Q: What is Flat Back jewelry? - Hazel
A: To answer this question, it is best for us to start with an explanation of what flat back jewelry is not. Recently, we answered a question in which we explained the problems associated with piercing guns and typical clasp/butterfly back jewelry often used. This clasp design is outdated, common for novelty jewelry, uncomfortable if pressure is applied to it, and can trap bacteria easily. Furthermore, using this design suggests that “one size fits all,” when that is not the case.
The design that has become more popular in high-end studios is the “flat back” style of jewelry. The name describes the flat disk on the back of a post. The post is inserted into the earlobe from the back to the front, and the interchangeable top is assembled. These can be threaded (screw on) or threadless (press-fitted) type fronts. To change the jewelry from one decorative top to the next, the client can simply swap out the top, leaving the flat disk and post in place.
In contrast to the butterfly back style, flat back jewelry is modern, common for high quality jewelry, comfortable to wear, and can be easily cleaned. This style of jewelry also accommodates various lengths and widths needed by the client. Jewelry that is either too tight or too loose can be irritating for a piercing, but your piercer can customize the flat back jewelry to perfectly fit your anatomy.
The flat back design is not limited to earlobes, it is extremely comfortable in various ear cartilage, nostril, and lip piercings, as well. This is another reason why being able to customize the gauge or length of the jewelry is important.
Materials can vary, and there will always be low quality knock-offs flooding the market. Regardless of the design, look for ASTM F138 compliant implant-grade steel, F136 compliant implant-grade titanium, or solid 14k gold from a North American manufacturer to ensure the highest quality. A reputable piercer will be able to inform you about the specific material and manufacturer of the jewelry you are considering.
Price will vary depending on the manufacturer/design and materials and will be typically more than your “standard” jewelry. Note that the price also relates to the decorative front you select. Flat backs have countless options when it comes to the material or design of the front. Whether you are looking for a basic ball, semi-precious gem, genuine diamond, or a cluster of shapes or gems, you can find what you are seeking for a flat back post. This higher expense for flat back jewelry is easily justified by interchangeable fronts, superior comfort, and materials that are proven safe for long-term wear.
Q: What do I need to know before I take my daughter to get her ears pierced? - Brenda
A: The answer to this question will depend on the studio you visit. The policies at each studio will vary, and this can lead to confusion when researching where to take your child for their piercing. There are, however, some important policies and procedures we believe that a studio should have to be considered for your patronage.
We believe safety is the most important factor for a parent to consider. A little investigation of each practitioner and facility’s standards goes a long way. Get out and visit the studios, take tours, and ask questions.
The first thing you should ask a piercer is whether they use a piercing gun. If the answer is anything other than, “No,” consider continuing your search for a safer option. Look for a studio that uses single-use, disposable piercing needles for each piercing.
Next, ask them to share and provide proof of the sterilization process. I know it can seem like an obvious thing, but you’d be surprised to see the differences out there. Proof may be documentation of the process, frequent spore test results (e.g. monthly), and chemical indicators of sterile conditions. These documents and the ability to articulate the sterilization process improve the likelihood that the piercing needle, jewelry, and any piercing tools needed, are handled safely for your child's piercing.
Ask what type of jewelry the studio uses for initial piercings and compare the response to the APP’s (Association of Professional Piercers) list of acceptable materials and designs. (www.safepiercing.org). The piercer should also offer the appropriate size of jewelry to match that of your child’s ears.
Each studio's policy about age, ID requirements, and waiting times will vary. Most studios will require parental consent for anyone under the age of 18, as well as ID from both parties to ensure the relationship. This is to protect the minor, as minors cannot sign legal documents, like release forms.
A positive experience is important when a minor gets pierced, as it sets the tone for future interactions they will have, including visits to dentists, doctors, hair salons, etc. Doing upfront homework to help ensure a safe and fun piercing will go a long way in providing the child with not only beautiful jewelry, but also greater happiness and confidence from the overall experience. More information about our procedures on kids here
Q: What is better, a piercing gun or a piercing needle? - Stacy
A: Originally manufactured to tag cattle and other livestock, the piercing gun was later modified for use on humans. Hygiene, healing, and jewelry bio-compatibility were not necessarily primary considerations given to livestock at the time, and although things have improved over the years, none of these factors have been thoroughly addressed as the gun transitioned to human use.
There are a few concerns that should be noted regarding piercings guns: such as cleanliness, education, technique, and jewelry.
Reusable piercing guns, often used at mall kiosks and novelty jewelry stores, cannot be properly decontaminated or sterilized before being used on a client. Fluids collected on the gun from one client and can transfer to the jewelry used on the next client. This could spread harmful bacteria or viruses between clients.
Minimal education often goes hand-in-hand with the use of piercing guns. Inadequate handwashing facilities/practice, the lack of single use marking pens, improper gloves, aftercare knowledge/products are also common concerns. The piercing gun practitioner can introduce even more opportunities for bacterial transfer and poor healing.
The trauma caused by the jewelry used in piercing guns is much greater than a professional piercing needle. The solid pointed tip will force its way through the tissue creating a rough raw wound, this leads to excessive swelling and vascular damage. These negative factors are amplified when this solid blunt force is applied to cartilage. This structural tissue can create an effect much like shooting a cannonball through a brick wall. The cartilage can end up shattered and permanently damaged. Since tissue type, thickness and density can vary, the gun has the potential to get stuck during the piercing and the jewelry may not go all the way through as intended.
The jewelry material commonly used in piercing guns does not meet implant-grade specifications. Phrases like, “sterling silver”, “surgical steel” and “hypoallergenic” often give clients a false sense of security, when none of these are safe for long-term healing in the body. The jewelry design is a “one size hopefully fits all” and doesn’t allow for adequate swelling or cleaning. Most of these jewelry surfaces are highly porous, which means they are more likely to harbor bacteria promoting infection. Neither the piercing gun practice or jewelry meet the minimum standards set by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP).
In contrast, hollow piercing needles are single use, sterilized, razor sharp, and will make a clean cut as they pass through both soft and cartilage tissue. This creates an environment that is less traumatic, more comfortable, and easier for the body to heal. The education level of each piercer will vary, but a professional piercer should be knowledgeable and experienced in aseptic technique. Jewelry used in professional studios should be appropriately fitted per client anatomy, meet implant-grade specifications, and have a mirror surface finish to maximize healing success.
By piercing with a single use piercing needle, with proper sterilization and piercing techniques, the problems most commonly associated with piercing guns are eliminated. For more information, visit the APP website at safepiercing.org.
Our entire staff here at Prysm collectively answers these questions. Please ask those questions you've always wanted to know. Not all will get published, but all will get answered.