Vol.2, No.4

Identifying a qualified piercing artist

With a little searching and these tips, you can find the qualified piercing artist that's right for you.

Piercing jewelry
Photo Credit: Matt Harrod
Finding a qualified piercing artist doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming. The following tips and clues will help you discover if your piercing artist is a good match for you.

Narrowing the Field

Probably the best place to find a piercer is through a referral. Start with friends and ask if anyone has had good piercing experiences. Another resource is one of the many body art websites where people post their body piercing experiences. Many times people will post names of especially good piercers, and you can always join in and ask if you don't see anyone in your area.

It's perfectly okay to ask if a piercing artist is self-taught or if they apprenticed under an experienced piercer. Both are fine provided the piercing artist has had hands-on experience. Typical apprenticeships can range from six months to two years. You should find out how long the piercer has been working and if they have a lot of experience performing the type of piercing you want.

You can also ask if the piercing artist is a member of the Association of Professional Piercers. This is a voluntary membership organization with ethical and hygenic guidelines that a piercing artist promises to uphold. Be aware, though, that memberships can expire and just because a piercer uses the APP logo does not mean they are a current member. The APP provides a list of current members and this information is easily, and freely, available on the web.

Once you've decided on a piercer, visit the studio where they work. Is it clean? The studio should have an autoclave. This is a machine that sterilizes equipment and jewelry before it's used. Most will, and most will be glad to answer any of your questions. You should feel comfortable with the piercer and the studio. If not, don't be afraid to keep looking. The right piercer could make the difference between an event-free piercing and a long-term infection.

During your studio visit, ask to see the piercing artist's portfolio. Most will have one on hand, possibly even on display near the counter. You can get a good feel for their work from the pictures. Make sure you like the placement of the piercings they've done. Did they compliment the client's features? A good piercing artist will enhance your appearance with the placement and choice of jewelry.

Red Flags

There are a couple of things that should raise the red flag of warning if you encounter them in your search for a piercing artist.

Does the piercing artist use a piercing gun? This is definitely unsafe. First, because it is not made to pierce cartilage, nostrils, or anything other than earlobes. The force of the gun is sometimes not enough to complete the pierce and often there is tearing or excessive bruising. More importantly, a piercing gun cannot be sterilized in an autoclave. So there's a chance blood borne diseases such as hepatitis could be transmitted from one client to the next. Very unsafe, and a good piercing artist will not use one.

Does the piercing artist put on gloves then touch countertops, tables, or unsterilized objects before doing your piercing? This could contaminate your piercing, which could mean something as relatively minor as a bacterial infection or as major as infection with a blood borne disease like HIV or hepatitis C. This means fresh gloves and sterilized equipment must always be used. If you aren't comfortable, say so. Remember, infections range from very uncomfortable to potentially deadly, so safety should always be the number one concern of you and your piercing artist.

Getting a piercing should be a safe experience that brings you years of enjoyment. Choose your piercing artist carefully and make sure that happens for you.