Yeah, I live in a podunk town. It’s not really all that small, but it’s poor. There are a lot of uneducated people around. I suppose that’s true everywhere, and there are certainly a lot of people which are uneducated about body piercing! Even if you travel to find a great piercer, sometimes you do need to find someone local that’s compatible; that can help you out in an emergency, and perform routine tasks like changing jewelry and stretching if you are uncomfortable doing those yourself.
How do you find a piercer? You call, you visit, you ask questions. Last weekend, I talked to Angel at Renegade Tattoos. Renegade is a well-established local body art studio, with a good reputation in town. Here’s a run down of our conversation.
Experience: Angel has only been piercing for two years, and said that he basically learned because he was an EMT (or received EMT training at least), and was comfortable with needles. It didn’t appear to me that he served an apprenticeship. He showed me his bloodborne pathogen certificate, but didn’t show me his spore tests (although I asked twice). He also showed me his portfolio, which had pictures of piercings he’d done, but no healed piercings. When asked, he said he normally did not have people come back unless they had unusual piercings, like anchors.
Aftercare: We also discussed his recommended aftercare at some length. He basically recommended cleaning with Dial soap and that’s all. I asked him why he didn’t recommend Satin or Provon (specialty antimicrobial soaps) or sea salt soaks. His response was that the soaps were difficult to get (but why couldn’t the shop sell them?) and that salt dries the piercings. Furthermore, he said he no longer provided written aftercare sheets because people had just been throwing them away outside the studio.
Now this makes me a little crazy. First, sea salt soaks are supposed to dry out the wound–the whole purpose of the salt is to draw out the lymph and other material from inside in order to promote healing. Second, a piercee has the right to have a written aftercare sheet, because who can remember all that in the excitement of getting a piercing? (See A Piercee’s Bill of Rights) Written aftercare also serves to protect the studio and the piercer in case something goes wrong. Lastly, the Dial soap thing–well, it’s readily available, and that’s about the best thing I can say about it.
Best Practices: When I pressed him a little about the aftercare, he talked about how he had to adjust his recommendations “for the culture.” Meaning the unsophisticated town we live in. This isn’t Seattle, where you get all sorts of people really into extreme body modifications. True dat, but I wonder about the wisdom of catering to the lowest common denominator. Just as it’s a responsible piercee’s job to protect his or her own health, it’s a responsible piercer’s job to educate his clients about best practices, not just minimal ones.
I understand, okay? I really do. It’s one of the reasons the APP has propounded a standardized aftercare regime. By proposing a minimum standard, it unifies the industry as a whole, presenting a common face to legislators, health care workers, and the public, and benefits piercees. But best practices will never be implemented, and piercees will never be educated, if we don’t pay attention to this.
I do sympathize with piercers who have to deal with piercees who just don’t care. Even the most professional piercer, who does everything right, and goes over aftercare carefully, gets blindsided by the dumb things people do to their piercings.
Angel told me a story about a 25-year old woman on whom he performed cheek piercings. I could tell he was proud of the beautiful job he did on them. He had carefully explained the aftercare, and warned the young woman to eat sparingly of easy-to-eat foods. The next day, she came in with her mother to complain, wanting a refund. She was in pain! That’s what happens when you eat chicharrones and red chili with fresh oral piercings! Ouch!
Angel is a good sport who took the time to sit down with this crazy old lady and b.s. about piercings, which I appreciated very much. I was impressed with his sincerity, openness, and bedside manner. He really t0ok pride in his studio and his work, and talked about the educational and promotional opportunities his studio took part in. I would wish for a little more awareness and education, however. For instance, he waved off going to the APP convention and taking part in the educational opportunities there as unimportant, seemed surprised by my niobium CBRs with nitrile beads, and had never heard of his namesake, Elayne Angel, one of the most prominent piercers in the world. Nevertheless, for my town, this is probably as good as it gets. I think he would be a good choice for some people, and a good choice for me for routine piercing tasks. Hope he’s still a good sport when he sees this!
Yeah, I’m a piercing snob, I admit it. You should be too!
If you don’t know what chicharrones are–take a look.
Thanks to Body Art Forms.