The importance of choosing your piercer

You have decided to have your body pierced and you are asking yourself, “I want it done now, so where do I go?”

In this era of bloodborne diseases you MUST be very careful who you have perform your piercing! Because it breaks the barrier of the skin, piercing has some health risks – including the potential to transmit an infection or bloodborne disease (such as hepatitis). There are no standardized piercing regulations in the United States; legislation varies from state to state, and it is often different from one country to the next. In many cities, even minimal laws do not exist; in others, regulations are not enforced or they are ineffective. Your safety is in your own hands and you need to be an educated consumer. The information below can help you get a safe, clean piercing.

Members of the Association of Professional Piercers uphold the standards outlined in this brochure, and your piercer should too – even if he or she is not an APP member. Check out the following aspects of any prospective piercer and studio:

Piercer qualifications

Performing body piercing is not easy. It takes time and dedication to acquire the ability to safely and skillfully perform the procedure. Piercing is a hands-on profession that must be learned through practical experience, which generally involves trial and error. Sound instruction ideally involves a lengthy apprenticeship with a qualified mentor (though many piercers are self-taught). It is advisable to inquire how long your piercer has been piercing, how they learned to pierce, and what they do to keep their knowledge-base current such as taking continuing education courses on anatomy, aftercare, aseptic technique, etc.

Your potential piercer should earn your trust by demonstrating knowledge and competency. Before taking your money, a piercer should be willing to provide a consultation to inspect your anatomy, discuss jewelry selection, the procedure, potential risks and complications, the healing process, and aftercare guidelines. If you are not impressed with their qualifications, think twice about having them pierce you.

Piercing set-up

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 needles, tools, and jewelry should be sealed in individual sterile 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. These packages should be opened while you are present. NEVER let a piercer use a needle on you that was soaked in a liquid. A piercer using a Statim may work directly from the sterile cassette (rather than use packaged tools).

Sharps containers

Each needle must be used to pierce only one client, and then carefully discarded in an approved sharps container for contaminated (used) piercing needles. This is usually a small red box marked “biohazard”, often mounted on the wall, like in a doctor’s office. If the studio doesn’t have one, they may fail to dispose of needles properly – or even be reusing them.

Studio set-up and hygiene

The studio premises and the staff should be noticeably clean. Smoking or drinking alcohol should never take place there. If the policy permits customers to try on jewelry – run!

A studio should have 5 separate zones including a retail counter, waiting area, and:

  • A public bathroom that is never used for cleaning contaminated piercing equipment.
  • A separate room for performing piercing that has bright lighting and good ventilation. It should not be used for anything except piercing. Ideally it will contain a hand-washing sink for the piercer that is stocked with liquid soap and paper towels or an air dryer, not reusable cloth towels.
  • A sterilization room (separate enclosure for processing contaminated tools and equipment). The public should not have access to this area.

Autoclave (Sterilizer)

An autoclave is a device that sterilizes the jewelry and equipment necessary to perform your piercings by eliminating germs and their spores. No studio should be in operation without this vital piece of equipment! The most common units in body art studios use a combination of steam and pressure. ”Dry Heat” or liquid soaks are not considered suitable for sterilization. A Statim is a rapid-cycle autoclave that may also be used in a piercing studio.

Spore test results

Spore tests (biological indicators) provide proof that an autoclave is working properly. They test the autoclave’s ability to kill even the most dangerous & resistant organisms including hepatitis. The studio should keep recent results on file and be willing to show them to you. Good piercers will be impressed, not annoyed, when customers are informed and interested enough to ask about spore test results.

Use your head

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

Ear piercing guns

A number of states have made it illegal to use a piercing gun on any piercings besides ear lobes – and with good reason. Most ear piercing guns can’t be sterilized, and anyone being pierced with them is at risk. A reputable piercer won’t use a gun for any piercing – even for ear lobes.

Trust your instincts

Your instincts are a valuable tool, and you should listen to them when selecting a piercer. Trust your intuition, and never stay in a situation that feels wrong. “I should have listened to my gut feeling” is something you should never have to say.

Licensing and permits

In most cases, a studio with a license to operate means that the studio meets minimum requirements and has passed some sort of inspection – though it may mean only that the owner has paid a fee to a city or state agency. To find out whether there are established standards and inspections in your area, call your local health department. If a studio is operating unlicensed in a location where permits are required, report them to your local health department or city business license division.

A license does not guarantee that the piercer has received training to perform the job properly. Even in regions with the most stringent laws. there is usually no specific requirements regarding the abilities or education of the piercer.


Look at the piercer’s photo portfolio. Are piercings placed to accent the anatomy or do they look awkward and poorly matched to the individual? If the portfolio features unusual piercings, are there pictures of healed clients to show the actual viability of the placement?

Aftercare instructions

The guidelines you will need to follow to care for your piercing should be explained to you verbally and provided in writing. Read this sheet before you have the piercing done! If you are advised to treat your piercing with harsh soap, ointment, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide, the studio is not keeping up with industry standards.

Age requirements

Even if local legislation is more lenient, the following is an appropriate minimum standards policy on piercing minors: 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 or adoption papers, or a marriage certificate. Under no circumstances is it appropriate to pierce the nipples or genitals of an individual under 18 years of age.

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

  1. Bring valid photo identification, even if your are clearly over the age of majority
  2. Be completely sober
  3. Be bathed with hair trimmed or tied back (where applicable)
  4. Have eaten within 4 hours
  5. Wear suitable, clean garments / underwear (where applicable)
  6. Avoid excessive caffeine, alcohol, ibuprofen, and other blood thinners
  7. Have addressed potential health issues e.g., if you require antibiotics prior to dental work, see your doctor before being pierced

Body jewelry

When choosing body jewelry – especially for a fresh piercing – remember that the quality can drastically affect the health and healing of your piercing.

  • A large selection of body jewelry is important. A studio carrying only a handful of styles or sizes will be unable to meet the needs presented by the wide range of human anatomy.
  • The surfaces and ends of the body jewelry must be smooth, free of nicks, scratches, burrs, polishing compounds, and metals must have a consistent mirror finish.
  • Internally threaded and threadless jewelry should be used for initial piercings. This means that any screw threads used in closures are on the removable end, such as the ball or gem end, not on the shaft of the jewelry. Passing exposed threading through the skin can cause unnecessary trauma. For detailed information on body jewelry, including suitable materials, see the APP’s brochures: Jewelry for Initial Piercings and Jewelry for Healed Piercings.

Studio etiquette


  • Don’t handle your piercings (even if they are healed) or jewelry as you may spread germs to the studio’s common areas, endangering staff and fellow patrons.
  • Bring previously worn jewelry in a baggie or other sealed container; never place used jewelry on the counter.


  • Don’t handle your piercings or jewelry (see “Studio etiquette”).
  • It is never appropriate to insert jewelry in the restroom or other area of the studio. If you want to have your jewelry changed, it should be done by the studio staff in the piercing room.


  • Turn off your cell phone. Before setting anything down, allow your piercer to direct you to the area where personal belongings should be placed.
  • Camera flashes can be very distracting during a piercing procedure, so check with your piercer before taking pictures.