A very common question we get is, ‘You pierced my mum a few months ago, can you reuse her worn jewellery in my piercing?” Sharing body jewellery is a very controversial topic within piercing. Across the board, it is seen as a huge no-no. That being said, there seems to be some discrepancies – Would you wear earrings second-hand? Would you wear something someone else wore in a fresh piercing? Where do plugs, weights and hangers fit into this discussion?
Worn Jewellery Degradation
Jewellery degrades over time. This is true of all things – Entropy comes for us all! This is not necessarily a cause for concern – Titanium labrets age very well and do not tend to cause issues to the wearer. Issues only tend to arise when an attempt is made to reprocess, sterilise, and re-implant the jewellery into a new person. Please read the below figures as they are super interesting!
We do not have any data specifically from body jewellery (yet!), however Titanium alloy implants from dentistry and osteology are an excellent (and well-studied) source of reference. As you can see, the surface of the implants can become scratched, dented etc through normal wear. This worn surface causes no problems in a healed piercing as the piercing is settled and robust. This is not a surface that should ever come into contact with a fresh piercing, as jewellery is stored appropriately at the studio to avoid damage and a damaged or worn labret is never used in a fresh piercing.
Using a worn post in a fresh piercing is cause for concern- that imperfect surface can scratch and irritate the fresh piercing. The main issue with this though is the fact that it is impossible to fully sterilise this item. The cracks, folds and imperfections can collect biological material which is difficult to remove from the surface. Introducing this into a fresh wound is not hygienic and should not be done by any professional piercer.
The above images shows the presence of biological contamination – This can be carbon residues, proteins, biological cells, all of which are permanently adhered to the surface of the implant. Testing has shown that since the surface cannot be completely cleaned, there is a high risk of prion residue. Prions are proteins found on the surface of cells, which can become damaged and misfolded. These prions can then cause Prion diseases such as CJD. Although very rare, the potential existence of prions on the surface of worn jewellery is enough of a risk that we would never reuse worn jewellery in a fresh piercing, especially not across different people.
A common argument I hear is ‘But we’re related!’ This argument is moot. Pathogens, as far as we are aware, do not discriminate between related and unrelated individuals. Even if they did, the contaminants and biological matter would still cause an immune response and opens you up to potential infection.
Jewellery needs to be appropriately sterilised to be used in a fresh piercing. Putting a worn piece of jewellery into our autoclaves would potentially contaminate them with biological matter, which is inappropriate and opens up the risk of spreading contaminants across clients! This risk is obviously low due to strict reprocessing protocols within the studio, but the safest risk is the risk you don’t take in the first place.
Healed piercings are generally robust and not as vulnerable to infections from worn jewellery. The issue with this to us as professionals is that spreading biological contaminants between people is always too high of a risk. Biological swabs of worn earrings showed that up to 485 colonies of bacteria can be found on a single piece of jewellery, with species including Staphylococcus and Bacillus. Some species of which are responsible for Staph, MRSA and Meningitis. 1 in 30 people are thought to be asymptomatic carriers of MRSA – Inserting jewellery contaminated with their microbiome, skin cells, sebum and other debris leaves you at risk. For example, if you are sharing stretching jewellery and cause any microtears during the insertion process, this leaves you very vulnerable to infection.
You would hope that worn jewellery being sold online would at least be sterilised, but it is difficult to prove this and many listings simply skirt around the topic of hygiene. The average reseller simply does not have access to the type of machinery required to reprocess and resterilise jewellery. This is a very concerning thing to see from a professional studios point of view as you do not know the health status of the previous wearer, and cannot assume that the jewellery is safe to wear even if the seller claims it is ‘pre-loved, but in great condition!’ This is one of many reasons why we do not use jewellery purchased outside the studio in fresh piercings.
In general, we would recommend extreme caution when purchasing worn or preloved jewellery, even for healed or stretched piercings. The risk is far too high. It is unhygienic – Comparable to wearing someone else’s used underwear or sex toys!
To conclude, we know it’s really tempting to go down the worn jewellery route. High quality jewellery, especially Gold jewellery, weights and hangers, are quite expensive and it can seem like a savvy financial decision to find them second-hand. However, the risk of infection, bloodborne pathogens, and irritation to your piercings is too high for it to be a sensible choice. We always recommend finding your nearest high quality piercing studio and purchasing brand new jewellery for all of your piercings – Your body is worth it! You only ever have one body, so treat it well. High quality does not always mean high cost – Neometal offers a wide range of high quality body jewellery with a very accessible price tag. You can also find Glass jewellery for stretching on our website!