Getting Pierced in Korea / What I Wish I Knew Before Getting Pierced in my Teens, 20s + 30s

Following a recent exchange in the comments section of one of my posts, I decided it was high time for another non-beauty related post before returning to regular scheduled skincare review content. Saima of Simply Saima asked me about my experiences getting cartilage piercings, and wowee, do I have some opinions on the matter, actually!

If you’re thinking of getting piercings in Korea, or if you are interested in how my views on piercings have evolved over two decades of getting them, read on!

Disclaimer. This is not medical advice, nor am I a piercer. This post merely recounts my personal experiences and recommendations. 
For reference only, here’s a handy chart. Source

Tip 1: Go to a Piercing Studio, not a Shopping Centre

This is something that I learnt much too late. Do not, I repeat DO NOT get your ears pierced with a piercing gun at the local shopping centre. When I was in my mid teens, I got my first 5 piercings in the fleshy parts of my ear lobes, and in spite of the fact that I was young, lobes generally heal up fast and my wounds / scrapes would heal quickly, my ear lobes were infected and oozed pus for the better part of a year.

Whereas, when I got fleshy piercings last year done by a piercer, those closed up within 1-2 months. Don’t feel shy about going to a piercer even if it is just for lobes – you’re giving them your money, after all.

Tip 2: Don’t Touch your Piercings, Stick to Hypoallergenic Jewellery, and Don’t Swap them Out Too Early

I have an unfortunate history of compulsive skin picking, and sadly, that bad habit extends to stuff like scabs, piercings, dry skin and the like. Plus, I am far too impatient and can never seem to wait long enough until I get to change out my piercing jewellery.

It seems so obvious, but let me repeat. If you can, do not touch your piercings. When I got my first few cartilage piercings in my mid to late 20s, back in a time when my Korean was not that great because I’d just arrived a year earlier, I thought my piercer told me to touch and twist my piercings as often as possible, when she really said not to touch them. As a result, I developed piercing bumps on my upper helix that took literal years to flatten and turn in on themselves. Here’s what my right ear looks like now:

The other bit I would like to caution against is not using hypoallergenic jewellery. My industrial piercing (the one with the bar) in my left ear is my absolute favourite piercing, but I changed out my bar too soon for one that I might have been allergic to.

As a result, it got infected, my body rejected the whole thing (flesh started growing underneath the piercing holes, which pushed the bar outwards until it was no longer surrounded but was pushed out), and I have since been left with noticeable keloid scarring in my left ear – see below. I got the whole thing re-pierced when the keloids were still in their infancy and I thought they would heal on their own.

Personally, scarring does not bother me. I have smaller scars all over my face and larger ones especially on my body, due to having lots of life-saving surgeries as a baby. If anything, I like them as they add a bit of character and I love scars on other people (is that weird?). However, my husband is not a fan and he REALLY hates my industrial keloids, so perhaps keep this in mind.

Tip 3: Really think about Placement… because some Piercings may Never Close Up

Now, you may think piercings are not as big a deal, since you can just take them out and then they’ll close up… right??

May I present you with my stomach. I got a belly button piercing some time last year and am absolutely loving it! I disliked the way my navel looked, and am very pleased as to how it covers my ‘outie’ belly button. However, if you look closely, you’ll see holes underneath that one. Idiot 19 year old me thought it would be smart to get a reverse piercing, ended up not liking it, and took it out after 6 months. Almost 15 years later, the holes have not fully closed, in spite of them being very fleshy piercings. Ugh!

Moral of the story: Your piercing holes may not close up, so do think carefully about where you let people stick metal in your body.

Tip 4: Get Ready for Iodine, Salt Water Solutions, and Face Mist Water Sprays

To keep your piercing clean and keep bacterial growth at bay, I personally have found iodine and salt water solutions the most helpful. Your piercer may have different opinions, so do listen to them.

Rubbing alcohol or essential oils, like tea tree oil, are an absolute no-go in my experience. Same for salves or ointments – I was recommended Fucidin by my piercer lady and my new piercings started expelling green gunk. If anything, they’ll make things worse, from what I’ve seen.

What I used to do was dab my new piercings and the surrounding skin with iodine, wait a few minutes, then take a shower. Especially helpful for oozing, infected piercings! They’d clear up quickly.

Another thing I liked for new, infected piercings was to boil water, mix 2-3 table spoons of table salt with 75 ml of boiling water, wait 15 minutes for the solution to cool down, then dunk the affected area for a minute before hopping in the shower.

When I was pressed for time, what I also liked to do was get one of those French plain water mists (think Evian), spray the affected area, then use a non-fluffy cotton pad to clean off pus or crusts of blood and let the piercing air-dry.

Tip 5: The earlier you get Pierced… the Better

If you have a cool parent who lets you get away with being a teenager, being your authentic self, rather than one who tries to mould you only according to their exact expectations – no deviations from the norm allowed, such as was my case, then I’d say, get all those piercings you want as a teen, or at least before the age of 20. I’ve gotten half a dozen piercings at least since I turned 30, and honestly, they do not heal all that well or that quickly like they used to – see my keloid story above.

I have no regrets as I really only started living and being me in my late 20s – such is life – we’re all on different timelines. However, if I could have a do-over, I’d definitely get my cartilage piercings especially done as a teen, as they now take 18-36 months to heal up, and that’s just not all that great.

Final Thoughts

Hope you can learn from my mistakes! I guess this is a PSA more than anything?

I love all my piercings but the cartilage and industrial ones more than the others, though they were the most painful. Do you have any interesting piercing stories to tell? What have you or will you get pierced? Do tell in the comments. 👇

© 2022 The Empties Diaries All Rights Reserved

9 thoughts on “Getting Pierced in Korea / What I Wish I Knew Before Getting Pierced in my Teens, 20s + 30s

  1. Thank you so much for these useful tips! Your ear piercings look really cool! I love piercings but my skin is very sensitive and reactive and I never got any to avoid possible skin infections.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your piercings look so cool! Thank you for writing about this in so much detail, it’s helpful to know what each of your experiences has been like. I’m still thinking about whether I should go ahead or not, I recently wore some earrings I was very much allergic to and now waiting for my 32 year old piercing holes to heal again, such a pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Hai there stranger!! I’ve been missing you!
      What’s holding you back getting the earrings you want? Are you worried about the healing process or about it not looking professional enough, or…?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ello ello 😀 I broke my laptop screen so had to wait ages for it to get fixed, but now I’m back and ready to catch up 😀 It’s definitely all about the healing because lately I find that wounds don’t heal as quickly as they used to for me, so I’m a bit scared about that.


      2. That’s a very fair point. In all the posts / videos I’ve seen, I’ve never come across shortcuts to healing – there’re all sorts of iodine and salt sprays and tinctures you can get to keep bacterial growth at bay but nothing ever seems to speed up the healing process. Cartilage piercings are not a must.

        Nipple and navel piercings heal quite nicely, from what I’ve heard / in my experience, but they’re less visible of course.


      3. I should probably apply some iodine now too in that case. In an ideal world I’d get 2 more lobe piercings, orbital, helix, tragus and daith.


      4. I have personally found that Tragus and Daith piercings heal really well compared to other cartilage piercings as they are away from hair, hats, hoodies etc. so long as you don’t wear headphones. Plus, you may be less likely to snag on towels and the like.

        My helixes & industrial piercings were a right pain 😾

        Liked by 1 person

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