At Body Electric Tattoo in Los Angles, artist Brian Keith Thompson has been piercing clients for 10 years, including Beyoncé and Bella Thorne, and the ears of babies as young as 3 weeks old. “A parent bringing you their child, there’s no greater compliment,” he recently told PopSugar. “And it’s not just about giving them a great piercing, it’s about giving them an experience. Sometimes I have families, like mine, where the mom and dad are divorced, and they’re both there.”
Tattoo shops all over the country, such as Chameleon Tattoo & Body Piercing in Cambridge, Mass., and Twisted Images in Louisville, Ky., have expanded their business to the underage set by offering ear-piercing services.
The advantage over mall retail stores: Tattoo artists use needles to pierce the ear, as opposed to reusable piercing guns, which can cause tissue damage, infection, and viruses, especially among children with weaker immune systems. Tattoo artists also tend to be trained in first aid and CPR and use sterilized needles as opposed to, in some cases, improperly trained salespeople who use piercing guns that are merely disinfected, according to the Association of Professional Piercers.
Still, whether they’re at a tattoo shop or a mall, ear piercing can be a challenging (and painful) experience for kids. And just as with parenting, skill, empathy, and the willingness to say “no” to a customer are part of the tattoo artist’s job description. “The longest part of piercing an infant is marking,” Thompson told PopSugar. “Thank God I was a marine and can hit a moving target. Babies don’t want to keep their head still. Some babies, once they start crying and they get really hysterical, I turn them away. It’s not always the right time.”
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