During the body modification process, your clients' health is in your hands, so it's imperative that you maintain a sterile working environment. By following the steps below each time you pierce someone or perform another modification, you'll minimize the risk of bacteria being introduced into their open wound(s) that could lead to infection and other problems. We owe it to our clients to perform piercing and other body modification procedures with the utmost care and sterility.
Before a client comes in to get modified, you should pre-sterilize your tools and any corks or rubber bands you may need to use during the piercing process. Also make sure that you have a sufficient supply of sterile cotton balls, cotton swabs, piercing needles, other piercing supplies, scalpels/blades, cautery tools, and any other medical supplies you'll need. Note: It's always important to have sterile cotton swabs and gauze on hand in case a client bleeds profusely after a piercing.
When a client arrives, ask him or her if s/he's eaten recently. Piercings can cause some people to experience a degree of shock. Someone who hasn't eaten recently is more at risk of experiencing a stronger degree of shock because of low blood sugar. If a client says s/he hasn't eaten recently, have them grab a snack and a sugary soda while you get setup for their procedure.
When you're ready to begin the modification process, follow these steps for setting up a sterile field and maintaining it while you work:
- Wash your hands. Put on a pair of new disposable gloves, and then lay out everything you'll need to perform a piercing or other modification on a brand new dental cloth. The dental cloth will be your sterile field. Everything you lay out to use during the procedure should be pre-packaged or bottled--from antiseptics like iodine and alcohol pads to surgical lubricant--and anything re-usable like stainless steel tools should be cleaned and sterilized properly in an autoclave prior to use. (See our Proper Tool Maintenance article for tips on cleaning your piercing tools properly.) Anything disposable like rubber bands, corks, toothpicks, or cotton swabs should also be either pre-packed or autoclaved prior to use. Skinscribes (surgical markers) are okay to re-use ONLY if you use them on clean, unbroken skin anywhere besides the mouth or genitals.
- Open the largest sterilization pouch on your dental-cloth-covered tray, being careful not to touch the inside of the pouch. Next, open each of the other sterilization pouches without touching the contents; just lay the open pouches on the dental cloth in such a way that the contents will be easily accessible to you during the procedure you're about to perform. Open the iodine and alcohol pad packets, and set the open packets on the cloth. (It's okay if you touch the disinfecting wipes with your gloved hands at this stage, but don't touch the contents of any other package in your sterile field yet.)
- Once you have all of your tools, medical supplies like iodine and/or alcohol pads, piercing supplies like needles, and any body jewelry you'll be using laid out on the sterile cloth, change your gloves and apply hand sanitizer to them. You will then be ready to touch the contents of the packages in your sterile field. Ready everything needed for the modification you're about to do; if you need to open a small captive bead ring or take off a ball attached to a barbell, now is the time to do it.
- Prep your client's skin for the procedure you're about to do by swabbing the area with the iodine pad. Use an alcohol pad to remove the yellow iodine stain immediately after.
- Use a surgical skin marker to make your mark. Do NOT touch anything on your sterile field after handling the marker; everything on the cloth is still sterile, but the marker no longer is. If you're doing an oral or genital piercing, use a sterilized toothpick dipped in gentian violet ink instead of a surgical skin marker. If you use a marker for an oral or genital piercing, you must give it to the client or dispose of it afterwards, so the toothpick-with-gentian-ink method is more cost-effective.
- Once your mark is made, don a new pair of gloves coated with hand sanitizer, and begin the piercing or other body modification procedure. Once the starter jewelry is in, control any bleeding with sterile cotton swabs and/or gauze. If there's profuse bleeding, use a paper towel to collect the blood, and then apply sterile cotton swabs as the bleeding slows.
- After any bleeding has stopped, go over aftercare instructions with your client. Dispose of the needle(s) properly in a Sharps container, and then wrap the remaining contents of the tray INTO your gloves and dispose of them. Donning a new pair of gloves, spray your tray AND your piercing table with Madacide, Wavacide, Cavicide, or any other hospital-grade hard surface disinfectant. Let it sit for one minute, wipe it up, and then dispose of the paper towels the same way you did with your tray contents.
- Wash up, and then you're ready for your next piercing or other modification!