Ella McShea, 5, of Lynbrook, steps out of the piercing room...

Ella McShea, 5, of Lynbrook, steps out of the piercing room after getting her ears pierced for the first time at Village Streetwear in Merrick on June 8. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Kimberly Hinojosa, a piercer at Lark Tattoo in Westbury, recently pierced the ears of a 7-year-old girl and then gave her father his first piercing the same day — in his eyebrow.

“Piercings are for everybody; they're special to everyone in their own ways,” she says of the form of self expression that has no age limit. 

It’s a trend as old as time — ear piercings are as fashionable today as they were decades ago. Getting that hole punched in each lobe was once marked by sitting upon a high-top chair in the center of a mall kiosk. Now, businesses are making it a personalized experience with an emphasis on comfort, safety and milestone-marking celebration.

Addison Roth, 10, got her third ear piercing by her mom, Danielle Roth, co-owner of Gray's Jewelers in St. James on May 24. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Some won't remember the momentous occasion: as  babies, their parents bringing them for their first ear piercings before their first birthdays. Others wait until their children are older. Either way, people young and old are flocking to jewelers, tattoo parlors, piercing studios, and even pediatrician offices for their first piercings. Lesa Shapiro, owner of Village Streetwear, says she’s pierced ears of people from 4 months old to one woman who was 104 years old getting her lobes re-pierced after her first had closed years earlier.

“It’s part of growing up in life,” says Shapiro, who offers piercing at her Merrick shop. “It’s almost like a little graduation of ‘Now I have my ears pierced,’ because then they can come in, shop for earrings — it’s a new part of your life where you can shop for jewelry.”

Shapiro says it’s common for tweens and teens to come in as a group.

Parents may also choose to get children's ears pierced at their pediatrician's office, though whether the service is offered varies by practice. Kathleen Rhor, 39, of East Meadow, brought her 4-month-old daughter to get her ears pierced by Dr. John Zaso, an East Meadow family practice physician.

“We figured a medical office was definitely the most hygienic way,” Rhor says. “It went very smoothly because her doctor has done it so many times before and is generally used to squirmy babies.”

Paige Sgro, of Island Park, gets her ears pierced at...

Paige Sgro, of Island Park, gets her ears pierced at Village Streetwear in Merrick on June 8. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Still, retail venues remain a go-to  for the milestone, though some are adapting to the desire to have medically trained professionals handle the piercing. Rowan, a dedicated ear piercing studio that opened in the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station last spring, for example, only hires nurses to handle the delicate matter.

“It’s a medical procedure at the end of the day,” says Robin Page, chief marketing officer at Rowan. “So that takes precision and someone who is familiar with the body to know ways to handle it.”

Melissa Hickam, 27, of Deer Park, chooses earrings for her...

Melissa Hickam, 27, of Deer Park, chooses earrings for her daughter Nina, 4 months old, for her first ear piercing.  Credit: Rick Kopstein

Melissa Hickman, 27 of St. James, just had her 4-month-old’s ears pierced. Her pediatrician, who does not offer ear piercings, recommended she go to Gray’s Jewelers in St. James. “I personally got them done when I was a baby myself, and I felt like maybe she wouldn’t remember the pain as much and it would be easier than when she got older,” Hickman says.

Gray’s pierces the ears of about 20 to 30 people per week, and most of them are babies. “A good amount of parents do it right when they’re infants, and a good amount wait until they’re older and can ask for them themselves, too,” says Danielle Roth, co-owner of Gray’s Jewelers.

Gray’s Jewelers (St. James)

429A North Country Rd.

At Gray’s Jewelers, customers can choose from a variety of yellow and white gold earrings. After cleaning the earlobes, they’ll then have their ears marked to be sure the placement is just right. Then, the customer will have their ears pierced one at a time. A sealed, sterilized earring is inserted into the handheld mechanism and released with hand pressure. The staff then explains the cleaning process and children go home with a charm bracelet and certificate of bravery. Packages start at $65.

Corrine Kane, 32, and Ryan Kane, 35, of Middle Island, received a certificcate from Gray's Jewelers in St. James after their daughter Tegan, 4 months old, got her first ear piercing. Credit: Rick Kopstein

The jeweler also hosts princess-themed piercing events, with the next ones planned on July 15 and July 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The event offers an interactive experience, with decorations, props and staff members dressed up as princesses. Appointments for the event and regular piercing sessions can be made on Gray’s Jewelers’ website. Each appointment is 20 minutes.

More info: 631-250-9489, graysjewels.com

Village Streetwear (Merrick)

1756 Merrick Rd.

The experience is similar at Village Streetwear — marking the ears, piercing them one at a time for most, especially babies, or both at once if the person requests it, and then giving the rundown on aftercare. For first ear piercings, they use either a cartridge or a needle. The boho-style clothing and accessories store has rooms in the back where people come daily for all types of piercings.

“We let you know that it’s a split second and have you take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, we do the piercing and that’s it, done,” Shapiro says. “People find out it’s really not so bad. A lot of times they are like, ‘Oh, I can't believe I was so nervous.’ Some people will come in, and mom and dad or a friend will say, ‘You won't feel anything,’ and we’re like, ‘Come on, well, you won’t feel nothing. You’re going to feel a pinch.’ We don’t want to deceive them.”

More info: 516-208-5608, myvillagestreetwear.com

Lark Tattoo (Westbury)

1610 Old Country Rd.

Though they may be better known for body piercings, tattoo shops also pierce first-timers' ears daily. Lark Tattoo has two piercers who pierce only with a sterilized needle — never with a piercing gun — in a private room in the studio. As a reiki healer and energy worker, Hinojosa says she has a delicate touch when it comes to piercing and makes sure everyone is relaxed and happy.

“It’s really their moment and their time to adorn their body. It’s pretty special,” she says. “ They may be celebrating something in their life, may be getting over a breakup, but it’s to celebrate and help them and boost their confidence.”

More info: 516-794-5844, larktattoo.com

Rowan (Huntington Station)

160 Walt Whitman Rd., #1017

This mall storefront has trained nurses, hypoallergenic earrings and aftercare procedures designed to avoid adverse effects. Rowan, a nationwide chain, has a medical board guiding its protocols for piercings, which they do with a hand-pressurized device and needles. The studio highly recommends making an appointment online, but walk-ins are welcome.

“We’ve done  many 70-year-olds who have never had their piercings before and they come in for the first time,” Page says. “We’ve done people who are marking milestones; we’ve had people who are surviving cancer and want to have a celebratory pierce. One of the biggest things we stand for is we pierce all.”

More info: 631-760-8119, heyrowan.com

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