Picking your piercer

So, you have decided to get your body pierced and are looking for a place to get it done. In this era of bloodborne diseases, you MUST be very careful who you have perform your piercing.

What follows is meant as a guideline and to aid you in having a safe piercing experience.

Ask to see their autoclave

An autoclave is a device that sterilises the jewellery, tools and re-usable equipment necessary to perform your piercing/s by eliminating bacteria and its spores. The most effective units available to studios use a combination of steam and pressure. Dry Heat or boiling is NOT considered appropriate for sterilisation. Absolutely no studio should be in operation without this vital piece of equipment!

Piercing Setup

Ask if you can watch them set-up for a piercing and be in the room when they set up for yours. The piercer should first wash and glove their hands. The equipment should be sealed in individual sterilized packages and placed on a tray. The piercer should change gloves if they touch anything in the room other than you and the sterile equipment. All needles should be in individual sterile packages and should be opened while you are present. NEVER let a piercer use a needle on you that was soaked in a liquid. All needles should be disposed of in a sharps container after they have been used on a single client.

Do they provide aftercare guidelines?

The aftercare for your piercing should be explained to you and provided in writing. Read this sheet before you have the piercing done – if it tells you to treat your piercing with harsh soap, ointment, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide, the studio is not keeping up with industry standards.


Don’t be misled into believing piercing is easy. It takes time and dedication to acquire the ability to correctly place and skillfully perform piercings. Piercers either serve an apprenticeship or are self-taught. Apprenticeships will generally last from 6 months to two years. Those who are self-taught will ideally have sought guidance from others in the field. Continued education is the hallmark of any conscientious piercer. It is perfectly acceptable and advisable to inquire about how long your piercer has been piercing, how they learned to pierce, and what they have done to keep their knowledge base current, i.e., courses on Anatomy, Aftercare, Aseptic Technique, etc.

Is the studio well-kept and clean?

Are the walls washed and the carpet vacuumed? Is the staff bathed and neat? Is the restroom kept clean and tidy? Ideally, studios should have 5 separate areas: the counter, waiting room, piercing room(s), bathroom, and a separate sterilization room.

Does the studio have a license to operate?

In most cases a license to operate means that the studio meets minimum requirements and has passed some sort of inspection. To find out if your area has established standards and inspections, call your local Health Department. If a studio is operating unlicensed in an area where licenses are required, report them to your local health department or city business license division.

In Invercargill, New Zealand, no licenses are required in order to operate as a Body Piercer so it is imperative that you do your research before committing to a body piercer.

Age Requirements

Regardless of any local legislation being more lenient, the following is an appropriate minimum standards policy on piercing minors: For any piercing of a minor, a parent or legal guardian must be present to sign a consent form. Proof positive, state issued photo identification is required from the legal guardian, and a bona fide form of identification from the minor. In the event the parent has a different last name and/or address from the child, court documentation is needed to prove the relationship, i.e., divorce papers, or a remarriage certificate. Under no circumstances is it acceptable or appropriate for a piercer to perform piercing on the nipples or genitals of an individual under 18 years of age.

Are they piercing with ear piercing guns?

A number of countries have made it illegal to use a gun on body piercings. There is a very good reason for this. Most ear guns can’t be sterilized in an autoclave and therefore don’t meet the criteria for of sterile disposable equipment. Ear guns are also unwieldy and inaccurate, can shatter cartilage and cause blow outs.

Use your instincts

If you don’t feel comfortable with the studio or the piercer, you should leave and seek a professional body piercer.

Use your head

Don’t act impulsively or be swayed by a low price. You generally get what you pay for (but some unskilled piercers charge plenty). Get referrals on a piercing shop/piercer from knowledgeable friends and/or the local health department.

Although individual studio requirements vary, most will expect you to:

  • Bring valid photo identification
  • Be completely sober
  • Be bathed with hair trimmed or tied back (where applicable)
  • Have eaten within 4 hours
  • If you are getting a genital or nipple piercing wear suitable, clean underwear/garments/bras
  • If possible, avoid Aspirin or other blood thinners
  • Have considered any potential health issues i.e. individual who require antibiotics prior to dental work should see their doctor prior to being pierced.

Studio Etiquette

  • At the counter: Don’t handle your piercings (even if they are healed) as you may spread bacteria to the studio’s common areas thereby endangering both staff and fellow patrons.
    Bring worn jewelry in a baggie or other sealed container.
    Never place worn jewelry on the counter or display.
  • In the restroom: Don’t handle your piercings (see above).
    It is never appropriate to change your jewelry in the restroom or other locations in the studio.
    If you want your jewelry changed at the studio, it should be done by one of the piercers, in the piercing room.
  • In the piercing room: Allow your piercer to direct you to an area where personal belongings may be placed BEFORE setting anything down.
    Camera flashes can be very distracting during the performance of a piercing, so check with your piercer before taking pictures.
    Turn off your cell phone.

Shopping for jewellery

When referring to size of jewellery, there are two measurements. One is the width (of a ring, also known as its diameter) or the length (of a barbell or straight post). The other is the thickness of the jewellery, or gauge. When talking about the jewelry gauge, the smaller the numbers, the thicker the jewelry.

When choosing what to put in a piercing, especially a fresh one, remember that jewelry quality can make a big difference in the health of the piercing. Jewellery should be polished to a mirror finish. It should be brilliant and reflective; jewelry that is dull, grey in color, or has nicks, scratches, or polishing compound on its surface should not be used. Jewellery for initial piercings should be made of material that will not react with the body: implant grade stainless steel and titanium; gold (14K or higher); or platinum. In some cases, inert plastics like Tygon® or PTFE (Teflon®) are also acceptable. Sterling silver is not appropriate for healing, and acrylic should not be used for initial piercings. Earring studs should never be used for anything other than earlobes.

Taking care of your piercing

The best aftercare will depend on various factors. Each body is unique and every piercing is different. There are a number of things you can do to help your body to heal your piercing. Some of them are:

Keep your hands off the piercing! Unwashed hands are the worst enemy for piercings. During the course of a day your hands become covered with germs. If you touch the piercing, even just near the area, you will deposit bacteria at the piercing site, potentially causing an infection.

  • Eating Correctly: If you eat a healthy and balanced diet, your body functions better and heals faster. If necessary, taking vitamin C and zinc supplements will promote healing.
  • Sea Salt: Applying a very mild, warm sea salt water soak (saline) to your piercing can help your body to heal your piercing. It may also reduce the risk of an infection by helping remove bacteria from the area.
  • Liquid Soap: It is widely accepted that a mild liquid soap used to gently wash the piercing followed by thorough rinsing is suitable for most piercings. Ask your piercer for suggestions on products that are available in your area. Usually once or twice a day works best; don’t overclean the piercing. Don’t use multiple cleaners at the same time. (Soap plus sea salt water is fine.)

NEVER use the following:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide or Alcohol: Over the years piercing industry professionals have learned that these products are far too strong and cause more problems than they help.
  • Antibiotic ointments, gels and creams: These products trap dirt and germs inside a piercing and prevent oxygen from reaching the wound. They may work well for cuts and scrapes but are not good for piercings.