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APP Tips for Choosing a Piercer

So, you’ve decided to get a piercing. Now, you’re asking yourself, “Where do I go?” While getting pierced can be a very positive experience, you must also be wary of bloodborne disease and risks for infection. Consequently, you must be very careful when selecting a piercer.

This comprehensive guide, brought to you by The Association of Professional Piercers, is designed to help you make better-informed decisions about your piercings so you can enjoy a safe and healthy experience.

Things to Look for in a Piercer

Does your piercer use an autoclave (sterilizer)? Autoclave with basket removed and spare cord accessory

An autoclave is a device that sterilizes the jewelry, tools, and equipment necessary to perform your piercing/s by eliminating bacteria and its spores. The most effective units available to studios use a combination of steam and pressure. (”Dry Heat” is NOT considered appropriate for sterilization.) Absolutely no studio should be in operation without this vital piece of equipment. Ask to see a piercer’s autoclave before getting pierced.

Does your piercer keep spore test results?

A spore test (biological indicator) is the only way to know that an autoclave is working properly. Biological indicators actually test the autoclave’s ability to kill even the most dangerous & resistant organisms such as HIV, Hepatitis, etc. Every professional studio should keep recent spore results on file and be willing to show them to you. Ask for a piercer’s recent spore test results. 

Does your piercer follow sanitary set-up procedures?

Custom illustrated icon for sterilize my body jewelry service listingAsk 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 equipment should be sealed in individual sterilized 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. All needles should be opened and taken out of their individual sterile packaging in front of you. NEVER let a piercer use a needle on you that was soaked in a liquid. All needles should be disposed of in a sharps container (usually a small red box marked "biohazard") after they have been used on a single client.

Note: Your starter jewelry should come in sterile packaging. If you're bringing your own starter jewelry to your piercer, it needs to be sterilized. Use our “Sterilize My Jewelry” service so you can bring pre-sterilized starter jewelry when you go to get pierced.

Does your piercer provide proper aftercare guidelines?

The aftercare for your piercing should be explained to you and provided in writing. Read this sheet BEFORE you have the piercing done. Plastic insert for tattoo and piercing aftercare instructions by Recovery

If a piercer instructs you to use harsh soap, ointment, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide, he or she is not keeping up with industry standards. Sea salt solutions like Recovery Saline Solution are the best option for keeping your new piercing clean.

Does your piercer have adequate experience?

Being a piercer takes time and dedication. piercers are either self-taught or serve an apprenticeship. Those who are self-taught will ideally have sought guidance from others in the field. Apprenticeships will generally last from 6 months to two years. Continued education is the hallmark of any conscientious piercer.

It is perfectly acceptable and advisable to inquire about how long your piercer has been piercing, how they learned to pierce, and what they have done to keep their knowledge base current, i.e., courses on Anatomy, Aftercare, Aseptic Technique, etc.

Does your piercer use a piercing gun or a sterilized needle?Individually packaged, sterilized versus unsterilized piercing needles

A number of states have made it illegal to use a gun on body piercings and with good reason. Most ear guns can't be sterilized in an autoclave and therefore don’t meet the criteria for APP piercers' use of sterile disposable equipment. True professional piercers exclusively use body piercing needles, not piercing guns.

Have you looked at your piercer’s portfolio?

Look at their piercing 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 looking placements, are there pictures of healed piercings, showing the actual viability of the placement?

Things to Look for in a Piercing Studio

Does the studio have a license to operate?

In most cases, a license to operate means the studio meets minimum requirements and has passed some sort of inspection. To find out if your area has established standards and inspections, call your local Health Department. If a studio is operating unlicensed in an area where licenses are required, report them to your local health department or city business license division.

Is the studio well-kept and clean? 500ml and 250ml comparison of tattoo and piercing studio washer bottles by Precision

Are the walls washed and the carpet vacuumed? Does the staff appear to be hygienic, neat, and professional? Is the restroom kept clean and tidy? 

Ideally, studios should have 5 separate areas: the counter, waiting room, piercing room(s), bathroom, and a separate sterilization room. All countertops should be wiped down, all equipment should be individually packaged, and all used equipment should be disposed off using sharps containers.

Does the studio lawfully abide age restrictions?

Regardless of any local legislation being more lenient, the following is an appropriate minimum standards policy on piercing minors: For any piercing of a minor, 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 is required 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 papers, or a remarriage certificate.) 

Under no circumstances is it acceptable or appropriate for a piercer to perform piercing on the nipples or genitals of an individual under 18 years of age.

Does the studio have an APP membership?

All APP Members will have a certificate that should be hanging on the studio's wall. The certificate has an expiration date on it; make sure it is current.

General Rules of Thumb

Smiling girl with nostril piercing and PainfulPleasures blue overlayTrust your instincts

Your comfort and trust is important. If you don't feel comfortable with a piercer for any reason, you shouldn’t get pierced by them.

Use your head 

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

What to expect

The day of your piercing has arrived, and it’s time to get pierced by an artist you wholeheartedly trust! Although individual studio requirements vary, a professional studio will expect you to:

  • Bring valid photo identification
  • Be completely sober 
  • Be bathed with hair trimmed or tied back (where applicable) 
  • Have eaten within 4 hours 
  • If you are getting a genital or nipple piercing wear suitable, clean underwear/garments/bras 
  • If possible, avoid Aspirin and other blood thinners 
  • Have considered any potential health issues i.e. individual who require antibiotics prior to dental work should see their doctor prior to being pierced.

A piercer and studio that has these expectations demonstrates professionalism and trustworthiness.

Studio Etiquette

At the Counter: 

  • Don’t handle your piercings (even if they are healed) as you may spread bacteria to the studio’s common areas.
  • Bring worn jewelry in a baggie or other sealed container. Placing worn jewelry on the counter or display case can also spread bacteria.

In the Restroom: 

  • Don’t handle your piercings (see above). It is never appropriate to change your jewelry in the restroom or other locations in the studio.
  • If you want your jewelry changed at the studio, it should be done by one of the piercers, in the piercing room.

In the Piercing Room: 

  • Allow your piercer to direct you to an area where personal belongings may be placed BEFORE setting anything down.
  • If you’d like to take any before and after photos, make sure to check with your piercer beforehand. We also recommend that you turn off the camera flash; flash can be distracting in a piercing room.

Shopping for Jewelry 

Various basic body jewelry, including seamless rings, captive bead rings, and circular barbellsGenerally speaking, it is advisable to purchase body jewelry at the time of the piercing. Your piercer should have starter jewelry in stock and will select the jewelry best suited to your anatomy. Keep in mind that many studios will not insert jewelry purchased elsewhere in either a fresh or healed piercing as quality cannot be verified. If you are looking for a certain style or size, consider looking for studios with a larger inventory and ask for a consultation while you're there to see what the piercer thinks would be the ideal size jewelry for you. If the piercer is okay with you bringing your own jewelry, PainfulPleasures offers a wide variety of starter jewelry and the option to get it sterilized.

For more information on what jewelry you can shop for and wear, read our Basic Body Jewelry and Compatible Jewelry articles.

Taking Care of Your Piercing

The best aftercare will depend on various factors. Each body is unique and every piercing is different. There are a number of things you can do to help your body to heal your piercing. For professional aftercare tips, read our Body Piercing Aftercare and Recovery Piercing Aftercare articles.


This guide was provided by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) to help you choose the best piercer to do your first, or next, piercing. To learn more about the APP, visit www.safepiercing.org.