Piercing and Tattoos for Kids: Keeping it Real, Keeping it Safe

Piercings and tattoos have been coming of age symbols for, well, ages. As your kids start seeking to build their own unique identities, it is important to set them on a path to success and arm them with the tools they need to rebel safely. Here are a few pointers to get your rebel tot or tween started.


Close your eyes and transport yourself back to your first ear piercing. My guess is that this journey began with a visit to a jewelry shop at the mall to get your ears punched with an ear piercing gun and ended with oozing, swelling earlobes. At least you got those complimentary lead-based studs, so it wasn’t a total waste, right?.

In our modern world of highly skilled and technically trained body piercing artists, there is no need to worry that your offspring will make the same mistake. With your guiding hand pushing them to a reputable, local piercer, you’ll save them from recovering from a poorly done piercing, and introduce them to the safe world of piercing. Think of it as a primer in case they eventually choose to get nose rings, belly rings, and any other kinds of rings.

Unlike professional piercing artists, who often train for years before setting up their own shop, gun piercers at the mall receive little to no training. They don’t learn how important extreme sterilization is (hence the potential transmission of infections) nor do they understand how to avoid hitting sensitive nerves. And even a highly trained gunman or gungirl has the cards stacked against them. The piercing gun forces a blunt stud through the earlobe, ripping the skin, and causing tissue trauma in the process. To make matters worse, the earring itself is used to widen the opening, which can be a painful process. Not only is a piercing needle safer, it is actually less painful. It slices through skin and makes a large enough opening to put jewelry in. So, there’s no need for twisting and turning studs around in the ear a week later.

So, how do you choose a shop? You may already know a good piercer, but if you don’t, ask around. Most states require body piercing artists to receive specific training and become licensed (unlike your ear piercing gun operator at the mall), so make sure you choose a piercing artist with the right certifications. You can also look for members of the Association of Professional Piercers. Many piercers will work with kids as young as 10 years (you may be able to find someone to work with younger kids but if you’ll have a hard time finding someone willing to pierce an infant’s ears). Then, just pack up the family for a fun field trip. Maybe you will even show some solidarity and get a piercing alongside your kids. Ahhh, family memories.


Kids adore tattoos. The fascination with decorating skin usually starts early, when kids begin drawing on themselves with markers. You know, you are out at a restaurant and junior is armed with a 12-pack of markers and soon his arm is covered in remarkable, colorful designs. This love of body art then progresses to the temporary tattoo, which seems benign until you realize they include potentially harmful chemicals like Red Dye #40. So when you have grown weary with worry about strange chemicals on your child’s skin, and your child has grown weary of waiting for thirty seconds for the tattoo to stick, it is time to take the next step in the tattoo lifestyle.

No matter what the age of your child, you may not be wild about them getting “I love Ben” permanently inscribed on their lower back (if you really want to make them think hard about their tattoo choices, take them on a tour of one of the many Ugliest Tattoos blogs around the Web). Fortunately, there is an alternative. In that sweet spot between one day and forever, lives the henna tattoo. They usually last about three weeks, but that can seem like forever to a kid. And if your little one is a gutter punk in training, they can skip bathing and extend that time out indefinitely.

Henna tattoos are a more natural and more permanent (unless your child has their day with a sharpie) version of marker adornment. Henna paste is even applied from a marker-type applicator, so the experience should be familiar to your kid. There is no pain other than the brief agony of suspense waiting for the paste to dry before your child touches it or washes the area.

Although henna tattoos are the most natural and safest tattoo format out there, you still want to seek out a reputable artist for your little one’s ink. Some artists may try to peddle something called “black henna,” which usually contains nasty chemical additives (such as PPD) that can cause an allergic reaction and permanent scarring. So be sure to do your research. Meeting with prospective artists first can help weed out any bad seeds and also gives your child a chance to meet them ahead of time. And of course, if you do have recommendations from a friend (or even Yelp), that is always a good start.

However your child chooses to make their mark — whether they aspire to surpass the record of Elaine Davidson as the most pierced woman in the world or are begging for a tattoo to rival the sun on Henry Rollins’s back — remember to make it a fun experience for everyone so that you and your child will remember these moments free of pain and regret.


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