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Ear Piercing: Tattoo Shop vs. The Mall

When To Pierce Your Daughter's Ears | The JetSet Family

When and where should you get your child’s ears pierced?

Mall or Tattoo Shop?

I have been grappling with this question forever. Truthfully, I was hoping my daughter would ride the “Unique Railway” and resist the temptation for ear candy until she at least had her driving permit. Let me be completely clear, I have nothing wrong with children getting their ears pierced at any age; however, I do have certain reserves with my own child for different reasons.


For starters, she swims almost every day and I was concerned about the swim cap and goggles interfering during the healing process. Second, many of my family members have had aversions to earrings whether it be infections or allergies, and let’s face it, the aftercare healing is important and I did not want to have to battle this on a daily basis.


And third, whichever way you look at it, ear-piercing is body modification. Sure it’s the most widely accepted, but it was a decision I wanted my daughter to make for herself when she was ready. You could say this was the first major decision she has made regarding her body and the result is permanent. That’s big.


Finally, is she mature enough to take the proper aftercare steps at least twice a day? Or would this turn into an uphill battle where I would have to set my phone alarm twice a day to remind me to harp on her?


I really don’t want her to do this.

But the biggest hurdle I faced as a parent was what I considered a motherly instinct thing. Each time we’d walk through the mall, I’d see a girl barely out of high school using one of those archaic ear-piercing guns on children as small as 3 or 4. I couldn’t help to think, “How and more importantly WHO trained these kids to properly measure, and evenly place the holes?” I came to find out, many of these “ear-piercing technicians” learn to pierce over one shift and must watch an instructional video. Wow. Just wow. And they are allowed to pierce cartilage as well.


Kids Getting Pierced at Tattoo Shops Instead of the Mall

OK, I know, I know, put down the pitchforks with the screams of, “I turned out fine,” but even as a college friend poignantly pointed out, “So, you don’t want her having uneven holes in her ears like our generation?” Because that’s exactly what happened to me.


I understand many pediatrician offices offer this service as well and have the nurse practitioners conduct the procedure, so you may want to ask your child’s doctor if this is a possibility for your child. Surprisingly, even doctors suggest going to Claire’s, but I would think twice about the big picture.


Things to know before you go get your ears pierced…

They are artists and you are their walking canvas. You can bet they will make sure those piercings are symmetrical and positioned the best place possible. Without you even realizing it,  they are examining the shape of your child’s lobe and anticipating how the piercing will fall as the lobe changes with age.


They are licensed to pierce. Period. Jewelers and kids working part-time in the mall haven’t put in nearly close to the amount of time in learning how to properly pierce. Body piercers have apprenticeships and train anywhere between one and three years under skilled-registered piercers. They have a vast knowledge of the body and the different areas often pierced. They are trained to foresee any problems even before the needle touches the skin.


Why get pierced at a tattoo shop instead of the mall?

You can rest easy knowing a reputable tattoo shop and piercing parlor uses one-time disposable needles and is a sterile environment. Those guns at the mall cannot be completely sterilized. Nope. But at a tattoo parlor, not only is it a sterile environment licensed by the state, but all piercing are done with one-time use needles and then discarded.

Sterlized Piercing Materials


What is the price difference between going to Claire’s and getting it done by a local tattoo shop? Great question, and truthfully, it depends on location and which starter earrings you decide to go with. We were quoted at both shops in the $40 range (not including tax & tip.) I was short on time, so I opted to grab the available aftercare solution ($10), and once I added on a tip to the bill ($15) and factored in the 5% tax ($2.50,) I walked out the door for $68.


So how did it go?

If you are in the Southern California / Orange County area I cannot recommend Sal Sanchez of Agape Tattoo more. I visited quite a few shops and mother’s instincts told me this was the place.


Check it out for yourself. Wearing her “lucky” Johnny Cash shirt, she goes through all of the emotions. Happy, scared, sad, hurt, excited, relief, and I trust me, I had all the feels with her. That’s my baby! My baby with massive tummy butterflies the size of dinosaurs. There is no way to sugarcoat this, piercing is going to hurt no matter what. The difference is HOW long will the piercing hurt for. Her reaction at the end of this video speaks for itself.


I waited a few weeks before publishing this post just so we could cover everything. I’m so happy to report that her ears are healing beautifully and have not had one sign of infection, keloid, crust or any of the other side effects we were warned about. An added bonus was since the needle is so thin and delicate, unlike the thick, hollow gun that uses blunt force like a stapler would, she had no soreness or pain when sleeping on her ears at night. Also, thinner needles mean less pain, a smaller risk for infection, tinier wound and quicker healing time.


Since piercing she only had one whoopsy. The little ball closure on the bottom of the hoop unscrewed one night, but the hoop stayed in place so the piercing didn’t close up. If she had been wearing typical starter studs in her ears (without special backings,) and this happened, there is a chance the hole could begin to close by morning. Hubs brought her to see Sal that Sunday morning to replace the ball and she has been good to go, counting down the days until she can wear other earrings.


Sal Sanchez | Agapé Art Collective
1838 Newport Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Review overview
  • Beeb Ashcroft August 16, 2016

    I think you made a great call going to a professional shop! They handle all kinds of piercings every day so they really know what they are doing. You really handled this well, because you had reservations, but ultimately let your daughter make the decision for herself – good for you!! I personally don’t have any piercings myself, even though I love the way body jewelry looks and have been known to wear clip-on lip rings before (lol!!). For me, I have such sensitive skin and worry about it getting infected, getting earrings caught on things, etc. Plus at this point I figure it’s more radical and alternative to have no piercings at all. 😉 LOL!!

  • April J Harris August 16, 2016

    What an interesting and informative post! Piercing is a big decision and it’s so important to be safe. I wouldn’t have thought of a piercing and tattoo parlour, but having read your post, it does seem like a very good idea.

  • How interesting… I had no idea it was safer to take them to a tattoo parlor. With Ella we waited until she was 6 but with Liv her birth mom really wanted her ears pierced right away so it was something we had agreed to and her pediatrician did it for us. Definitely pros and cons to doing it early or waiting. But, wish I would have known about the tattoo parlor sooner. I will surely pass that along 😉

  • Ashley S August 17, 2016

    My ears were pierced as a small child… but I wanted them!

  • Jacqui Odell August 17, 2016

    I never thought about it that way but you made a lot of good points. A tattoo shop would be better.

  • Mitch August 17, 2016

    I would think the tattoo parlor has a higher safety standard than a mall shop with all of the regulations these days.

  • Lisa August 17, 2016

    I Never Knew Tatttoo Parlor Were Licensed Great TO Know I Have Two Girls Who Are Dying To Get Their Ears Pierced!

  • Darryl Johnston September 5, 2018

    I prefer tattoo shops, rather than at the mal for it. has a higher safety standard.

  • Jason Brien March 11, 2019

    Tattoo shops are of-course better than the malls. But honestly, I do not go with any of them. Children’s ears in comparison of adults are too much sensitive to catch major infections. And hence, I do prefer the ear piercings to be done by a medical professional ear piercer.

  • Freida Turner May 16, 2019

    That’s interesting. People often go to the tattoo shops for piercing they don’t find it safe but that depends upon different other factors as well like piercing procedure, piercing aftercare, etc. Well, cleaning the piercing daily with saline salt is a helpful remedy for quick heal process.

  • Kimberly Witt June 15, 2020

    I was one of those people given very little education on how to do it! Sometimes the guns would jam. By all means go to the tattoo parlor. I know I will take my daughter there. The deal is she can get them done when she can get a shot with out me having to hold her, She’s 6.

  • Susan Harris November 27, 2020

    This was an amazing post! Ear piercing is not trendy but it will be there from ancient times. Thanks for enhancing my knowledge.

  • Crystal Nelson March 9, 2021

    This isn’t always true. Not all tattoo shops pierce with a needle. I got my lobes pierce today at tattoo shop and the piercer lied to me. He said it wasn’t a gun, but a needle, but it was gun. I am angry, because when I called the tattoo shop tge girl told they pierce with a needle. So be careful.


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