jewelry you want to wear. Often people get pierced at one size and then stretch into something bigger or choose smaller jewelry over time and allow the piercing to size down around it. 


Dermal Punch

A dermal punch is a tool like a hole punch that is used for dermal and surface piercings that are located on flat parts of the body and are different than something like an ear piercing. These piercings do not exit the body and are also called single-point piercings. 

When a dermal punch is used, a small anchor is embedded in the skin so that a visible dermal top can be screwed into or secured in the anchor to keep the piercing in place. Some examples of piercings that dermal punches are used for include:

  • Facial piercings on the cheek, above or around the eyebrow
  • Hip piercings
  • Chest piercings
  • Nape piercings
  • Piercings that sit in the hollow of your throat
  • Collar bones

Really, if there is a flat surface on your body that you want to pierce, you can probably have it done by a professional with a dermal punch. If this is something you’re interested in, contact your trusted piercer to see if this is right for you.


Forceps (clamps)

Forceps, or clamps, are one of the most common piercing tools because they are used to hold the tissue or body part being pierced during your piercing. Forceps are used to keep the area sterile (no touching!) and to keep your body still while a needle or dermal punch is used to complete your piercing. Most forceps are slotted or have a large enough opening for a piercing needle to pass through and are used for most piercings that are not completed free hand.


Piercing Guns

A piercing gun is a tool used primarily for ear lobe piercing that forces a pre-selected piece of starter jewelry through the lobe to then be secured with an earring back. These are often used in mall-style piercing shops where the only ear piercings are done, and for a lower price than a professional piercer and without an appointment. 

Piercing guns are often reusable and disposable which is why mall shops that pierce in bulk tend to use them. While piercing guns are frequently used in mall shops, most professional piercers think they are a bad choice when it comes to piercing for several reasons. 

  • They use blunt force rather than the precision of a fine needle
  • They are unnecessarily painful and get infected, can cause trauma to tissue
  • Most often used in unregulated shops and stores
  • Use disposable needles that have not been sanitized
  • Are often used by untrained, unprofessional piercers
  • Can touch the skin and pass germs from one person to the next

This isn’t the 80s, folks, and getting pierced by a high school kid at the mall isn’t safe or cool. The likelihood of infection is higher, not to mention the skill of the piercer is lower. Your piercing could end up off center and then migrate or reject, leaving you with tissue damage or a scar. Professional piercers do not recommend getting a piercing done with a piercing gun and always recommend going to a regulated shop with a licensed piercer. 



These are just a few of the common tools you’ll see (or hope to never see) when you get your piercing. Knowing more about what to expect helps you to make the best decision about where you get your piercing done and the quality of your piercing in the long run. If your piercer is using a tool you don’t know about, ask. 

Professional piercers expect questions and are happy to answer so that you are comfortable. The more you know, the safer you’ll feel, and the happier you’ll be with your piercing in the long run!

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