Piercing Gun Vs. Single Needle: What's The Difference (& Which Is The Better Choice)?

Piercings are commonly either done with a single needle or a piercing gun. If you're new to body bling, you may have wondered which method to go for. Though it often comes down to cost and preference, it's important to put your safety first when trying the latest piercing trends.

A piercing gun is something you've likely seen at mall kiosks or stores like Claire's. A stud earring and backing are secured into the gun, and the piercer will line it up to the piercing site. When they pull the trigger, the earring is forced through the skin and into the backing. People look to piercing guns as an easily accessible and less expensive option, but they are generally frowned upon in the professional piercing community due to concerns with hygiene and tissue damage.

In contrast, piercing needles are extra sharp and hollow, allowing the piercer to place the jewelry inside as they remove the needle. Needles vary in size and sharpness, depending on which part of the body they're being used for. These are the number one choice in most piercing studios. Though this option is pricier, it's worth the extra money to avoid infections and complications. When a piercer is advising a needle over a gun, they aren't simply trying to upcharge you: they're trained to give you the safest option. As expert piercer Lola Slider told Refinery29, "Overall, guns are a definite no-go. I don't have them in my studio, so they definitely shouldn't be used at home."

Piercing guns are often unsanitary and may cause tissue damage

Cleanliness is incredibly important when it comes to having a part of your body pierced. According to the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), piercing guns are often not sanitized properly between clients. As explained on their website, microscopic blood particles can contaminate the inner mechanisms of the gun. So, as much as someone wipes the gun down, it could still be transferring blood and bacteria into your body. 

The APP also explains that the stud earrings used in piercing guns are too short to allow for proper healing. It's common to experience swelling after a piercing, but if the jewelry isn't long enough for the skin to swell around, this runs the risk of piercing complications and infections, along with keloids and piercing bumps down the line. 

Additionally, piercing guns are known to cause tissue damage. As expert body piercer Megan Catherall explained to Refinery29, the jewelry used in piercing guns is often low quality and dull. "When blunt jewelry is forced through the ear at speed it causes a blunt force trauma, which often means that the piercing doesn't heal properly and is very painful for a long time," said Catherall. 

Needles are more hygienic and allow for proper healing

The thought of a sharp needle might seem scary, but it's actually the safer and more hygienic option for body piercings. The APP strongly recommends a piercing needle over a piercing gun, and plenty of other piercing experts will agree. When you go to a piercing studio, most professional piercers will use a needle. The piercers at a studio are professionally trained and licensed, and they must follow certain sanitary and safety guidelines. Needles are single-use, so there's no risk of contamination.

Needles also provide the piercer with more accuracy and control over the placement of the piercing. It's sharp enough that can easily glide through the tissue and create a precise hole without removing extra tissue. A needle can be used to pierce several parts of the body, but piercing guns are only commonly used on the ear lobes and especially not on cartilage, as this can cause complications, according to the APP. 

Though you'll need to book an appointment with a reputable piercing shop, it's worth the effort to have a safer piercing experience. There's a risk of infection for any piercing, but having yours done with a needle greatly reduces that likelihood.