Q: Is there a piercing school? - William
A: It is hard to imagine a career these days that does not involve some kind of schooling or degree focused work study. Most people will associate schooling with an advancement in knowledge in a given subject, which is understandable, as it has become the norm. This, though, has not always been the case. One form of learning is the often forgotten is the humble apprenticeship. This form of learning was common place when one could only become professionally recognized by the community to perform a given task by learning from one who is already proficient through in-person and hands-on practice. Learning to do body piercing requires this kind of hands on learning.
Now, there are many variations and no set definition of a quality apprenticeship and this can make it more difficult to find a piercer who is trained well, or make it more difficult to find a piercer who is considered “educated.” Hopefully, this article will help you find a piercer that you can trust had taken the time and put in the effort needed to stay atop the information in the field of piercing.
Once an apprenticeship is completed, which could vary in duration, a piercer is then responsible for their education- usually outside the helpful guidance of their mentor. A piercer has many options available to help increase their understanding of the complexities of body piercing, but some are more efficient than others. The two best ways for a body piercer to become better at their craft is through shadowing other piercers or through the annual Association of Professional Piercers conference.
To shadow a piercer, one once again assume the task of an apprentice. A piercer will visit a studio, watch the piercer they wish to learn from practice their craft, and ask questions of said piercer to gain further insight into alternative ways of approaching body piercing. This one on one approach is very relaxed. Since the shadowing piercer is not really an apprentice, though that is not always the case, the process is open to deeper, more complex, conversations about the subject of piercing. The downside to this approach is there is no way of stating publically that these efforts have been made, so as a piercee, you must ask specifically if the piercer you are considering has taken the time to learn from others post apprenticeship.
The APP’s annual conference is the best learning opportunity as it brings together piercers from all over the world to advance the field of body piercing. A piercer who attends conference has the opportunity to take classes that cover a multitude of subjects relating to the field, taught by piercers with a certain expertise in the subject. The conference is very similar to educational conferences for a number of fields. This form of group education garners a certain respect, as the organizers exert a great deal of effort to insure the conference provides a genuine service for those in attendance.
Piercers who attend conference- which is an expense that serves only to better the piercer so that they can better serve their clients- are given a certificate that displays the classes they took or taught. This is often proudly displayed in their studios so a piercee can see this accomplishment.
Educated piercers are also, generally, very passionate about their field, and this can be seen in the way they discuss it with someone who is interested in getting pierced by them. Asking questions of these passionate pierces is not only welcomed, but encouraged. The piercer will be excited to answer andy and all questions that you have, so ask away.
For best results, take special care when choosing a piercer. Although the procedure for an inverted nipple piercing does not change much from a typical nipple piercing, precise placement, piercing angle, jewelry sizing, and techniques are critical to freeing the nipple fully and evenly.
Unfortunately, not all body piercers have training/experience in handling this variation of body piercing. Commonly, we see mis-placed piercings and poor jewelry choices (too thin), which can lead to the body rejecting the new piercing and failure of the inversion correction.
We always recommend a consultation for an assessment of your personal anatomy to see if you are a good candidate for corrective piercing. Seek a piercer with specific knowledge and/or training on this subject. The Association of Professional Piercers (safepiercing.org) has a list of members near you, which can be a good starting point.
Q: Is the right or left ear piercing the one that means you’re gay? - Alex
A: Few questions get asked more before an earlobe piercing than this one. It continues to be one of the most widely spread myths about piercing, and it is rather easy to dispel through a simple experiment. If concerned, get the piercing on the side you are interested in and see if it changes your most intimate desires.
This, of course, is a joke. Piercing your body and adorning it with jewelry will not change your sexual preference. The short answer is that the “gay side” concept is a thing of the past. So, let’s talk a little bit about the past.
The history has origin by members of the gay community signaling their sexual and/or role preference to others. This is/was common with many other adornment codes such as keys and handkerchiefs. Yet as body piercing grew in popularity throughout multiple subcultures over the past 20 years, using the left or right side as a signal, has subsided to merely an homage to the past in certain circles. People just started piercing what they wanted, wherever they found it most aesthetically pleasing.
There are several piercings and placements that prompt certain assumptions based upon a person’s cultural background. For example; someone from the United States will perceive a left nostril piercing differently than someone from India. A person from Kenya will perceive stretched ear lobe piercings very differently than someone from Canada. In other words, you can’t predict or control how others will interpret your piercing choices, so you might as well focus on what will make you happy.
Piercings are representations of the people wearing them. And since we all think and communicate differently, we all will interpret piercings differently, and you can’t please everyone.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to what piercing or which side you prefer. At the end of the day, you are the person who needs to be happy with your choice. Adorning yourself by partaking in the ritual of piercing offers you the ability to show off who you are, but it doesn’t change who you are.
So, go ahead, show off!
Q: How do I take care of my new piercing? - Sheree
A: There are many schools of thought as to how best to approach piercing aftercare. This problem is expanded even further because of the availability of mis-information from unverifiable sources online, many of which will not only lead to problems while healing and some are downright dangerous. How is one expected to know what to trust?
The best approach is also the most simple. Understanding the big picture in healing terms will help guide you towards trusted information.
A “piercing” can be simply described a foreign object (jewelry) inside of a puncture wound. This is an unnatural healing task for the body to perform and rather challenging.
Irritation on a fresh piercing will generally lead to two outcomes. The body can reject the jewelry, migrating and slowly pushing it out of the body resulting in a scar. Or, the body can build tissue around the jewelry to absorb the irritation. This comes in the form of unsightly bumps and bubbles. Proper aftercare techniques should focus on reducing instances of irritation as much as possible.
Major contributions to the irritation of a new piercing are harsh soaks, rinses, twisting, turning, and foreign chemicals. These are all too damaging for the sensitive new cells that are trying to build around this jewelry. Ultimately we are trying to convince the body that this foreign object is supposed to be there.
You do not need to clean the actual piercing, as the body flushes piercings and cleans them naturally on its own. As the body heals it releases a discharge that collects on the entrance and exit of the jewelry. This will have a similar consistency and color as the discharge found in the corner of your eyes upon waking up in the morning.
In order to clean this discharge effectively and safely, you should use sterile saline. We recommend "H2Ocean Healing Ocean". Sterile saline, is isotonic and has the same salinity ph as the human body. To use properly, spray your piercing with the solution allowing it to soak into the discharge that has accumulated on the jewelry for thirty seconds. Then gently remove the discharge with sterile gauze and pat dry. This process should be done while working to limit contact with the entrance and exit of the piercing itself. You are effectively trying to clean the jewelry, not the piercing. This process is done twice a day for the full healing term.
“What about infection?” Simply minimizing the exposure to bacteria (hands, dirty bedding, other people, bodies of water. etc) will reduce your chances of contracting an infection. Be sure not to rotate the jewelry back and forth during the healing process. This will introduce bacteria inside your body and irritate the piercing. You want to wash the area and keep it clean.. But just like your eye, you wash around your eye, not in your eye.
Taking care of yourself is also important when taking care of a new piercing. Your health can contribute a great deal to the healing process, as a healthy body heals better. Drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet is always a great idea. Remember, this is an unnatural challenge for the body.
Keep it simple: Avoid germs, flush it, don’t touch it, and create a happy environment for your piercing. Happy healing!
Q: What is Flat Back jewelry? - Hazel
A: To answer this question, it is best for us to start with an explanation of what flat back jewelry is not. Recently, we answered a question in which we explained the problems associated with piercing guns and typical clasp/butterfly back jewelry often used. This clasp design is outdated, common for novelty jewelry, uncomfortable if pressure is applied to it, and can trap bacteria easily. Furthermore, using this design suggests that “one size fits all,” when that is not the case.
The design that has become more popular in high-end studios is the “flat back” style of jewelry. The name describes the flat disk on the back of a post. The post is inserted into the earlobe from the back to the front, and the interchangeable top is assembled. These can be threaded (screw on) or threadless (press-fitted) type fronts. To change the jewelry from one decorative top to the next, the client can simply swap out the top, leaving the flat disk and post in place.
In contrast to the butterfly back style, flat back jewelry is modern, common for high quality jewelry, comfortable to wear, and can be easily cleaned. This style of jewelry also accommodates various lengths and widths needed by the client. Jewelry that is either too tight or too loose can be irritating for a piercing, but your piercer can customize the flat back jewelry to perfectly fit your anatomy.
The flat back design is not limited to earlobes, it is extremely comfortable in various ear cartilage, nostril, and lip piercings, as well. This is another reason why being able to customize the gauge or length of the jewelry is important.
Materials can vary, and there will always be low quality knock-offs flooding the market. Regardless of the design, look for ASTM F138 compliant implant-grade steel, F136 compliant implant-grade titanium, or solid 14k gold from a North American manufacturer to ensure the highest quality. A reputable piercer will be able to inform you about the specific material and manufacturer of the jewelry you are considering.
Price will vary depending on the manufacturer/design and materials and will be typically more than your “standard” jewelry. Note that the price also relates to the decorative front you select. Flat backs have countless options when it comes to the material or design of the front. Whether you are looking for a basic ball, semi-precious gem, genuine diamond, or a cluster of shapes or gems, you can find what you are seeking for a flat back post. This higher expense for flat back jewelry is easily justified by interchangeable fronts, superior comfort, and materials that are proven safe for long-term wear.
Q: Why are the price ranges so drastically different between piercing shops? (Part Two) – Ethan
A: Last month, we talked about a shop’s purpose, sterilization practices, and materials as factors impacting price. This month, we will talk more about customer interactions, business practices, and on-going piercing education.
Customer interactions range from how counter staff answers the phone to how a piercer troubleshoots a question during the healing process. Every customer interaction with a member of the piercing studio should cause you to feel at ease, respected, and trusting of the individuals you encounter. The staff should educate you about every aspect of the piercing, including facts that may not always benefit the shop’s income. For example, if a requested piercing is unlikely to heal based upon the anatomy or other factors, the piercer should be honest about that, rather than lie to make a sale. Hiring staff who demonstrate this kind of integrity, respect, and a passion for customer experience can be a significant investment. This impacts the price of a piercing. Yet, this investment is worthwhile for you to get the quality piercing and experience you deserve.
The way a studio conducts its business is a huge contributor to price differences between establishments, and much of this depends upon ethics, rather than regulations. In Iowa, there are no state mandated body piercing regulations. This means that a piercing studio is free to do just about anything they wish. Yet, a quality studio will set its own high standards to provide the best for you. While this applies to safety and quality, it also ties to the policies and procedures of the business. Carrying insurance, paying taxes, standardizing processes, and providing employee manuals to cement ethical practices all matter greatly to the viability of the studio. These positive business practices are costly, but they protect you from unsafe and unethical practices.
The most obvious impact to your experience may be your piercer’s ongoing education. This includes knowledge of jewelry materials, piercing technique, anatomy, aftercare, safe practices, customer care, and piercing history. While some piercers will say things like, “I trained with the best,” or “I have years of experience,” this may mean nothing if they learned the wrong behaviors. There are just a few formal training options for piercers that provide current, well researched, and practical information. None of these opportunities exist in Iowa. Piercers must travel significant distances to attend training. They also can attend a week-long continuing education course each year hosted by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP). Find out if your potential piercer is an APP member at www.safepiercing.org. Members not only demonstrate taking advantage of industry-recognized, ongoing education, they must also prove that the studio, jewelry, and sterilization practices meet the expectations of the organization.
Prices will vary, but doing a little research will go a long way to prevent you from making a regrettable and costly mistake. A piercing isn’t just a piercing, it’s an experience and investment in yourself. Remember, cheap quality piercings aren’t good, good quality piercings aren’t cheap. You’re worth it.
Q: Why are the price ranges so drastically different between piercing shops? - Ethan
A: On the surface, it may seem that piercing studios offer the same service and should thus charge the same. Yet, when you understand the factors that affect price, you will understand why paying a little extra now may save you money and peace of mind in the long run.
A studio’s investment in its purpose, sterilization practices, materials, customer interactions, general business practices, and on-going education all contribute to the price of a piercing. This month, we will focus on purpose, sterilization, and materials. We will save the other factors for part 2 next month.
The purpose a studio has for offering piercing services is a huge contributor to price, as it is the foundation of every other practice. If a studio is not motivated by providing high-quality artistry and a great customer experience, they are likely to reduce important aspects of a safe and successful piercing.
Studio investments in cleanliness and sterilization practices are critical to decreasing the risk of introducing bacteria or viruses during your piercing experience. As you tour your prospective studio, you should observe a clean appearance throughout the piercing facility. What you observe is your first indication of the effort toward customer experience and piercing safety. For a studio to offer the safest sterilization available, they must invest in effective, often expensive, equipment and regular testing to ensure the equipment works optimally. You may wish to ask for sterilization equipment test results to gain comfort with their sterilization practices.
The materials used during a piercing play a major role in the safety and potential success of your piercing, as well as the price. Stocking a variety of jewelry styles, materials and colors, employing staff knowledgeable about design, and carrying only safe, implant-grade jewelry all significantly impact the piercing price. While it is inexpensive to fill a case with novelty jewelry, those pierced with it are more likely to experience allergic reactions, longer healing times, scarring, jewelry migration or rejection, and discomfort. These issues not only lead to problems, but may result in you, the consumer, spending additional money to correct the problem that could have been avoided from the start.
The needles a studio uses may not have as much impact on price as jewelry, but the slight added cost has a significant impact on safety. You should ensure that needles are single-use and disposed of properly after each piercing. Some needles are sharper and designed better than others, leading to less trauma and a smoother piercing. Make sure you ask your potential piercer about the needles he/she uses and how they handle them before and after each piercing.
Reputable piercers strive to help you find that perfect piece of jewelry to fit your style and anatomy. But don’t let any additional price scare you away. If the practices, materials, and studio fit what you are seeking from a safety and quality standpoint, talk with your piercer about your budget. He/she will work with you to find an option that is right for you.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next month
Q: What do I need to know before I take my daughter to get her ears pierced? - Brenda
A: The answer to this question will depend on the studio you visit. The policies at each studio will vary, and this can lead to confusion when researching where to take your child for their piercing. There are, however, some important policies and procedures we believe that a studio should have to be considered for your patronage.
We believe safety is the most important factor for a parent to consider. A little investigation of each practitioner and facility’s standards goes a long way. Get out and visit the studios, take tours, and ask questions.
The first thing you should ask a piercer is whether they use a piercing gun. If the answer is anything other than, “No,” consider continuing your search for a safer option. Look for a studio that uses single-use, disposable piercing needles for each piercing.
Next, ask them to share and provide proof of the sterilization process. I know it can seem like an obvious thing, but you’d be surprised to see the differences out there. Proof may be documentation of the process, frequent spore test results (e.g. monthly), and chemical indicators of sterile conditions. These documents and the ability to articulate the sterilization process improve the likelihood that the piercing needle, jewelry, and any piercing tools needed, are handled safely for your child's piercing.
Ask what type of jewelry the studio uses for initial piercings and compare the response to the APP’s (Association of Professional Piercers) list of acceptable materials and designs. (www.safepiercing.org). The piercer should also offer the appropriate size of jewelry to match that of your child’s ears.
Each studio's policy about age, ID requirements, and waiting times will vary. Most studios will require parental consent for anyone under the age of 18, as well as ID from both parties to ensure the relationship. This is to protect the minor, as minors cannot sign legal documents, like release forms.
A positive experience is important when a minor gets pierced, as it sets the tone for future interactions they will have, including visits to dentists, doctors, hair salons, etc. Doing upfront homework to help ensure a safe and fun piercing will go a long way in providing the child with not only beautiful jewelry, but also greater happiness and confidence from the overall experience. More information about our procedures on kids here
Q: What advice do you have if I want to give a body piercing or jewelry as a holiday gift? - Jasmine
A: The joy of the holiday season is upon us, which means our family and friends are deserving of wonderful and personal gifts. Avoid the socks and scarves, put down the itchy sweater, and get something they can love for a lifetime - a new piercing and/or some fantastic body jewelry!
If you are giving the gift of jewelry, the most common problem when buying for others is sizing. What is the gauge or length/width needed? This is difficult to answer when the intended wearer is not available to ask, but picking the wrong size would be a big waste of your money. (Professional studios will not accept returns or exchanges, in order to ensure safety at their studios).
If you are not certain of the jewelry size or the person’s taste, we suggest gift cards. Gift cards let them come to us to pick out a piece they will love. You can even make it a personal trip together and be part of the piercing and jewelry selection process.
While gifting for others is a great feeling, it can be exhausting! Why not treat yourself this season and give yourself that much deserved piece of gorgeous jewelry, that perfect little piercing just for you? Discover the new you for the New Year among so many custom options, materials, and gemstones to express yourself. Why not? You deserve it! #31DaysOfGold2016
Q: What is better, a piercing gun or a piercing needle? - Stacy
A: Originally manufactured to tag cattle and other livestock, the piercing gun was later modified for use on humans. Hygiene, healing, and jewelry bio-compatibility were not necessarily primary considerations given to livestock at the time, and although things have improved over the years, none of these factors have been thoroughly addressed as the gun transitioned to human use.
There are a few concerns that should be noted regarding piercings guns: such as cleanliness, education, technique, and jewelry.
Reusable piercing guns, often used at mall kiosks and novelty jewelry stores, cannot be properly decontaminated or sterilized before being used on a client. Fluids collected on the gun from one client and can transfer to the jewelry used on the next client. This could spread harmful bacteria or viruses between clients.
Minimal education often goes hand-in-hand with the use of piercing guns. Inadequate handwashing facilities/practice, the lack of single use marking pens, improper gloves, aftercare knowledge/products are also common concerns. The piercing gun practitioner can introduce even more opportunities for bacterial transfer and poor healing.
The trauma caused by the jewelry used in piercing guns is much greater than a professional piercing needle. The solid pointed tip will force its way through the tissue creating a rough raw wound, this leads to excessive swelling and vascular damage. These negative factors are amplified when this solid blunt force is applied to cartilage. This structural tissue can create an effect much like shooting a cannonball through a brick wall. The cartilage can end up shattered and permanently damaged. Since tissue type, thickness and density can vary, the gun has the potential to get stuck during the piercing and the jewelry may not go all the way through as intended.
The jewelry material commonly used in piercing guns does not meet implant-grade specifications. Phrases like, “sterling silver”, “surgical steel” and “hypoallergenic” often give clients a false sense of security, when none of these are safe for long-term healing in the body. The jewelry design is a “one size hopefully fits all” and doesn’t allow for adequate swelling or cleaning. Most of these jewelry surfaces are highly porous, which means they are more likely to harbor bacteria promoting infection. Neither the piercing gun practice or jewelry meet the minimum standards set by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP).
In contrast, hollow piercing needles are single use, sterilized, razor sharp, and will make a clean cut as they pass through both soft and cartilage tissue. This creates an environment that is less traumatic, more comfortable, and easier for the body to heal. The education level of each piercer will vary, but a professional piercer should be knowledgeable and experienced in aseptic technique. Jewelry used in professional studios should be appropriately fitted per client anatomy, meet implant-grade specifications, and have a mirror surface finish to maximize healing success.
By piercing with a single use piercing needle, with proper sterilization and piercing techniques, the problems most commonly associated with piercing guns are eliminated. For more information, visit the APP website at safepiercing.org.
Our entire staff here at Prysm collectively answers these questions. Please ask those questions you've always wanted to know. Not all will get published, but all will get answered.