Non-trad. piercings flourish

by Sabrina Peric | 2/4/02 6:00am

More than 50 percent of college students have non-traditional body piercings and 23 percent have tattoos, according to a study published in this month's issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"Oh yeah, [piercing] is getting more and more mainstream," Bruce Bernier, owner of TLC Body Piercing in Fairlee, Vt., said. "Before, you were considered a freak if you got pierced, but now it's fairly common."

The study, conducted by Dr. Lester Mayers, is the first to survey the prevalence of body piercing and tattooing in a sizable and representative population of university undergraduate students.

The study was conducted last spring at Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y.

Mayers recorded the types of piercing and found that the navel was the most popular piercing for female students, with 29 percent of those surveyed reporting this particular piercing.

The navel piercing was closely followed by the ear not including the earlobe with 27 percent of female students reporting this piercing. In males, the ear was the body site with the most frequently pierced body site at 31 percent.

Tom Tarnie -- owner of Body Language Piercing and Tanning in White River Junction, Vt. -- and Bernier both confirmed that the navel was the most popular piercing at their respective establishments, followed by the tongue.

"The first piercing usually starts off with an ear," said Bernier, "it's the whole rebellion thing, the kids are away from home."

Mayers reported that 17 percent of students suffered some medical complication from the piercing. Bacterial infection was the most common complaint, followed by bleeding and injury or tearing at the site.

"Body art is prevalent among undergraduate university students, and there is significant incidence of medical complications among students with piercing," Mayers stated in the study.

"Complications occur mostly because people don't listen to the aftercare instructions ... and playing with the jewelry definitely contributes," Tardie said.

Bernier agreed with Tardie about problematic aftercare and added that "sometimes people get concerned because there is usually redness and inflammation ... it occurs during healing and is just a progression of things."

The majority of Tardie's clients are between the ages of 15 and 25, though very few of them are college students, he said.

Dartmouth students, however, make up ten to 15 percent of Bernier's clientele, though he says that there is no one particular age group that he serves.

"It's an eclectic mix, but the main college I serve is Dartmouth ... [Dartmouth students] are loyal to me for whatever reason and I enjoy them," Bernier said.

While Tardie opened Body Language last year, Bernier has become a piercing mainstay in the Upper Valley.

"Ninety to 95 percent of people at TLC are women," Bernier said. "It's a beautifying thing in some eyes."

Both Tardie and Bernier said that the average price for piercing at their businesses is $40 to $45. Tongue piercing costs around $60 to $65, while exotic piercing can get much more expensive.

Mayers, a member of the Pace University Athletic Department's Division of Sports Medicine. was prompted to conduct this study while performing routine medical examinations and observing that non-traditional piercing -- or piercing other than on the earlobe -- and tattooing were common among students.

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