Piercing and tattoos at the doctor’s?
What are the pros and cons of getting a piercing/tattoos or permanent make-up done by a licensed doctor?
The thinking behind this is that a doctor works in more hygienic conditions than studios and knows more about the dangers involved—but this is a fallacy.
This line of reasoning is only sound if the doctor has actually undergone training as a piercer, tattoo artist, or a pigmentist, given that in general medicine, even in specialized branches such as dermatology or gynecology, these kinds of procedures are not covered.
Therefore, a doctor can only be qualified to perform such practices if s/he has a certificate to show for it. If not, the knowledge required will simply not be there.
So, dear parents and young people, carefully consider if you wish to get a piercing performed by a doctor.
Here are the most frequent problems:
- Doctors often pierce minors as well (under 14), which is not legally covered since a piercing is not considered a medical intervention. This means that doctors are no less subject to the stipulations of the Federal Law Gazette (BGBI).
- Doctors often pierce emancipated minors (between 14 and 18) without the consent of the parents. This is also punishable by law, because it is not considered a medical intervention which a doctor can perform without the parents’ consent (this applies only to emergency procedures).
- The unprofessional studios are very cheap because they apply the E-card (social security) and therefore are partially reimbursed by social security—and this too is illegal.
- Often the customer will be asked to provide the jewelry himself. This is very bad news, since it means the doctor will not know if it’s made out of Titanium or surgical steel 316L (according to the EU Nickel regulations only Titanium is allowed). In addition, the jewelry will be 90% unsterilized, without having been sterilized beforehand. And finally, you can be sure that dimensions of the piercing will not be correct, since the “medical” piercings used as a first-time procedure cannot be purchased on the market, precisely because they are intended exclusively for piercing purposes.
- Doctors do not know which type of jewelry (length/dimension/material/ thickness) needs to be used for an initial application—especially if the customer brings her own jewelry. But even if the doctor provides the jewelry, it will have to be sterilized beforehand and fit the client.
- Doctors generally do not have the tools required for piercing, simply because they don’t need them for medical purposes. As a result, they will often use tools which are unsuitable, or even do without forceps altogether and hope for the best.
- Doctors do not know the correct length of the piercing canal, making it either too long or too short (deep or shallow), which in turn leads to problems with the jewelry during the healing phase. Nor do they have the sterilized caliper for taking measurements.
- Doctors tend to anesthetize if the client requests it, or if the doctor has little experience in performing the piercing procedure. The reason for this is that unbeknownst to the customer, they can correct their piercing, withdraw the needle and try again if they’ve made it too short or too long, for example. In this case it will start to bleed, which is rarely the case with a professional piercer. Moreover, the anesthetizing needle can cause the tissue to swell, and when the swelling subsides, the canal may end up being lopsided, or simply poorly executed. -> A piercing procedure never justifies a local anesthetic, and one should never use it for that purpose.
- Doctors are quick to provide strong medication after the piercing, which is utterly unnecessary, e.g. powerful antibiotics in the form of ointments, or cortisone, so that their unprofessional work can somehow be made to heal up. In the hands of a proper piercer, this is superfluous.
- Due to the nature of the profession, doctors are often lax with hygiene. That may be surprising, but is easily explained: When one visits a doctor, one will often receive an injection—but the doctor proceeds to disinfect and spray everything without the use of gloves. He is allowed to do this simply because he is a doctor. And when it comes to piercing, the same thing occurs. He will rarely have the required equipment, such as sterilized forceps, sterilized jewelry, and sterilized compresses. Sterilized gloves are also rarely worn. Preparing, disinfecting, marking—these are all done without gloves, which is not exactly helpful. Customers of mine have even told me about doctors smoking during the procedure, and using the same needle on two girls, all without the use of gloves; the jewelry which the customers had brought with them was inserted afterward (made of steel and far too short, see photo), not to mention the ensuing inflammation—all of which is unacceptable.
- Doctors themselves don’t run many risks with their “shoddy work”, since they are permitted a great deal and have good insurances. Those who would consider filing a suit against a doctor would soon discover that their chances are slim, hence their laxness with patients. One slip-up can hardly have consequences. The professional piercer, on the other hand, is required to prove and verify everything before the law, ensuring that they have carried out and documented every phase of their operation flawlessly.
- Nor are doctors equipped to deal with complications or problems that may arise during the healing process, again because they haven’t been trained for it. It is unfortunate, but in many cases the trained piercer will have a better solution and expertise when it comes to prescribing a truly effective medication.
Needless to say, not every commercial piercer is perfect or possesses more extensive knowledge than a doctor; there are doctors who have studied the discipline, taken courses, and become good piercers—it’s just that I have not met any.
Sadly, it has been my experience that doctors currently engaged in piercing are anything but professional, and that their customers are almost guaranteed to have problems during the healing phase, or subsequently discover that the jewelry they intended to wear doesn’t fit into the doctor’s “shoddy” work.
When their respective studies are completed, doctors cannot be piercers, any more than a piercer can be a doctor. Each discipline requires a specific training and education, so that a doctor can become a piercer and vice versa if that training is pursued, but neither can be obtained simply with a “learning by doing” approach. That is, I think, a reasonable assumption, at least as things stand today.