When it comes to piercing safety, There are two things to remember: (1) You have to keep a sterile work environment to protect your clients. (2) You have to follow all the right steps legally to protect yourself as well as your clients. The second point is your first priority, because you need all the right licenses and certifications to legally get down to business.
Every state has its own rules regarding what certifications or licenses you need to legally call yourself a professional piercer. During your apprenticeship, your master piercer should guide you on what to do to get started, but you can also look at your state government's website to find out the local rules and regulations. Once you have your license, if one is needed, you either have to get a business license to open your own shop or find a licensed tattoo and piercing shop where you can work. All of your licenses should be prominently displayed in the front of your shop.
Next, make sure you're up-to-date on your first aid and bloodborne pathogens training and certifications, and that your work area is stocked with Sharps containers. Following OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, which includes properly disposing of needles and scalpels, protects your clients, any employees you have, and you. If you need information on bloodborne pathogen training and OSHA resources, look at the Department of Labor's website.
When you're ready to start taking clients, make sure each one is of age, understands the risks, has signed a waiver, and isn't intoxicated. Here's why those qualifiers matter:
- Age Requirements - If you pierce someone who's underage, you could find yourself slapped with a lawsuit by an angry parent, which is why it's important to know the minimum age requirements for each type of piercing in your state. Consult the National Conference of State Legislators' article Tattooing and Body Piercing for Minors to see your state's requirements. Also check with your insurance company to find out if they have additional minimum age requirements for different types of body piercings, so that you're 100% covered for every piercing you do.
- Risks - There's a lot that can go wrong during and after a piercing, most of which you have no control over, and your clients need to understand that. Some of the key risks you should warn your clients about follow:
~ If your client hasn't eaten recently, there's a chance of fainting during the piercing.
~ A person under the influence of alcohol has a higher chance of bleeding profusely and possibly being unable to clot.
~ There's chance of an allergic reaction to the antiseptic skin prep you use or their new jewelry material.
~ There's always a chance of scarring, and potentially development of keloids for those with the genetic predisposition.
~ Finally, clients risk infection, necrosis or worse if they don't properly care for their new piercings.
Bottom Line: There are a lot of risks--and we've only covered the typical ones! Clients need to be made well aware of those risks so they can make informed decisions about getting piercings and taking care of them afterwards.
- Waivers - Because of the aforementioned risks, it's important to have each client sign an indemnity agreement as proof that they understand the risks and won't hold you liable for any negative repercussions. You can work off of our sample piercing release form, but be sure to consult with a local lawyer to ensure your final agreement covers everything it needs to cover.
Ideally, you should go over each point on the agreement with a client, see if s/he has any questions, and then get him or her to initial by each point that s/he understands. That's the best way to cover all the important details about risks, piercing aftercare, and so forth, and ensure that your client is totally informed before signing the agreement.
- Alcohol - If you suspect that a potential client is under the influence of an illegal substance, it's best to turn them away. They may regret what they did later and blame you. It's absolutely mandatory to turn away someone who smells of alcohol. A person who's profusely intoxicated is much more likely to bleed profusely, since alcohol is a blood thinner. If they don't clot because of it, you could have a real problem on your hands. It's better not to risk it, and just tell the person to come back later--and sober--if they really want to get pierced.
Piercing Safety Checklist
In addition to interviewing and informing clients and following all the other legalities that come with professional piercing, you have to clean your shop daily and sterilize tools and jewelry constantly. To ensure that every corner of your workspace is as clean and sterile as possible and prevent your clients from going home with invisible pet microorganisms, you'll need certain tools, detergents and antiseptics on hand at all times.
Gloves - Piercers change their gloves over and over again throughout the day. You have to don gloves before setting up your sterile field, toss those and put on new ones before you begin opening packaging and prep and mark your client's skin, and again before you start the actual piercing. You may also need to change your gloves repeatedly during a piercing. Repeat for each client... and each time you do a consultation... and when you're sterilizing your workspace... and, and, and! Point is, you need lots of gloves on hand at all times.
Autoclave - An autoclave is a piercer's best friend--an absolute must-have for every professional piercer. You'll need to regularly sterilize starter jewelry, replacement jewelry, and tools like ring opening pliers, tapers and forceps, and the most efficient way to do that is in an autoclave, which uses steam at high pressure to completely kill microorganisms. You'll also need sterilization pouches or nylon tubing to contain tools and keep them sterile until the moment you use them. (If you prefer to use nylon tubing, you'll need a heat sealer, too. For instructions, read our Sterilizing With Nylon Tubing article.) Make sure to test your autoclave with a spore testing kit periodically.
Ultrasonic Cleaner - You can clean your tools by hand with Sklar and brushes, but it's much easier to throw them in an ultrasonic cleaner with some detergent, like Alconox, before autoclaving them. An ultrasonic cleaner will use high frequency waves to loosen debris from your tools. You can get an industrial-sized, more powerful ultrasonic cleaner or a smaller one to just clean a couple tools at a time.
Cleaners & Disinfectants - There are a number of different detergents and antiseptic cleaners you'll need to keep your work area up-to-snuff, including:
~ Wavicide germicidal soaking solution or Sklar to clean your tools before lubricating and autoclaving them
~ Ultrasonic cleaner detergent like Alconox, for cleaning tools in between soaking and autoclaving them
~ Autoclave cleaner like AutoClean, to run through your autoclave at the end of each day
~ Fast-drying Madacide to keep your piercing table(s) or chairs, counter tops and other surfaces clean
Sharps Containers - Prevent accidental needle sticks by properly disposing of piercing needles in Sharps containers. We offer a variety of Sharps containers, so you can pick the right sized containers for your business volume and workspace. Read our Sharps Disposable Recovery System article to learn about the Sharps recovery program and how it works.
Skin Prep & Skin Cleansers - If you're going to be doing a bigger piercing project, like a corset piercing, you should wash your client's skin with a topical skin cleanser like Microsan soap. For a single-point piercing, you might just use an alcohol prep pad and an iodine swab to prep your client's skin prior to piercing. You'll find a variety of options like these available to you in our Skin Prep & Skin Cleansers section.
Disposables - Disposable items are important tools for maintaining a sterile work environment and protecting clients, since anything you can't sterilize has to be disposed of after you pierce someone. You'll need a good supply of things like piercing markers with throw-away tips, face masks to prevent your germs from getting into a new piercing, exam table paper to line your piercing beds, and drape cloths. Most importantly, you need plenty of piercing needles in different gauges and styles, like coated, curved, hooked, and straight piercing needles.
Other Piercing Supplies - Whenever you need new piercing tools, body jewelry, and piercing aftercare products for your shop, we've got you covered. If you need to place a small order, shop Retail to take advantage of the wholesale prices we offer the general public. If you're placing an order of $100 or more, shop in our Wholesale Store to take advantage of the reduced prices we offer industry professionals. Those spending $500 or more at a time can shop in our Distributor Store, where we offer the lowest prices to professionals ordering in bulk. We also offer bulk pricing for Retail and Wholesale orders on a per-item basis; items that qualify will display the quantities you have to purchase to take advantage of the price breaks near the add to cart button.
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Other Piercing Resources
If you've found our piercing safety checklist to be helpful, you may want to check out some of our other informative piercing and sterilization articles, including: