DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s a popular right of passage: going to the earring store and having a gun put to your head.

If you’re getting your little girl’s ear pierced soon, listen up because there’s a safe and a not-so-safe way to do it.

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WWJ’s Kathryn Larson caught up with piercing-gun educator and owner of Detroit’s Custom 5150 Ink, Calista Southard.

According to Southard, you shouldn’t walk into just any store that offers piercings.

“You want to make sure that you go into the right place. You want them to use single-use needles only,” Southard said.

Single-use needles are individually packaged and then disposed of after the piercing takes place. First, the hollow needle is used to puncture the skin. Then, an earring is placed in the opening created by the needle.

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When ears are pierced with a piercing gun, the earring is placed in the gun, which used a spring-loaded mechanism to force the earring to pierce through the skin.

While it may sound scarier, the needles are much safer when it comes to transmitting germs, according to Southard. She said piercing guns used in malls or department store jewelry departments could be loaded with germs and bacteria.

“Piercing guns, it’s really difficult to get the accuracy down and it’s not sterile. So you can’t, I mean you can clean it and scrub it, but you can’t physically put it into an autoclave, which can steam it completely clean and eliminate any bacteria,” Southard said.

Although there are laws in place about cleaning the guns, Southard is weary about whether or not every shop is following them.

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The best thing to do before making a decision to get ears pierced is to visit the location and talk to the professionals working there. That way, you can see for yourself the cleanliness of the shop and the instruments they use.