I recently decided it was time to do something I had been thinking about for a very long time: I got my very first piercing. No, I didn't go with something as pedestrian as an ear (more on that a bit later). I decided to go all the way and lose my piercing virginity by getting a nipple pierced.
I did a TON of research beforehand - like an OCD amount. I finally decided to go with arguably the best that the Rocky Mountain region has to offer in piercing specialists, and went to Sol Tribe. There are several piercers there, and they are all certified by the Association of Professional Piercers.
My piercer was Casey Hosch. She has been piercing for over 5 years, and apprenticed under Alicia Cardenas - one of the best piercers that there is (I think she owns Sol Tribe and concentrates exclusively on tattoos now). Casey has some awesome jewelry of her own, and immediately (like the very instant that I walked in the door) started talking to me and answering my questions.
Sol Tribe is a very clean shop - they obviously work hard to keep it that way. Casey changed gloves no less than 3 times during my piercing and everything used was disposable and single use. Again, these things are important, but I really did not expect it to be any less than that.
I was planning on getting a 14G barbell, but Casey convinced me to go with a 12G. Men's nipples tend to be smaller than a females (duh) and she has seen 14G reject before. A 12G is only 0.4mm larger than a 14G. Again, being a piercing virgin, it didn't seem like a big deal to me at the time (still doesn't). I would have been concerned if she would have gone smaller (I have heard of 16G for initial male nipple piercings before). I ended up with a 1/2 inch 12G stainless barbell.
She got all of the materials prepped - marking ink, cleaning supplies, the needle, clamp and the jewelry. All sterile, all on a clean tray. She changed her gloves (again) and proceeded to do the markings. She is fairly OCD (which I personally appreciate) and actually reviewed them more than once before being satisfied. I got up to have a look while she put those supplies away.
After looking in the mirror and happy with what I saw, I laid down on the bench for the actual piercing. She got her supplies together, and started with the clamp. She told me at that time that many people believe that the clamp actually hurts more than the piercing. She was right. She tried the clamp several times, giving the nipple a painful squeeze each time, but it kept slipping off.
She told me to take two deep breaths, and when I exhaled from the second, that is when she would do the piercing. One deep breath, second deep breath...
Because she freehanded the piercing, it wasn't one single smooth motion, as I was expecting it to be. The initial pain of the needle breaking the skin was less than the clamp (she was right). The second thrust of the needle actually was more painful than the initial motion. Then it was over.
She threaded the balls onto the bar, tightened them, and asked if I was OK. I very much was, and she asked me to sit up to have a look. There it was!
A quick bandage over the top (there was a little initial bleeding, which is normal), and I put my shirt back on and headed out.
$50 (plus taxes and crap) for a piercing is not bad, and pretty much what I expected. I made certain to tip Casey (ALWAYS TIP YOUR PIERCER) and left. The entire process took about 30 minutes.
So far, it has been great. There has been a little residual blood: again, I have read and been told this is completely normal for upwards of a couple of weeks after the initial piercing date, as the hole heals. I have been pretty good about cleaning it, soaking it twice daily and spot cleaning it a couple of more. In fact, I am only going to soak once today, with the hope that it helps with the bleeding a little.
As far as pain goes: on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being a paper cut and 10 being compound fractures, it was more like a 3. I have chronic in-grown toe nails that constantly cause me more discomfort than this has. The first night, it hurt as well, as I generally sleep on it. But after that, no issues at all. The third day after the piercing, and there is no pain, little in the way of swelling, and apart from the very little amount of dried blood, no problems that I can see.
I love the way it looks. I can easily see myself becoming a piercing junkie, though I am far too conservative and private to get too wild.
I hope this was informative for you. Ping me if you have any questions!