My friend Arseniy from Total Ink in Saint Petersburg is doing a presentation about ear pointing so we were talking about the history of it and he asked me if I knew of any “fails”. I told him that I’d seen some points that had opened up, but I couldn’t think of anything too terrible. He was like, “you need to go look at my ‘home bod mod’ gallery.” He told me that this had been featured on ModBlog about a year ago, but I couldn’t find it in my searches, so I’ve decided to write about it again even though I’m sure many of you will have seen it before — this kind of warning can never be posted too often.
Yikes. Yikes. Yikes.
What you’re seeing in these photos is the ear of a person who decided to have their, friend an amateur body modifier, do their ear pointing because they didn’t want to spend the money to have it done by someone qualified in a studio — after all, getting an ear pointing done by someone experienced not only involves their fee but sometimes travel as well, to say nothing of patience. However, ten days later, this corner-cutter managed to get parts of their now necrotic ear amputated.
In the first photos (1A and 1B), you can see the ear being cut and folded over at an extreme angle. I should add that these photos were taken not at a clean and contamination-controlled studio, but at someone’s house, without even a proper light. They just leaned their head on the window frame for illumination, with plenty of dirt and dust visible in the haphazard workspace that didn’t appear to even have been cleaned — the space is so contaminated as to make gloves almost pointless, to say nothing of the hilariously inappropriate paper towels being used as a DIY surgical drape.
In photo 2, taken on day one, it should already be obvious that the odds of success are very low. The ear has been folded at such a comically extreme angle that the pressure on the healing tissue and cartilage would have been enormous, to say nothing of the extremely unpleasant aesthetics of the new ear shape and how difficult it would be to keep clean if it actually did heal. By day five, photo 3, the ear is starting to tear open and is quite swollen — infection has set in, made worse by insufficient care on the part of the client. By the end of the first week, photo 4, the sutures have completely torn out and the ear is back to its original shape, minus the part that was cut out of course. However, at this point the infection is well established in the majority of the cartilage. Cartilage infections spread quickly and are difficult to treat. Two days later, her ear was cleaned up at the hospital. Some cartilage was lost, but a remarkable job was done in saving the majority of the ear. Click here to see the other side two years afterwards (sorry, the angle doesn’t really show it but it’s the best I could get, and I couldn’t get a photo of the other side that matches the more damaged ear). Lest you say “well that doesn’t look that bad”, I want to mention two things — (1) this photo shows the ear in the best possible light, and (2) I’ve seen ears collapse completely from infected industrial piercings — see the BME wiki entry for “ear collapse” for more information on how easy it is to damage cartilage.
There is no excuse for this happening. Yes, mistakes happen to the best of us at times. Yes, sometimes even the most qualified among us push things too far or in the wrong direction, and a procedure fails. But there is no excuse for behaving in an irresponsible and unprofessional manner. There is no excuse for working in an unsafe and unclean environment with inappropriate tools and supplies. There is no excuse for going to an unqualified practitioner. There is no excuse for not caring for your body and not listening to your body. There is just no excuse for any of this. The body modification community has spent almost twenty years obsessively sharing knowledge online and making it easily accessible to anyone who is interested. There are many channels for education both for practitioners and enthusiasts. No matter what corner of the world a person is in, there is no reason to be making such basic errors in judgement, and behaving with such irresponsibility and abject disrespect for the artform and for the body of the client.
[EDIT/UPDATE: This entry has been edited because in its initial form it overstated the amount of damage to the ear. I've updated the entry with more accurate information, although the warnings remain valid.]