Body Piercing: Fashion Statement | Risk Factors | Healing
Updated: May 22
Piercing refers to the act or practice of body piercing, a form of modification. Its the practice of puncturing or cutting a part of the human body, creating an opening in which jewelry may be worn, or where an implant could be inserted. By metonymy, refers to the resulting decoration, or to the decorative jewelry used. Reasons for piercing vary greatly. A 2001 survey in Clinical Nursing Research, an international publication, found that 62% of people who have had piercings have done so in an effort "to express their individuality."
The reasons for piercing or not piercing are varied. Some people pierce for religious or spiritual reasons, while others pierce for self-expression, for aesthetic value, for sexual pleasure, to conform to their culture or to rebel against it. Some forms of piercing remain controversial, particularly when applied to youth. The display or placement of piercings have been restricted by schools, employers and religious groups. In spite of the controversy, some people have practiced extreme forms of body piercing, with Guinness bestowing World Records on individuals with hundreds and even thousands of permanent and temporary piercings.
In early records, it was not common to discuss the use of piercings or their meanings. However, body adornment and modification are estimated have been around for more than 5000 years, found in mummies like Ötzi the Iceman, Europe's oldest natural mummy estimated to be about 5,300 years old. Piercing of the ears, nose, and tongue have a long history in many ancient cultures, and lip piercing and stretching were more common in African tribes, especially for cultural identification. But body piercings of any kind were not popular in Western cultures in the beginning of the 20th century. After World War II, the gay subculture used piercings as a fashion statement. Other subcultures, such as "hippie" and the punk movement also began to use piercings as a form of expression in the 1960s and 1970s.
Contemporary body piercing practices emphasize the use of safe body piercing materials, frequently utilizing specialized tools developed for the purpose. Body piercing is an invasive procedure with some risks, including allergic reaction, infection, excessive scarring and unanticipated physical injuries, but such precautions as sanitary piercing procedures and careful aftercare are emphasized to minimize the likelihood of encountering serious problems.
The healing process of piercings is broken down into three stages:
The inflammatory phase, during which the wound is open and bleeding, inflammation and tenderness are all to be expected
The growth or proliferative phase, during which the body produces cells and protein to heal the puncture and the edges contract around the piercing, forming a tunnel of scar tissue called a fistula. This phase may last weeks, months, or longer than a year.
The maturation or remodeling phase, as the cells lining the piercing strengthen and stabilize. This stage takes months or years to complete.