Tattoos & Piercings: A match made in heaven!

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Walk into any tattoo parlor and you’ll probably find signs saying they do piercings as well. And you might wonder what the two have in common. The answer is – a lot!

Tattoos and piercings have a long history together, and both industries have grown in much the same ways – from being tribal and cultural traditions to a symbol of revolution, and from early methods considered dangerous and unhygienic to modern methods that adhere to regulations and follow proper piercing aftercare procedures.

Girls back tattoo with ornamental design and piercings
Ornamental back tattoo with piercings

Where did tattooing and piercing come from?

Historically, both tattoos and piercings have been worn as both a form of body art and as a tribal and cultural symbol. With tattoos, they had a whole range of meanings – from being an account of a tribe’s history and values to symbolizing one’s place and role in the tribe, to a brand for criminals and outcasts, all the way back to over 5000 years ago when tattooing was used as a tool for pain relief.

A metal earring discovered in a German grave
An earring found in a grave in Germany dating before the 6th century

Piercings have a similar history. Mummies from over 5000 years ago have been discovered sporting earrings, while nose piercings are over 3000 years old. Lip and tongue piercings are some of the most ancient, as this form of body modification has been practiced by African and Native American tribes for thousands of years. Nipple piercings date back to ancient Rome, while genital piercings have been found to have existed in ancient India.

Khond woman with ear, septum and nostril piercings
A woman from the Khond tribe in India sporting traditional ear, septum, and nostril piercings

Across all these cultures, piercings seemed to be performed for a variety of reasons including religious or spiritual reasons, culture and tradition, self-expression and aesthetic value, as a symbol of rebellion, and even sexual pleasure.

In Asian cultures, ear piercings are an important cultural symbol and many tribes and communities host ceremonies when these piercings are performed. Ear and nose plugs are also a very ancient practice in Asian as well as African communities. Some temporary piercings are also practiced for religious purposes, such as the cheek piercings of Tamil communities done during religious processions.

A traditional ceremony for ear-boring held in Burma
A traditional Burmese ear-boring ceremony
A Karen woman from Burma with traditional ear plugs
A modern Burmese woman with traditional earplugs

‘Labrets’, which refers to all forms of lip adornments including lip piercings and plates are also an ancient practice, though a dwindling one. They are still practised in some parts of Amazonia and Africa.

A Nilotic Mursi woman
An Ethiopian woman with a lip plate

More recently, this form of piercing was depicted in the Marvel film ‘Black Panther’.

A still from the Marvel film 'Black Panther' showing the water tribe's chief wearing a lip plate
Lip plate worn by the chief of the water tribe in Black Panther

During World War II the West took to piercings quite strongly and by the 90s, it had become extremely popular in Western subcultures, such as the punk scene. Just like tattoos, which also became equally popular around the same time, piercings were a visible symbol of self-expression, rebellion, and self-determination.

Tattoos & Piercings: A match made in heaven! 2

Since then the culture of piercings has boomed and spread across the world. Now, there is no limit to what you can get pierced!

How are piercings done?

Just like tattooing, piercing begins by marking the area of the piercing and sterilizing the area. After this, the area is either pierced with a needle or a micro dermal punch is used to remove a small bit of tissue, following which an anchor is inserted into the surface layers of the skin and a jewel is attached to the end. The process is usually not too painful, though the punch is often less painful than a needle.

Piercing Risks & Aftercare

Early forms of piercing were considered dangerous and unhygienic due to the lack of proper tools and regulations. Just like with tattooing, however, the last few decades have seen significant improvements in the process of piercing. Modern tools specific to piercing are manufactured with high standards and are sterilized so they are safe and hygienic for commercial use. Additionally, studios will ensure that proper  care is maintained while piercing, including using fresh materials and sterilized gloves.

While some risks still remain, including a risk of infection and potential scarring, the industry has developed proper pre- and post-care for piercings that minimize any risks.

The healing time for piercings is also similar to that of tattoos, varying depending on placement and level of work done as well as the standard of aftercare that is practiced. Generally, it can take as little as a few weeks for a piercing to heal, especially with proper care. But some piercings, such as genital piercings, can take as little as a month to heal while others, such as navel piercings, can take up to two years to fully heal. This is mainly because while genitals are usually covered by skin, navels are often more exposed to friction from the clothes we wear.

While healing, it is normal to see some amount of inflammation and oozing – just like with tattoos! – as this is the body’s natural way of healing an open wound. All visible signs of healing should usually subside within the first few weeks of healing, after which deeper repair takes place. If anything does not seem right, though, be sure to check in with a doctor or the studio where you got your piercing done.

Read: The Jhaiho Tattoo Care Guide

Tattoos & Piercings: A perfect match!

With their intertwined history, it is easy to understand why tattoos and piercings go so well together. The combination of both forms of body art leads to some stunning results!

Ear Piercings

Ear tattoos and piercings are one of the most beautiful combinations – and also one of the most popular! Whether you choose a simple classic earring or get an array of ear piercings done, it will still look fabulous next to your ear tattoo. Floral patterns combined with piercings are some of the most popular, but you can get quite creative with your tattoo-piercing combo on the ear!

Girls ear tattoo with piercing
Line tattoos with piercing
Girls ear tattoo with piercing
Branch with leaves tattoo and piercing
Girls ear tattoo with piercing
Flower tattoo and piercing
Girls ear tattoo with piercing
Flower tattoo and piercing
Girls ear tattoo with piercing
Seahorse tattoo and piercing
Girls ear tattoo with piercing
Flower tattoo and piercing
Girls ear tattoo of a fish bone with a seashell earring
Fishbone tattoo and seashell earring

Neck, Chest, & Back Piercings

Whether you’re more of a minimalist or like to go all out with your body art, chest, shoulder, and back tattoos with piercings can make quite a statement!

Girls chest tattoo that reads 'Mamma' with a heart above a piercing
Script tattoo with piercing
Girls back tattoo with ornamental design and piercings
Ornamental back tattoo with piercings
Girls back tattoo with piercings
Flower tattoo with piercings
Girls ornamental back tattoo with neck piercings
Ornamental back tattoo with neck piercings
Girls back tattoo of a lotus with a piercing
Back tattoo of a lotus with piercing

Piercings don’t always have to be a part of your tattoo design. You can also get piercings that match your tattoos to make a style statement that’s both edgy and glamorous!

A woman with tattoos on her arms and neck and ear plugs
Tattoos & piercings – a love affair!
A girl with neck and chest tattoos and facial piercings
Neck and chest tattoos with facial piercings

Arm Piercings

Body art on the arms usually makes people think of heavier work, such as a sleeve tattoo. But you can go as grand or as minimal as you want with arm art!

Girls wrist tattoo with piercings
Flower tattoo with piercings
A tattoo of an oyster with a pearl pierced into its center
Oyster tattoo with pearl piercing

You can also give an old tattoo an upgrade with a jewel piercing.

Old-school tattoo of a key with a piercing
An old-school tattoo gets a shiny upgrade!

Midriff & Hip Piercings

Piercings can add a beautiful accent to your tattoo. Check out these tattoos with strategically-placed studs that really make the tattoos pop!

Girls rib tattoo of an elephant decorated with many small sparkly piercings
Elephant tattoo decorated with piercings
Girls navel piercing with tribal tattoo
Tribal tattoo with a navel piercing
Girls hip bone tattoo and piercing
Ribbon tattoos with piercings
Girls hip bone tattoo of a flower with a piercing
Flower tattoo and piercing

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Inspired to get a tattoo and piercing done? Head on over to to find a tattoo and piercing shop near you and book an appointment today!

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