By Dr. Jessica Sapp
Associate Professor, School of Health Sciences, American Military University
Register for the body piercing safety webinar on July 3.
Body piercing has been around for centuries. Ear piercings continue to be the most common form, but body piercings of other anatomical locations such as the nose, mouth and navel have been growing increasingly popular. There are risks associated with body piercing, which is why it’s important to learn and understand key factors before you decide to have a body piercing.
While preparing for a public health webinar about body piercing safety, I wanted to know more about the practice, so I asked an expert professional piercer, Whitney X. Bailey.
Bailey is a professional piercer at Endless Summer Tattoo in Cocoa Beach, Florida. She completed her apprenticeship in 2011 and has been piercing professionally since 2012. She is an active member of the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) and regularly attends the annual Safe Piercing Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, for continuing education.
She shared her insights with me, some of which I had never thought of as a health professional. She answered some questions that will help you make an informed decision about getting a body piercing.
What Should Someone Consider Before Getting A Body Piercing?
The most important factor for anyone wanting a body piercing to consider is if the piercing is realistic with their lifestyle. For example, if a client wears a stethoscope on a regular basis, any piercing possibly obstructing the ear canal or surrounding areas should be completely avoided.
If clients swim competitively or even semi-regularly, they need to be prepared to treat the piercing as an open wound and not submerge it during the initial healing. Without proper considerations, this could hinder their lifestyle and lead to complications or infection.
I frequently see clients with high stress levels having more healing complications than most. I really believe this is a result of their lifestyle. Next to lifestyle are factors of health and hygiene. If the client is not currently in good health, they would not want to get a new body piercing.
There is always risk involved with an open wound and you really should consider if your body is prepared to heal a new piercing. If a client has bad oral hygiene, an oral piercing of the lips or tongue would probably not be ideal for them.
Register for the body piercing safety webinar on July 3.
What Should A Person Look For In A Body Piercer?
Your piercer should have a clean and professional appearance. A professional piercer should offer you a consultation to address any concerns or questions you may have regarding a body piercing.
Professionals will ask you questions about your desires, expectations and lifestyle to help find the right fit. Look for a professional in your area who has an up-to-date portfolio as well as a website or some type of reputable online platform.
Ask questions about the jewelry brands they carry, how their sterilization process works, and how long they have been piercing in their current studio. Your piercer should meet you with a willingness to help answer any questions you have.
How Can A Person Find A Professional Body Piercer?
The best way to find a professional in any area is to visit safepiercing.org. The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) is an international health and safety organization dedicated to the dissemination of information pertaining to body piercings and body piercing professionals.
If an APP member is not in your area, contact the local health department. If you receive a referral from a friend or the health department, contact that studio directly and ask them if they at least follow the minimum jewelry standards and guidelines provided by the APP. A real professional will be happy to answer these questions for you.
The APP minimum jewelry standards insist that all jewelry used for an initial body piercing must meet specific criteria:
- Jewelry should have internally threading or tapping and meet ASTM International standards for implantation. Jewelry manufacturers are required to show Mill Certifications confirming compliance; ask your piercer about Mill certifications on their jewelry. If they can’t give you an answer, seek out a professional.
- Gold jewelry must be nickel-free, never with any gold overlay or gold plating.
- Jewelry and surfaces must be mirror finish and smooth, free of nicks, burns, scratches and chemical compounds.
- State regulations on body jewelry vary. I pierce in the state of Florida and it is written into the legislation that jewelry used for initial piercings must be implant grade following ASTM compliance. But this is not strictly enforced, which is why it is so important to ask your piercer if he or she is familiar with these standards.
Do You Have Any Other Advice or Recommendations about Getting A Body Piercing?
My best advice is to ask questions. The more the better. The more questions you ask the professional, the better informed you will be as the client. Don’t base a decision about a piercing or body piercers around a price tag. Quality body jewelry and a piercer’s aseptic technique are far more important than finding the lowest price point.
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About the Author
Dr. Jessica Sapp is an associate professor in the School of Health Sciences at American Military University. She has 15 years of experience in public health, working in various environments including government, hospitals, health insurance, community, international, corporate and academia. Jessica earned her D.P.H. in health policy and management at Georgia Southern University and a M.P.H. in health promotion, education and behavior at the University of South Carolina. She also has a B.S. in health science education from the University of Florida.