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Published Wednesday, April 1, 2015

7 Things Every Piercer Needs to Have

1. The Autoclave

The autoclave is a thingy that kills bacteria that lives on jewelry and stuff. Ask to see this. While you’re looking at it, ask to see their spore test results. A spore test is when special strips covered in bacteria are placed in the autoclave, the autoclave runs, and then the strips are sent off to be incubated. Incubating will grow bacteria if there’s bacteria to grow (And since the strips were autoclaved, there shouldn’t be any). Verify that the spore tests are being done monthly.

This is important, because if this piece of equipment isn’t working correctly (Or doesn’t exist because they don’t have one) then terrible things could happen to you.

2. The Space

It should be clean, well-cared for and private. If you’re looking around the piercer’s studio and it looks like one of those back alley places where criminals on Law and Order go to have bullets removed, then it’s not the place for you.

Ask yourself: Does this look like the kind of place where sterile things happen? Like, say, a dentist’s office? Also, some piercing studios favor big, wide open spaces and that’s fine, but if you’re getting a private place pierced they should have some way of making sure that everyone who walks in off the street can’t see your goodies.

3. The People

Helpful and knowledgeable are the words you’d want to use to describe these people. Look out for rude behavior, disrespect, intoxication, or general unhelpfulness. Remember, if something goes wrong, the piercing isn’t right, you get an infection, or the goo leaking out while you’re healing is not quite green but not exactly white, — and what does that mean?– then these are the people you will wind up calling or going to see for help.

If they won’t help you, or if they’re mean jerks that you never want to talk to again, then you’ll wind up finding a nice piercer to talk to anyways. You might as well find that person first and give them your business.

Field test: Print out this article, highlight all of the questions. Unfold it in front of the staff and begin asking the questions. Observe.

4. The Years of Experience

There should be some of these. Years of piercing experience, tons of happy clients, a portfolio of successful work. Ideally, you would know someone who used this piercer before and is super happy with the experience. If not, feel free to do some research. A lot of piercers now maintain an Instagram, Facebook or Twitter account with client photos. If they’re really old school, they might have actual hard copies in some kind of album with pages you can flip through.

The portfolio is particularly important. Just because John Q. Piercer has been piercing for 20 years doesn’t mean he isn’t known as “Cock Eyed Johnny” in the piercing community for his hilariously crooked piercings. Every city has a piercer like this. If you think I’m joking, call a piercing studio and ask where not to get pierced. All the other studios will have had experience correcting this piercer’s mistakes. Make sure that piercer isn’t your piercer.

Also, remember that sometimes the most experience doesn’t equal the best piercer. Just like doctors, old school piercers may not be keeping up with current community standards.

Ask: “Have you ever done this piercing before and if so how many times? Do you have pictures?” Some weird, new piercings, or rarely requested ones may be something they’ve never done before, or maybe they’re only done one or two. Make sure that what they’re doing for you is familiar ground.

5. The Paperwork

In your area, do piercing studios require a license to operate? Google it and see. If the studio you’re walking into doesn’t have a license or isn’t displaying it or has one that’s expired, then walk away. Tell them you’ll come back when they have it. While you’re googling, google the age requirements for different piercings in your state, see what age someone needs a parent’s permission, etc. Make sure the studio you’re going to follows these rules.

If a place is willing to bend the rules on legalities, they’re probably bending or breaking some rules that can affect your health, so don’t risk it. A current membership certificate from the Association of Professional Piercers is also a nice item for them to have*.

Ask: “Can I see your aftercare handout?” A good place will have a pamphlet of some kind to give to each client. Make sure this document exists and is comprehensive.

6. The Jewelry

Hey, I know you’ve already got some stuff picked out at, and you’re excited to get to wearing it. However, when the piercing is done you’ll need jewelry right then, and it’ll need to be good quality jewelry for healing, which is special because you won’t be taking it out for weeks or months. That mostly means materials like titanium and niobium, although certain plastics and precious metals are okay under the right circumstances.

Your piercing may also require jewelry of a certain size, diameter or gauge so a good studio needs to have a wide variety of stuff available for initial piercings in different parts of the body and different gauges.

Ask: “What jewelry do you recommend for X piercing and why?”

7. The Positive Energy

This is super important. Certainly one of the most important things to consider. People get a feeling when they walk into a place or meet a person. Bad mojo, bad vibes, bad energy. Call it what you will, if you walk into a studio or meet the piercer and start getting wonky vibes, then something is probably wrong. If the little voice in your head says it’s a bad idea, then it’s a good time to listen to that voice and make a run for it.

* Most of the items on this list are actually covered by the APP’s ‘environmental criteria’ requirements for membership. They need a full studio walkthrough video, make and model and photos of all autoclaves, most recent spore tests, a copy of all release forms and aftercare checklists, and a lot more. So that certificate, if it’s there and current, says a lot of good things about that piercing studio.