Using friends to find a piercer

I find that the vast majority have no idea how to find a competent and safe piercer. They rely on advice from friends, or they compare prices, and opt for the cheapest.

Reliance on friends is not bad, if you know what questions to ask. In most cases I will guarantee the friends will not be able to provide an answer. If not, then you should have a look for yourself, and I am certain that you will go back to your friend and say "Thanks for the advice, but you should have been more observant.""Love your navel jewelry!"

While higher prices do not necessarily mean a better piercing, extremely low prices are an indication that corners are being cut, and you are not safe to be pierced there.

Finding a safe and competent establishment is not easy. To begin there are a few things that you should know, to avoid the hype that most shops advertise.

First, there is no recognized certification for piercers. Body art 'schools' have been cropping up like a bad disease, churning out 'graduates' after a 2 day seminar style course, usually run by people whose marketing skills far outweigh their piercing skills. The individual who get rooked into taking these courses (which have a 4 figure cost) are then hired by tattoo shops that would not take on a new tattoo artist without at least 3 years worth of portfolio.

Second, shops that advertise they are "Health Board Approved" are not. Health boards inspect the premises to make sure that the equipment used for sterilization is correct, and they try to ensure that the guidelines for use of that equipment are being followed. They do not endorse the shop skills or their procedures. They only inspect. And finally, no shop is licensed to do tattooing or piercing. Licenses are for the business to operate, and are no different than a business license for a corner store.

So what questions should you ask your friends as you look for a piercer? Do not be misled by "She was so nice" or "I love my new jewelry".

Ask them if the tools were already laid out for the piercing or were they in sealed packages and opened in front of them.

Ask them if the needle was opened in front of them, and if it was discarded in a sharps container after it was used.

Was the sharps container on the working surface or was it on the floor where it should be?

If they had more than one piercing, did the piercer re-use the same needle?

Was the jewelry pre-sterilized and the package opened in front of them, or did they choose something from an open bin at the cash? Were they allowed to bring their own jewelry? (Something that is not permitted by any reputable shop unless they have the opportunity to sterilize it in advance, which requires at least two hours if they do a special sterilizer run, and a couple of days if they simply queue it in their own sterilizer schedule.)

Did the shop record their name, address and phone number in case the Health Board had to contact them?

Were they required to sign a release form?

Did they receive written aftercare instructions, as well as verbal? Can they return for help if they have a problem?

If the answer to any of these questions is wrong, choose a different shop. If the answer is "I think so" or "I'm not sure", find out for yourself before you commit to getting a piercing done there.

And finally, do not rely on one friend. Ask several. It is preferable to ask them about the other shops in the area. Get opinions on all the shops, and all the piercers you can, before making your choice. Be diligent for your own sake. While problems might be infrequent, the consequences can be tragic.

Do your homework before you make a decision.

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