JUST WHO is getting their ears pierced these days?
Lots of people of all ages.
"I've pierced 87-year-old ladies and 65-year-old men and two-month-old babies," says Deborah Konarski, assistant manager of the Piercing Pagoda at Eastpoint Mall. "More men are having their ears pierced than anybody realizes," she says, adding that about 500 people a month have their ears pierced at the mall shop.
At Merle Norman Cosmetics in Towsontowne Centre many of the customers are youngsters 5 to 10 years of age, says Sharron Miller, a skin care adviser who has been trained to pierce ears.
Timonium pediatrician Larry Pakula agrees that the age for having children's ears pierced is dropping. "It's an amazingly popular thing," he says, adding that he and the other doctors who practice with him see "very few complications" with pierced ears. He attributes this to good training and safe techniques used by those doing the piercing.
"As recently as 10 years ago, parents would insist on going to an ear, nose and throat doctor to have children's ears pierced. That is rare now," says Pakula.
The Towson shop will not pierce infants' ears. "I don't do babies; I don't agree with it," Miller says. Anyone younger than 18 must have a parent or other adult sign a release form for them; adult customers must sign the form, too. It absolves the shop of responsibility for "risks of loss or injury of any kind."
Miller also has a lot of young male customers from nearby colleges. She says about 100 people a month get their ears pierced at the cosmetics shop.
At Hunt Valley Mall, Debbie Bennett has seen another trend: Middle-aged, and older, women are having their ears pierced for the second time. "They are scared to death," says Bennett, an assistant manager at the mall's Accessory Place.
Anxious customers will sometimes have one ear pierced, take a break and then come back for the second ear. "Sometimes we send them out for ice cream," says Bennett.
She adds that there are almost as many male as female customers at her shop. "You have to fully explain to men" how to take care of their ears: To leave the first earrings in for four-to-six weeks; to use a cleansing antiseptic twice a day; to keep earrings in to ensure the holes stay open.
Men generally have only one ear pierced, but some are putting several holes in that one ear, Miller says. At her shop, two men can each have their ears pierced for the price of one pair of earrings, she says. Bennett's Hunt Valley shop doesn't permit such collaboration.
For most people, having their ears pierced presents few problems. But, "we don't pierce if there's a lump," says Bennett, "because we don't know what the lump is."
The first weeks:
* Here are some suggestions for adjusting to newly pierced ears:
* Leave the first earrings in for four to six weeks.
* During the first weeks, cleanse your ears with an antiseptic solution and turn the earrings twice daily.
* During the first six to twelve months, do not go more than 24 hours without wearing earrings; your body is still treating the holes as wounds and they will tend to close up.
* Be sure the earrings fit loosely. Tight-fitting earrings are more apt to cause infection because soap, cologne, etc., can settle behind them.
* Be careful not to catch earrings when removing clothing over your head.
* Redness, swelling and/or itching may be signs of infection. Remove earrings, treat ears with antiseptic solution, alcohol or peroxide. If discomfort continues, see a doctor.
Here are a couple of reminders for veterans of pierced ears:
* Pierced earring wire and posts should be kept clean. Cleanse them with alcohol regularly to keep foreign elements from being introduced into your body.
* Always clean posts or wires before wearing new earrings.
* Most earring posts or wires are made of surgical steel or gold. These substances are "hypoallergenic." Some lower-priced earrings, however, have nickel plate under the gold. This allows the gold to wear well and shine brightly. But, the nickel will eventually migrate through the gold and, where the earring touches the ear, cause irritation, cautions Steffan Aletti, president of the Jewelry Industry Council.