Don't Try this at Home- Self Piercing and DIY Dangers
Ever hear-“Well actually, I have a friend who does piercings and tattoos from home. It’s totally legit and they’re cheaper.” Or “My friend did this piercing for me in their bathroom and nothing bad happened so I’m going to have them do my other one!” ? Well you’re not alone. These are pretty commonly confessed things we hear near daily. With this being a frequent occurrence, we decided to help shed some light as to why “D.I.Y.” doesn’t apply to body piercing. We’ve written a comprehensive article that goes over the numerous ways at-home piercings aren’t safe, no matter the case.
There are an abundance of behind the scene considerations/precautions we take as a studio for your safety that may not even cross the mind of most. Let’s address the most prominent factor first: the environment. Piercing studios are typically designed from the ground up with your health and safety in mind. Despite what some may think, there are standards for absolutely everything involved in preforming a body piercing. From the type of flooring in the room, to the material the walls are made of, it all matters. Not to mention the regulations for the type and amount of lighting we use, and even the clothing/ accessories we personally wear have specific requirements that we must meet. Members of the Association of Professional Piercers, like us, also often adhere to even higher standards when it comes to what jewelry is used and what conditions the piercing is preformed in. Most of the above mentioned regulations relate to porosity and absorbance; meaning everything from our counters to our filing cabinets are made of materials that won’t absorb any harmful bacteria and have a surface that can be properly disinfected. In our case, the whole studio is built this way. Its not enough to have just our piercing room done; anything that could potentially come in contact with a client must be able to be throughly cleaned and disinfected if needed.
A home being set up to these standards would not be very comfortable for regular home life. There would need to be no fabric couches, no beds with comforters, no carpets, and all the wood would need to be specially varnished. Every room would require large, bright lights and rooms where piercing will occur would need specific windows, doors, ventilation, plumbing, and airflow. Activities in these rooms would be limited (no food, no hair and nails, no makeup, no animals etc.) Closing off a large space in your house to accommodate that is often unrealistic.
There are many dangers if these surfaces do not meet standards. Things like staph and MRSA can be lurking on tables, in fabric, and anywhere you touch, sit or stand. This means a very real risk of infection. Even if the ‘artist’ opened new packages, put them on a ‘clean’ surface, and wore gloves, if that surface was a porous material, or if the correct cleaner wasn’t used prior to piercing, none of those new packages mattered. Tiny MRSA germs are still going to get all over the setup, and potentially your new piercing or tattoo. If you’re unsure if a residential building is suitable for body piercing, look into your local zoning laws. Zoning is how cities and states make sure that buildings and the people who own them follow land use and other laws. Zoning helps determine if a building is safe to be a business, a residence, an office, etc. Zoning is part of what regulates spaces to ensure a studio meets the standards to safely pierce.
These laws also control if a location can have a business license. Why would a business license matter for a body piercing? Well a business license is needed to order certain supplies required to preform a piercing safely. Sure you can find “cheap needles” or “starter tattoo guns” on the internet but those aren’t going to be quality, safe, well made supplies. The only way to acquire things like sterile gloves, and quality jewelry is to provide the suppliers with proof of your business; therefore you need a business license. Legitimate companies for needles, ink, tools, jewelry, and other supplies all require proof a studio is operating in a correct environment before they will sell to you. So working out of a home also means compromising the supplies used. If its readily available to the public, theres a good chance it doesn’t meet regulations. Sterilization is another big thing to consider when thinking of getting an in-home piercing. In order to ensure that supplies are properly sterilized for piercing, you need some form of sterilizer on site. We already talked all about autoclaves and how they work in a previous article, but we didn’t talk about a huge factor of equipment like that: the cost. Autoclaves can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000. If someone can’t afford to work out of a safe, set-up studio, chances are they can’t afford an autoclave either.
“But I ordered pre-sterilized needles and jewelry online.” If that’s the case, here’s a checklist of things to know when ordering: Where did you order from? What are their sterilization policies? Who does their sterilization? Have you seen their spore tests? Who packed your order/was it packed to ensure it remained sterile in transit? Was it handled with care on and off any planes, trains, or trucks it was on to arrive to you? Is your local post-person is trained to handle sterile equipment and properly handles your package while delivering it to you? Realistically, you can’t possibly know for sure the answers to all of those questions. Even we don’t. This is why we sterilize any tools, needles, and jewelry once it’s in the studio. On site sterilization is essential to guarantee nothing is contaminated prior to piercing.
Preforming a piercing does inevitably produce waste. Waste includes used needles, anything with blood or bodily fluids, and/or anything disposable that was used before, during, or after the procedure. This type of trash requires regulated pick ups because it is considered biohazadous waste. These things can’t just be tossed into an average kitchen garbage. When you have a business license, you can employ a biohazardous waste pickup company whose staff is trained to handle bio-waste and correctly dispose of things like used needles or contaminated products. However, if you are working out of a home you likely don’t have the license needed to work with said companies, nor will they come and pick up from your home in the same way they do for businesses. We’ve heard some people say they drop off used needles at hospital ran centers, but not only is this not a legal way to dispose of piercing waste, it’s also a burden on local programs which were originally designed to help drug users or people with specific medical needs stay safe. This type of disposal also wouldn’t account for other used supplies that are considered biohazardous waste, which would leave them to be disposed of improperly through regular trash pick up. With body piercing, there is a decent amount of training involved; not just in technique, but in proper handling of blood etc. Someone with proper training in things like blood-borne pathogens, universal precautions, and environmental criteria would never willingly work from a home knowing all the risks and dangers. If someone is working out of a home its more than likely that they lack the proper knowledge and training to even understand why working from a home is so dangerous and near impossible to do safely. Its risky to them and to you.
We’d like to add that there are, of course, exceptions to every rule and some extraordinary artists have studios set up that are a part of their home and are set up correctly- with separate airflow and plumbing, clean surfaces, correct supplies and sterilization equipment. We’d also like to note that every one of these folks were previously established, well regarded artist in studios for many years before having both the funds and the client base to open a home studio. This isn’t common, but is doable and these artist spend a good amount of time and money maintaining their spaces properly. Getting a body piercing or a tattoo can carry serious health and safety risks if done incorrectly, so support your local reputable artists and respect yourself/ your body enough to only be worked on in clean, sanitary, safe environments by trained professionals who value your wellbeing. You are worth it, we promise.