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High Quality? Part 15 – Skin Prep

Skin Prep before a piercing is vitally important to ensure you avoid getting an infection. Skin prep covers chemicals and techniques of application.

Chemicals

There are many different chemicals that can be used for skin prep. As with most parts of piercing a single use and disposable option is the best to prevent the chemicals from being contaminated and used on multiple customers. Some can be used together and others will cancel each other out. Understanding what each chemical does is the key to learning how to use it correctly. The aim for skin prep is to remove debris such as dead skin cells, dirt, skin oil etc and then to use an antiseptic to kill pathogens that are on the skin. This is generally achieved using a two step process of scrub and then paint. The second half of this blog will explain the physical process better.

AgentMechanism of ActionRapidity of ActionAdvantagesDisadvantages
AlcoholDenature proteinsMost rapidEasily available, can be used for scrub and paint Must be used when wet which will sting in a fresh piercing. Can cancel effects of other chemicals
ChlorhexidineDisrupt cell membraneIntermediateEasily Available, can be used for scrub and paintColourless so can be hard to see where applied
Iodine/IodophorsOxidation/substitution by free iodineIntermediateColours the skin to show where appliedCustomers can have allergic reactions to Iodine, can stain clothes
PCMXDisrupt cell wallIntermediateCan be used for scrub and paint Rarely available sterile

Data taken from Brian Skellie’s website and The Centre for Disease Control (CDC)

The most common skin prep chemicals found in piercing shops will be Alcohol, Chlorhexidine, Iodine and PCMX. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Apart from alcohol all of the other chemicals must be allowed to fully dry to achieve their antiseptic properties. Due to alcohol having to stay wet it is not recommended for the paint stage as it will make the piercing hurt more once alcohol gets into the wound.

At Rogue we use Chlorhexidine for the scrub and paint stage as it has minimal reactions, dries in 30 seconds to a minute, is available sterile and single use and doesn’t stain clothes.

Application

How the skin prep is applied is just as important as the chemicals chosen. If the piercing site gets contaminated during cleaning then the chemicals won’t be effective. The best way to apply skin prep chemicals is in a 2 stage process known as scrub and paint.

Scrub

Skin Prep - Spiral Technique
A spiral motion is used to clean the skin without contamination

Scrub involves using physical action to remove dead skin cells and debris and a chemical to break down any skin oils. The best way to do this without contaminating the piercing site is to start in the centre and scrub outwards in a spiral motion. This will push debris away from the piercing site and leave a clean area behind.

Once the scrub has been completed the chemicals should be left to dry. Your piercer will now be able to mark you for your piercing.

Paint

Once your piercer has marked your piercing they should then apply a second chemical. This time the chemical will be used to kill any microbes left on the skin. This time the chemical should be applied over the whole area and left to dry for the appropriate kill time (different for each manufacturer). Your piercing site will now be free from debris and any microbes will be dead. You are now ready for your piercing and your piercer will start to switch their gloves ready for an aseptic technique piercing.

Although this process sounds simple it can be easily carried out incorrectly. The majority of piercers in the UK only use the scrub stage as this is recommended by the NHS for injections. Piercings leave the wound open due to the jewellery so it is important that an antiseptic is applied and these guidelines have come from medical research into implant rather than injection. Ask your piercer about the chemicals they are using if you are unsure of anything.

That’s it for this week! As always if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch with us. We’ll be back next week to talk all about piercing associations!

1 thought on “High Quality? Part 15 – Skin Prep

  1. Aiden,
    Thanks for continuing to share the helpful ideas!

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