In my experience, getting a piercing is almost always an impulsive decision. Rarely do people sit down and say, “I’m going to schedule an appointment to get my nipples pierced three months from now.” Instead, the decision comes after a burst of courage, triggered by a perfectly timed ad or a well-designed sign that inspires them to look up “piercing studios near me.” The experience is an adrenaline rush, the antithesis of many people’s feelings about tattoos (although who doesn’t love an impulse tattoo).
For the minority who do plan their piercings, there is often more research given than a single google search for directions and although it is not always the case, this tends to result in the best outcome. Any piercing can quickly turn into a nightmare but a spontaneous one is more likely to become a horror story.
Piercing is a skill that is learned, not a talent that you are born with but every piercer has to have the stomach for it before being taught. This is why many of us share a specific set of interests including the morbid, the gory, and the medical. Some, but not all, might think that in another life, we could have been a nurse with our bedside manner. Personally, I truly sympathize with every client and their anxiety, I enjoy making people feel comfortable and being someone they can trust to take care of them through the entire process. But not all piercers are this way and this is why being in such an impulsive industry can be scary and scarring (literally).
Research is important, in Pennsylvania, you are not required to have a license to pierce which is why you will find more old-school tattoo shops that will offer piercings even if they are not technically trained for it. By law, there are no qualifications for someone to be a full-time piercer, this is why it is important to look for a reputable, highly recommended piercer. The amount of butchered piercings that I have seen is honestly a tragedy and the people who cause them are often unaware of the physical damage that they are doing to their clients.
When researching you should look for, CLEANLINESS and a CERTIFICATE IN BLOODBORNE PATHOGENS. These things together are incredibly important, a sterile needle and jewelry are useless in an untrained hand, as they can easily become cross-contaminated. After a piercer is gloved and begins the process, if they touch anything outside of the mayo stand where their instruments are or your body, then they should immediately change their gloves. If you ever see them pick up a phone with gloves on while working with you, run!
A piercing is a permanent implant of jewelry into your body, it shouldn’t be performed by anyone who bought equipment on amazon, you should treat it the same way you treat going to the doctor, you wouldn’t want to get stitches from anyone with sewing thread, you want someone who knows what they are doing and knows how to do it safely. Sadly, you cannot guarantee that’s what you are getting when you pick a random shop on the street.
Beyond reviews, if you ever walk into a shop and feel uncomfortable, trust your gut. Ask yourself, is this place clean? Do you feel safe? Don’t be shy, ask questions, and watch them as they prepare. Piercers should always explain the process to you, if they don’t, speak up! Never be afraid to leave if you are nervous about what you see or the answers you are given.
There is no perfect piercer or piercing, we have to adjust to different skin types, sizes, sensitivities, and much more. A lot of the time we have to guess what’s under your skin: the depth, density, scarring, symmetry, bleeding, expected swelling, and potential healing issues that may arise. Adapting to everyone’s anatomy every time is a challenge and not everyone can do it but you want to find a piercer who can and cares enough to do so, every time!