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  • Life - Style
  • Updated: August 28, 2021

Body Piercing: Unraveling The Beauty Behind A Misunderstood Art

All through history, mankind has been obsessed with body modification. The act which was mostly used for cultural and religious reasons has evolved today into a remarkable means of expression.

The culture of body piercing is indeed piercing through society today (pun intended), especially among the young folk. After inquiring into their motivation for this act, one can conclude that reasons for piercings differ widely, not only from person to person but even from piercing to piercing.

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Image Source: AllNews.ng

Piercing inspiration could come from anywhere. Some are inspired after seeing a celebrity do it, while others see it as a form of expression of themselves. Others do it, weird as it may seem, for no reason at all.

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In the case of Uchechukwu Frances, a Lagos-based entrepreneur, it is a pretty interesting story. Heartbreaks influenced her decision to get multiple piercings.

 

“To be frank, I was heartbroken twice and that was a source of inspiration for me to get piercings. That was the only way I could express my pain or find relief for the pain I felt," Frances revealed.

“I got the two upper ones first before I got the inner ear done but it wasn’t as painful as the pain I felt after a heartbreak. Let’s just say it’s an aligned pain.”

Uchechukwu Frances

21-year-old Abubakar Hadidah was one of those who engaged in it for fashion and beautification purposes. She started while she was still in secondary school - one of the most controversial periods to even do that. 

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"Body piercing is just what I've always loved and that's because I feel beautiful with it,” she said, “It's my personal definition of beauty, plus I admire people who have varieties of it.

"I got my upper earlobe first then my nose and right now, I've got four. Three in my ears, one in my nose. I plan to get more."

Abubakar Hadidah

The first time 25-year-old Zuva got a piercing apart from the traditional lobe piercing done at birth, she was 18. She got a nipple piercing. She was inspired to go for it by the American pop star Rihanna.

Rihanna

"At that time, Rihanna had hers done and I just got into the university, so it was definitely a fashion thing. However, now I think I get them because I like how they look. I also think the act of getting pierced is a little addictive. So I haven’t stopped!!"

Although body piercings are getting popular, it comes with its own dose of social stigma and prejudice. Many in Nigeria still label people with body piercings as 'non-conforming' and rebellious.

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Even though it has some forms of attachment to most major religions, it is still widely frowned upon for religious and moral reasons today.

For Adeboye Ismail, a videographer from Lagos, he initially viewed people with multiple piercings as 'gangsters' but after gaining exposure in the entertainment industry, he has come to terms with the normalcy.

Man With Septum Piercing | Image Source: Healthline

Chukwuka Leo, a Nigerian Chef, thinks multiple piercing goes hand-in-hand with irresponsibility. 

"I see people with multiple piercings as irresponsible and wayward. I feel people who modify their bodies are too concerned about their physical appearance. Most people who pierce do not have good reasons for doing it, they mostly do it due to societal influence."

I disagree with Leo. I have multiple piercings and I wouldn't call myself irresponsible. Should people not be left alone to do what they want with their bodies?

People get stigmatized over what they do with their bodies. Should that be? The idea of beauty lies in an individual’s head and many body-piercers feel comfortable getting piercings.

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Societal vilification is a lesser source of worry for these youths compared to the jitters they get from family, especially parents. 

A lot of African families (especially parents) are not very warm to the idea of body piercings. As a matter of fact, most of them do not appreciate body modifications of any sort. 

In Zuva’s case, she faced stiff criticism from her family as they felt she was a crook.

“So I got a lot more stigmatized by my family, '' she said. “They really did not like them and said I looked like a “crook”. At one point, I actually had to take them all out when I moved home! Nowadays they really don’t care. I think once they got over the initial shock, they just got less and less noticeable. I got another nose piercing a couple of days ago and no one noticed until I pointed it out!!”

You could say I was one of the “lucky” ones as my mum was rather indifferent to my nose piercing and that is because piercings are quite common in my religion, Islam. 

And so many times, she has hinted that she does not want any more unconventional piercings. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder how she would react if I got my lower lip pierced. 

Aminat Yusuf’s story is quite interesting, as she had to hide hers from her father for more than four years. She said that the reason for that is because her father hated the idea of multiple piercings and was quite vocal about it.

“When I first pierced my nose, my mum saw it the following day and she was indifferent about it. But I kept it away from my dad for 4 years plus. And that happened because he is always badmouthing those people with a pierced nose.

“When I started my Masters, I stopped hiding it from him. He saw it at first and didn’t talk but after an issue, it triggered him to talk and we all addressed it as a family. He didn’t have a choice. He conceded although he still doesn't like it. And I try to respect that by not wearing a nose ring  anytime he is around.”

Amina Yusuf

This might seem ironic as African tribes are rooted in body modifications such as tribal marks. But there is a strong societal paradigm that associates modifications like piercings and tattoos with prostitution or even being a miscreant.

Nose piercing goes as far back as 1500 BC. Piercing of this type has been documented globally, while lip and tongue piercings were historically found in African and American tribal cultures.

African Woman With Multiple Piercing | Image Source: Pinterest

In some African cultures, women receive some sort of nose piercing upon marriage. The size of the jewelry can indicate the husband's wealth. 

Nose rings, in some African cultures, are a reflection of an individual's wealth and it was believed that the larger the nose rings, the wealthier and the more prominent an individual is.

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The Ancient Egyptians are of the oldest bodies found with stretched ear lobes. They also loved to adorn themselves elaborately and even restricted certain types of body piercings to the royal family. An interesting fact is that only the pharaoh was allowed to have his navel pierced and anyone else who did so would be executed. Egyptians wore earrings to display their wealth and portray their beauty.

Ancient Egyptian Earrings | Image Source: Egypt 7000

Pierced adornments of the lip or labrets were sported by the Tlingit Indians; the peoples of Papua New Guinea, Amazonia, Aztecs, and Mayans; while the Dogon people of Mali and the Nuba of Ethiopia were known to wear rings.

I’ve got one awkward, but weirdly interesting encounter in Lagos as a result of my piercing that I have to get off my chest.

So, I was in a bus one Monday morning going to work and I had my nostril and septum ring on. 

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When the bus stopped at a bus station, a conductor walked up to me (I sat at the front seat beside the window) and in a very condescending tone, he said, 'What's with all these metals in your face. Is it Buhari's regime that made you like this?'

The scene was quite amusing to me because why would a person be so triggered by what I decide to do with my own body?

Nigerian Singer, Temilade Openiyi (Tems)

With that said, let’s move on.

The nose, ear, and belly-button piercings are quite fashionable and common but the piercing community is always coming up with more and more hardcore methods of poking holes in the weirdest areas of the body.

Axel Rosales: Guinness Book of Record for the most piercings on the face (280 piercings)

Some of the weirdest places people pierce include but are not limited to; the nose bridge (above the nose where the eyebrows meet), the web beneath the tongue, the eye (now this is not the eyebrow but through the eyelid itself), the chin and the smiley (a lot of people are quite embracing the smiley piercing).

Smiley | Image Source: Ariijay

In terms of jewelry, the most common are necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets. However, there are other types of jewelry worn on different parts of the body and it is known as 'body jewelry'.

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Some of the body jewelry include; Ear cuffs, studs, Captive Bead Rings (CBR), hoops, drop earrings, belly chains, nose screws, and barbells (Straight Barbells are used for nipple and tongue piercings, whereas curved barbells are used for rook, vertical labret, and eyebrow piercings. Navel piercings also use curved barbells, just generally in a larger size. Decorative Barbells have a design on one end and a ball on the other end).

Piercing Jewelry | Image Source: Pinterest

Complications/Risks Associated With Piercing

The earlobes are the safest and most common parts of the body people pierce. That is owing to the ability of the earlobe flesh to heal properly when the piercing is done at the right angle. However, as popular and fashionable as they are, piercings can cause complications. 

Allergic Reactions: You can develop an allergy to some piercing jewelry — particularly pieces made of nickel. These allergic reactions usually include red, itchy, and/or flaky skin at the site of contact with the jewelry.

Image Source: ITW Performance Polymers

Infections: There are several ways that your piercings can get infected. Touching your piercings with dirty hands or instruments can introduce bacteria which can turn into an infection. Symptoms of infection may include yellow, pus-like discharge, swelling, itching, and burning.

Blood-Borne Disease: If the instrument used for piercings is not sterile, it could put you at risk of localized or blood-borne infection such as hepatitis, HIV, tetanus, and yeast.

Keloids: Keloids are overgrowths of scar tissue caused by trauma to your skin. They're common after ear piercings and can form on both the lobe and cartilage of your ear.

Keloids | Image Source: Health Magazine

Rejection in Piercings

Rejection is when the body pushes out the jewelry from the piercings or walls the piercing off with scar tissue.

Although rejection is not very common in piercing, it is likely to happen. It is most likely to happen in the first few weeks to months after getting a piercing, but it can also happen years, even decades later. 

Rejection happens when the body perceives the jewelry as alien. The body then activates its self-defense mode and works to kick out the 'invading object'.

Some locations are more prone to rejection than others, especially flat surfaces. Areas with tight skin also elevate risk because they put pressure on the piercing.

Zuva's conch (the inner cup part of the ear) piercing was rejected on her right ear and she had to redo it on the left. 

Conch Piercing

“The most painful has to be my conch. It rejected on my right ear so I had to get it redone on my left and honestly never again. The second most painful would be the first time I got my septum. They didn’t get the right spot and it was horrible! However, the second time I got it done I went to a reputable piercer and it was almost painless.”

How To Care For Your Piercing

It is important to note many factors contribute to how a piercing heals and healing time differs from piercing to piercing and person to person.

Ear lobes usually take about two to three months to heal, and cartilage takes about three to 10 months. A cartilage piercing requires a bit more tender loving care (TLC) than a lobe piercing.

First things first, you should get a reputable piercer who takes proper safety precautions seriously and after getting pierced, wash your hands before touching it. This is to avoid infections.

Even healed piercings that you have had for years can shrink or close in minutes so it is totally not necessary to rotate/turn/remove your jewelry.

Unless there is a problem with your jewelry, leave it in place for the entire healing period. If removed, reinsertion can be difficult or impossible.

If you take your aftercare seriously, you'll avoid any problems. It takes patience to nurse your piercing to health. 

Healthline prescribes the following additional body piercing aftercare tips;

Clean with a clean cotton pad or swab dipped in a salt solution. You can make this solution by mixing 1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water.

Use this around the pierced area a few times a day to remove any bacteria.

Dab (don’t wipe) the piercing. Dry with a clean towel or tissue so you don’t damage the tissue while it’s healing.

Don’t get any hair or body products in the piercing area. Be careful when you use shampoo, soap, gel, pomade, hairspray, or other products that can get near the piercing and irritate the tissue.

Watch out for any abnormal or discolored discharge. See your piercer or doctor right away if you notice any unusual discharge as it might be a sign of an infection.

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