Welcome to the first blog post in our Myth Busters series! In this series we will investigate some of the most popular piercing myths around and get to the truth about them! As it is Pride Month, our blog post poses this question: Which side is the gay side when you are getting your ears or nose pierced? A common question, and one we’ve heard more than a few times in the studio! But to give an accurate answer, we have to go into a bit of history…
The piercing world has been and continues to be closely linked with the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, they are so closely linked that Rogue wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for a small niche gay community in the United States that practiced piercing on each other in the 70’s! Some gay body piercers and body modification enthusiasts have even made it to the Leather Hall of Fame for their prolific work that lead them to be the icons they are. Let’s take a look at just three influential gay piercers of history!
Jim Ward gained recognition for pioneering body jewellery such as BCRs and Barbells. Inspired by a German peer, he took the idea of threaded pieces back to the States and introduced it to his clients in the mid Seventies. Before this, people were using much more ‘unorthodox’ methods of piercing each other, making piercing a whole lot safer with Ward’s innovative jewellery. In 1975, Jim opened his studio The Gauntlet and drew in clientele from the gay and fetish community before opening to the general public three years later. The Gauntlet was considered one of the first piercing studios in the world and was at the forefront of the birth of modern day body piercing.
Alan Oversby, otherwise known by his professional name Mr Sebastian, is very dear to us here at Rogue. Mr Sebastian was close friends with Jim Ward as well as other members of the gay community in the 70’s. Financially supported by a Hollywood friend, Mr Sebastian would visit LA to see Ward and friends as well as having them visit him at his home in London. This friendship is what brought body piercing to the UK. Being in the time before the internet, it was a fantastic opportunity to share knowledge with each other to help the progression of piercing. He was also involved in the Spanner Case which still affects the piercing industry today!
Luis Garcia began his piercing career in 1991 in Florida. After moving to Philadelphia in 1998, he began to expand on his knowledge in piercing and specialised in large gauge piercing and ear projects. Luis is an active member of the APP and has gifted others with his knowledge in piercing at many conferences world wide, including the first piercing conference in Mexico, the Latino-American Body Piercing (LBP) Conference. He has won awards for his outstanding dedication to the industry, including the APP’s Josh Prentice award and even a piercing competition run by Industrial Strength, one of our suppliers!
As you can see from our history, when it comes to the original question, technically both and neither sides are the gay side! Modern day body piercing simply wouldn’t exist without the gay community. That is why we are passionate about supporting Pride and LGBTQ+ rights, now and always. If you want to get a piercing then get it, the only thing that will change is you will have a new piercing.
Keep an eye out on our blog for future posts in the Myth Busters series where we debunk myths like the origination of the piercing name Prince Albert and more!
Piercing Education comes in many different shapes and sizes. As there is no qualification to be a piercer all of your knowledge is passed from one piercer to another. Historically piercers would learn everything they can during their apprenticeship and then continuously learn from the day to day experiences of piercing. Piercing used to be an environment where information and knowledge was not shared with other piercers for “Fear of training my competition”. In the modern world, high quality piercers understand that by sharing our good information we can minimise the damage caused by low quality piercing.
The best way to get into the piercing industry is to take an apprenticeship. As there is no qualification it is important to research into the piercer you want to mentor from to ensure they are a reputable piercer. Looking for UKAPP and APP members is a great place to start.
An apprenticeship normally lasts anywhere from 1 to 3 years. A lot of the time apprenticeships are unpaid roles (some studios even charge for an apprenticeship) so the apprentice has to show dedication. As being a piercer is more of a lifestyle than a career this is to ensure that the apprentice really wants this life. Piercing is a job that can take you around the world and allow you to be whoever you want to be and look however you want. The payoff for that freedom is a volatile pay cheque and a job that has very little progression once trained.
An apprenticeship would ideally cover the following subjects in a high level of detail:
Bloodborne Pathogen training
First Aid training
How to pierce safely
Each of these subjects needs to be understood inside out before a piercer should be let loose on the public. Once an apprentice has shown they understand all of these key areas then they will be able to progress to junior piercer and begin working with the public until they have compounded their knowledge enough that they are a fully fledged piercer.
An apprenticeship given by a reputable piercer will open doors in the industry for an apprentice that will affect their lifetime as a piercer. It is important to find the best piercer possible to learn from to ensure the information gleaned is good and that the apprenticeship will be validated by other piercers for future work.
Piercing schools are frowned upon by the piercing industry. The reason for this is that it is not possible to learn all the aspects of piercing in a 1 or 2 week course. The act of pushing a needle through someone can be learnt but all of the safety cannot. Aiden has worked with many different piercers around the world and has yet to find a piercing school that covers all the safety aspects adequately, let alone how to pierce straight and select appropriately jewellery. The vast majority of piercers see piercing schools as a way to take money of unsuspecting people. Piercing schools are expensive and will leave you with a “qualification” that is not respected or valued by the industry and may even go against you as a reputable piercer would have to train bad habits out rather than start from fresh.
Piercing conferences have started to pop up all over the world in the last 5 years. Piercing conferences are for trained piercers to go and brush up on their education to ensure they are staying up to date. As piercing in the UK is an unregulated industry, the UKAPP conference is the best way to stay on top of any new techniques, jewellery options and legislation changes that can occur.
Networking is also an important part of piercing conferences as this is how piercers get invited to visit other studios to shadow more experienced piercers, find new jobs and find reputable piercers for when clients are visiting a different town or city.
Another way to stay on top of your education as a piercer is to visit other studios and shadow more experienced piercers. This is recommended as the best way to fill any gaps in a piercers knowledge. A piercer should never use the public as guinea pigs but instead should watch another piercer carry out the piercing so they can learn and ask questions.
Shadowing commonly leads to new employment opportunities for both full time and guest spots.
Piercing forums are a great way to view lots of piercing education. Groups such as the UK Piercing Professionals group on Facebook are a prime example. Groups like this help piercers to peer review and techniques and new jewellery, discuss oddities from studio life and ask for advice if required. These groups tend to be moderated by reputable piercers to keep the information good but as with everything on the internet it is always best to fact check. Learning online is no replacement for hands on learning from a reputable piercer. Aiden has been as admin on the UK Piercing Professionals group since it was formed and is proud to have supported the growth of many piercers across the UK, Europe and the world.
In the early 90’s when the piercing industry was still in its infancy, self teaching through trial and error on our own bodies was an acceptable way to learn to pierce. As you can imagine a lot of lessons both good and bad were learnt during this time. Piercers have learnt everything they can from self teaching so this is not an acceptable method to learn to pierce anymore. Reputable piercers will advise people against self piercing for their own safety. We have been there already and we don’t need to go back.
There are many different ways to gain education about piercing but the best way is to go through an apprenticeship. A reputable piercer will use aspects from all of these different ways of learning to gain their initial knowledge and skills and then stay on top of their education. Every day is a school day!
That’s it for this week. Hopefully you know a little more about how your piercer learnt what they do. We will be back next week to discuss Mill Certificates for jewellery. This has been a popular request and we are happy to listen. Have a good week everyone!
Good studio design is essential to keeping you and your piercer safe. If a studio is designed badly then there is a high risk of cross contamination which can lead to infections. This week we will explain how to spot a well designed studio. UKAPP and APP members have their studios vetted before they can become members so choosing a UKAPP or APP studio is a great way to ensure you are in a safe and clean environment.
This first thing you normally come to in any shop is the front desk. This desktop should be non-porous so that it can be cleaned. As lots of people touch the desk
and regularly place worn jewellery on the surface (Please don’t do this. It stresses us out) we need to disinfect it regularly to prevent cross contamination. As we don’t know what bacteria may be on a piece of jewellery and the desktop we us medical grade high level surface disinfectants and if the desktop is porous the disinfectant will not be effective.
The floor should be the next thing to take a look at. As rugs can trap lots of dust (skin cells are the main component of dust) they can be a hazard in the shop. The majority of the floor in the reception and waiting area should be non-porous and the piercing room room should be completely non-porous. Doormats and any rugs should be cleaned regularly and disposed off if they become contaminated with any body fluids. This way the floors can be disinfected daily and don’t harbour any potential risks. As jewellery can be dropped it is essential that the floor is cleaned daily. Also as piercings can sometimes involve blood we need to ensure that if blood gets on the floor that it can be cleaned off effectively.
Once you are in the piercing room almost everything should be non-porous. The bed, worktop, work table, cupboard doors, door handles, sink etc should all be non-porous. The piercing room will need to be washed down in disinfectant at the start and end of the day and after each customer. If these items are porous then they will be contaminated quickly and be unable to be disinfected.
The piercing room itself should be in a private area away from the front desk. No other procedures (tattooing, jewellery sales etc) outside of piercing should be carried out in this area to ensure that it stays clean and doesn’t become contaminated. A private area also means that your piercing isn’t a show for anyone in the shop or walking past and this will make the experience much more comfortable.
The walls of the piercing room should ideally go all the way to the ceiling but if not they must be at least 8 feet high. By being enclosed or having walls at this height the contamination from air is minimised. Dust, dirt and other particles in the air can contaminate surfaces. It is a recommendation by the UKAPP and APP to install HEPA filters to clean the air in the piercing room to minimise this contamination risk.
Clean and Dirty Sides
As piercing generates clinical waste it is important to set clean and dirty sides to the piercing room. This will prevent the clean items (needles, gloves, consumables etc) being contaminated before they are used. The ideal solution is to keep the clinical waste bin and used tool rinse tray near each other on the opposite side of the room to the sink and clean items. This same rule will apply in the sterilisation room but customers rarely get to see this part of a studio.
Piercing studios need more sinks than you might expect. A good studio design requires the following sinks:
Bathroom – for washing hands after using the toilet
Piercing Room – for washing before and after a procedure
Sterilisation Room – for cleaning tools
Each sink should only be used for the activities listed above. Hand should not be washed in the bathroom or sterilisation room before piercing as there is a risk of contamination in these areas. Tools should also not be washed in the piercing room sink to ensure that sink stays clean.
Each of these sinks will also need a hot and cold water feed and a tap that can be turned off without using your hands. This is to ensure that hands don’t get dirty again after washing. Some studios fit sensor taps whereas others go for lever taps that are operated with the elbow. Either are fine.
This is just scratching the surface of studio design but should give you an idea of what to look out for in a piercing studio. For more information on what a piercing studio should have inside check out the membership requirements for UKAPP or APP as they will go into more detail.
That’s it for this week! Next week we will be discussing training and education for piercers. Have a good week everyone!
Custom Orders cover any time you want to order something that your piercer doesn’t stock. This could be something as simple as a size they don’t carry or it can go all the way into custom designing a new piece of jewellery just for you. A lot of the utterly stunning jewellery that you see on social media will have been custom ordered to the exact specification of the customer. This weeks blog will try to help you understand the process of custom ordering with your piercer as well as what happens once your piercer has placed your order. We will explain how we work at Rogue but other piercers may work in different ways.
Placing Your Order
The first step to custom ordering is getting in touch with your piercer. The best way to go about this is to have a face to face consultation. We offer free jewellery consultations at Rogue so that we have time to sit together and discuss what you want. You can book a free jewellery consultation here. In person is best so that your piercer can assess your anatomy, take any measurements required and check that the piece you are thinking of will work for that location. Your piercer may come up with some ideas that you hadn’t thought of too. As custom orders cannot be returned it is important to ensure that all sizing and colours are correct. Distance consultations can be carried out by email and/or messenger but your piercer will not be able to guarantee that the sizing is correct or that the jewellery is appropriate for the location. Here at Rogue we fill out a custom order form with you so that we can all check that the details are correct and that no information gets lost before your order arrives.
Once you have finalised the piece of jewellery you require you will then need to place a deposit before your piercer will place the order. A deposit is required because custom orders may be made from colour or sizing combinations that suit your style well but may not sell well in store. As custom ordered jewellery cannot be returned to the supplier, a deposit ensures your piercer doesn’t lose out if you never pay off the balance and collect your jewellery. At Rogue we take a 50% deposit but we have been known to be flexible to help out our regulars who are working towards larger jewellery set ups. At Rogue you have 6 months from the date of order to pay off the total balance on your jewellery. If the total balance is not paid off in this time you may lose your deposit and your jewellery.
Once you have had your consultation and paid your deposit your piercer will then add your order to their order list. Shipping on a single order costs an average of $75 plus VAT, because of this your piercer will group orders together to spread out the shipping cost over multiple pieces of jewellery. This means your order may not be placed straight away. At Rogue we place orders every other month with different suppliers. If you want your order to be rushed then you always have the option of paying the shipping fee in full.
Our body jewellery manufacturers are currently under a lot of strain and are doing their very best to keep up with demand but due to the explosion of popularity for high quality jewellery their wait times have increased. Some manufacturers currently have lead times of up to 4 months! YOur piercer will have given you an estimate of manufacture time during your consultation. Your piercer will do everything then can to get your jewellery to you ASAP but once it is with the manufacturer there is very little we can do other than wait. If you have a specific event you want your jewellery for e.g. a wedding, then let your piercer know as sometimes our jewellery manufacturers will be able to rush 1 or 2 pieces to help make your day extra special.
Once your jewellery is complete it will packaged and sent via courier to your piercer. As most of our jewellery manufacturers are currently based in North America this means that import charges will occur. Your piercer will have already factored these in to the cost so don’t worry there won’t be anything extra to pay but there may be an extra delay if customs decide to hold the order. This has happened to us in the past at Rogue but it has only ever added 1 week maximum delay.
Your jewellery will then arrive with your piercer. They will check that the order is correct and that there are no defects from the manufacture. Once Quality Control is complete your piercer will then process your jewellery so that it is sterile and ready to go into your piercing. Your piercer will then contact you to let you know that your jewellery has arrived! If you have any of your balance left to pay then your piercer will arrange for you to pay either in person when you collect your jewellery or via a different method e.g. via our webshop.
The final step! At this stage you head to your piercer and they install your brand new, custom ordered jewellery! This is a special moment as all of the work that has gone into custom ordering comes to fruition. Your piercer will probably be just as excited you are and want to take ALL of the photos.
So that’s how custom orders work! If you would like to custom order your own jewellery then head to our book now page and book a free jewellery consultation to get the ball rolling. What will you design for yourself! If you have any questions about today’s blog then leave a comment below.
That’s it for this week. We will be back next week to discuss studio design. A well designed studio can make the difference between a good and bad studio.
Piercing Associations might not seem like an important part of high quality piercing but our associations are what drives progression and spreads health and safety knowledge to the industry. As piercing in the UK is currently unregulated and only governed by local bylaws, piercing associations are the main way to look for high quality and safe piercers. This week’s blog will give a little history to our associations, explain their importance to the industry and finally help you understand why you should look for a piercer who is an association member.
In the Beginning there was the APP
Many piercing associations have come and gone since the piercing industry started in the late 80’s, early 90s. Only 1 organisation has managed to stay the course and that is the APP (Association of Professional Piercers). The APP formed in California in 1995 to try and create some minimum safety standards for piercing. Since then the organisation has grown to a global entity that has a conference with over 1000 attendees in Las Vegas every year and members all over the world and has been instrumental into raising safety standards globally.
The APP’s conference has classes and seminars that cover everything from best sterilisation practices, piercing techniques and discussion about new equipment to discussions about the direction of the industry, history classes from those that were there at the time and anthropology classes looking at the modern and tribal world.
Aiden is proud to have taught the Safe Metals Class at APP in Las Vegas in 2017 and 2018 alongside some of his piercing heroes.
For more information about the APP take a look at their website here.
The UKAPP (United Kingdom Association of Professional Piercers) formed in 2015 to carry on the APP’s health and safety message across the UK. As the APP is primarily based in the USA it was difficult to keep up with legislation changes around the world so sister organisations formed. The UKAPP is a stand alone organisation that works closely with the APP.
The UKAPP also has its own conference every year that brings in teachers from across the UK and around the world as well as piercers from across the
UK, Europe and globally. As a health and safety organisation the UKAPP’s aim is to raise standards in the UK for the safety of the general public and piercers too.
As well as educating piercers the UKAPP also consults with the CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) and over governmental bodies to make legislative change for the industry. This is a slow process but the UKAPP has been successful in making change as Wales is currently putting in higher standards for piercing after consulting with the UKAPP. The UKAPP also campaigned to have Female Genital Piercing reclassified so it is no longer considered to be Female Genital Mutilation.
Aiden was one of the founding members of the UKAPP and was the treasurer from 2015-2018 and has taught classes at the first 4 conferences. Rogue will be a UKAPP verified piercing studio in the near future as we are proud of our high standards. We are currently not members as our store is still to young to join.
For more information about the UKAPP or to find a member near you check their website here.
Other sister organisations to the APP have formed across the world. Notable organisations are:
Around the world piercing is generally an unregulated industry. This means that safety standards can sometimes be worryingly low. Piercing associations offer membership which shows that the piercer or studio meets minimum standards that are much higher than local legislation requires. To be a member of a piercing association means that your piercer or studio agrees to:
Use sterile equipment
Use implant grade or historically safe jewellery materials
Use safe designs of body jewellery
Test their sterilisation equipment
Have a studio design based around safety
Have First Aid and CPR certification
Carry our Blood Borne Pathogen training
It might seem like a lot of the membership requirements should be obvious but the vast majority of piercing studios do not meet these requirements. By choosing a piercer that is a member of piercing organisation you are choosing someone who has pledged to carry out piercings in the safest manner possible as well as someone who wants to progress the piercing industry for the good of the general public and piercers alike.
Aiden was a UKAPP member before travelling the globe to expand his piercing knowledge and now that he has settled back in the UK will be joining again once Rogue has collected all of the required paperwork. We are excited to be members again!
So hopefully now you have an understanding of why piercing associations are required for high quality piercing. If you are looking for a new piercer then we recommend heading the your local piercing association website and looking for a member as you will be supporting piercers who want the best for you and who support the piercing industry as a whole.
That’s it for this week! We will be back next week to discuss custom ordering jewellery. Have a good week everyone!
Skin Prep before a piercing is vitally important to ensure you avoid getting an infection. Skin prep covers chemicals and techniques of application.
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.
Mechanism of Action
Rapidity of Action
Easily 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
Disrupt cell membrane
Easily Available, can be used for scrub and paint
Colourless so can be hard to see where applied
Oxidation/substitution by free iodine
Colours the skin to show where applied
Customers can have allergic reactions to Iodine, can stain clothes
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.
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 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.
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!
Aseptic – adjective: 1: Free from contamination caused by harmful bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms; surgically sterile or sterilized. 1.1: (of surgical practice) aiming at the complete exclusion of harmful microorganisms.
Septic – adjective: 1: Infected with microorganisms, especially harmful bacteria.
Most people have heard of the word septic but few have heard of aseptic. These 2 words sound similar and are easily mixed up but they are opposites. It is important that a piercer uses an aseptic technique for your piercing to minimise the risk of infection. There are several ways that a piercer can carry out an aseptic technique and this weeks blog will aim to show you what to look out for.
Hopefully it should now be common knowledge that a piercer should wear gloves during a procedure. It is less commonly known that there are different types of gloves that should be worn depending on the techniques used. There are 2 basic types of gloves used by piercers:
Examination gloves are the standard gloves that are readily available. Most of us have worn a pair of these at some point in our lives. They are generally made from latex, nitrile or vinyl. Rogue is a latex free shop to protect our clients with latex allergies. Exam gloves have to meet EN455 standard to be safe to use. Here is a link to more information about EN455 EN455 states the test methods and quality control required to ensure that gloves do not leak, are free from chemical residues and the maximum shelf life before they must be disposed of.
Exam gloves only protect the wearer. Due to the way that exam gloves are packed and stored they are classed as contaminated. This is fine for use where there is no broken skin e.g. cleaning the piercing room, applying skin prep and marking before a piercing and for setting up for a piercing but they are not appropriate for the piercing procedure as it is unknown what bacteria and pathogens may be on the surface. The vast majority of piercers in the UK use exam gloves for a piercing procedure. In other parts of Europe such as France it is mandatory to wear sterile gloves during a piercing procedure.
Sterile gloves are exam or surgical gloves that have been through tighter controls during manufacture to prevent contamination and pass through gamma radiation to sterilise them and kill any potential pathogens. They are packed and sealed specially to ensure they are sterile up to the point of use and can be donned without contaminating. The following video shows how sterile gloves are made.
Aseptic No Touch Technique
It is possible to carry out a piercing using non-sterile exam gloves as long as an Aseptic No Touch Technique (ANTT) is followed. ANTT means that tools and other mechanical devices are used so that the part of the needle passing through the body and the jewellery are never touched and therefor stay sterile until insertion. The majority of piercers will have to touch your needle and jewellery to carry out your piercing. ANTT is possible but rarely used in the piercing industry. An example of ANTT is during a blood test at the hospital. The needles and equipment used for drawing blood for tests are all designed so that the phlebotomist never touches the part of the needle entering the body.
Freehand piercing removes the use of tools and clamps for the piercing procedure. This means that the piercing is more comfortable and the risk of using contaminated tools is removed. A skilled piercer can carry out your piercing using just a needle and the jewellery. This method will involve the piercer having to touch your jewellery and needle with their hands so sterile gloves are required to prevent contamination. Sterile gloves have to be donned carefully and not touch anything non-sterile to prevent contamination. If the gloves become contaminated they should be removed and replaced before carrying out the piercing procedure.
At Rogue we use freehand techniques and sterile gloves to ensure your safety and to minimise the risk of infection.
There are different aseptic techniques but the main thing to remember is that the needle and jewellery should never touch anything non-sterile until it enters your body. Ask your piercer about the gloves they use and if they use sterile gloves.
That’s it for this week. Next week’s blog will be all about skin prep before a piercing. Have a good week everyone!
Sterilisation is a highly important part of piercing safely. Items must be sterilised during a piercing to prevent the spread of disease and infection. Sterilisation is used to ensure that Blood Borne pathogens (BBP) such as hepatitis and HIV do not get spread between clients. This blogs aim is to help you understand what sterile means, how piercers sterilise and how to check your piercer is using sterile items correctly. This blog isn’t aimed at teaching you how to sterilise.
THERE IS NO SAFE WAY TO STERILISE AT HOME. Boiling items, holding items over flames, using bleach and many other home methods are not safe. They do not kill or remove all the pathogens that could be on the surface. Attempting home sterilisation can lead to infections that could be life threatening. Always go to a professional.
What does Sterile mean?
The dictionary.com definition of sterile is “Free from living germs or microorganisms.” Within piercing we also need to clean as well as sterilise to remove debris as well as pathogens. Pathogens are microorganisms that can cause disease.
There are 5 classes of cleanliness for items. An item can be covered under multiple classes e.g. clean and sterile or dirty and contaminated. Items can fall under multiple classes e.g. clean and sterile or dirty and contaminated. Working from sterile to contaminated they are:
Sterile – Free from living organisms and pathogens Clean – Free from dirt and debris Disinfected – Chemicals are used to kill the majority of pathogens but not all Dirty – Known to have dirt or debris Contaminated – Known to have blood or other biological contaminants
It is important that your piercer understands these categories and how to prevent sterile and clean items from becoming dirty or contaminated incorrectly.
Piercers need to clean the jewellery, tools and equipment that they use for a piercing. A dirty item cannot be sterilised as pathogens can be hidden in the dirt or debris. There are different methods of cleaning for different items.
Jewellery can be cleaned in various different ways. The most commonly found in piercing studios are:
Ultrasonic Cleaner – These machines have a bowl that is filled with chemical or enzymatic cleaners that the jewellery is submerged into. The machine then vibrates the water at an ultrasonic frequency which causes voids known as cavities to form between the water molecules. These cavities will pull dirt and debris off the jewellery at microscopic level. This method can also be used to clean dirty and contaminated tools but a separate ultrasonic should be used for clean items (new jewellery) and contaminated items (used tools)
Anodiser – Anodising jewellery that is made from Titanium or Niobium will clean the surface due to the crystals being formed on the exterior. For a more detailed look at anodising check our previous blog post here. This method can be used on gold jewellery too but cannot be used on items that contain iron (e.g. steel jewellery or tools).
Jewellery Steamer – A jewellery steamer blasts dirt and debris off the surface using a high pressure steam nozzle. This method of cleaning is fine for new items but not for contaminated items. Jewellery steamers will spray dirt and debris over a large area so if the item is contaminated it will spray contaminants over a large area . This could contaminate clean items and workspaces.
At Rogue we use a combination of Ultrasonic Cleaners and Anodisers to clean jewellery and tools. We are happy to show you how we clean all the items for your piercing.
The furniture such as the work table and procedure bed/chair will be cleaned using a medical grade hard surface disinfectant. This will remove dirt and debris from the scrubbing action and will kill the majority of pathogens (as long as the disinfectant manufacturer instructions are followed). This will minimise pathogens in the piercing area but this surface is not sterile so it is important to keep fresh piercings off these surfaces.
There are several different methods available for sterilising items but due to size and cost not all are available to piercers. Some of the items piercers use are ordered sterilised using methods that are unavailable in piercing studios so we will cover those too.
Steam – Autoclaves are the most common method of sterilisation found in piercing studios. An autoclave uses high temperature and pressure steam to kill pathogens. There are very strict standards set for steam autoclaves and their are different classes of autoclave. Different types of items can require different types of autoclaves or autoclave cycles. Most commonly piercers will use a wrapped 134C cycle which means that items are placed inside sealed sterilisation pouches (wrapped) and heated to 134C (metal items). Other cycles used would be unwrapped (for items to be used as soon as sterilisation is complete) and 121C (for Plastic items that would melt at 134C). The most commonly found classes of Autoclave found in piercing studios are Class B and Class S. Both types are vacuum autoclaves which means that hollow items such as needles can be sterilised. A Class B autoclave will generally be used for wrapped items and a class S will be used for wrapped and unwrapped items. At Rogue we use a Class S Statim autoclave so we can sterilise and use items as they are required. The big bonus here is we do not minimise our plastic waste by not using sterilisation pouches.
Ethylene Oxide Gas – Ethylene Oxide (EO) gas sterilisation is an industrial process that it out of the scope of piercers as the equipment is large and dangerous. Some items such as pre-packed needles are sterilised using EO gas. EO gas disrupts the DNA of pathogens to kill them and achieve sterility.
Gamma Radiation – This method is also out of the scope of piercers due to the size and danger of the equipment involved. Also a license for using radiation would be required. Items that would be damaged by heat and/or EO gas would be sterilised using Gamma radiation. Sterile gloves are the most common item found to have been sterilised using this method. Gamma radiation also disrupts the DNA of pathogens to kill them and prevent them from multiplying.
If you ask your piercer to show you how your jewellery, needle and the tools they use are sterilised they will be able to show you indicators that go through the sterilisation process and change once sterilised. Sometimes this will be on the sterilisation pouch themselves and sometimes it will be an added item.
Your piercer should also have a log of all items that have been sterilised along with some form of indicator to prove the item sterilised correctly. This log ensures that items used for your piercing are safe and sterile.
At Rogue we are proud of our sterilisation methods and would be more than happy to show you our equipment, logs and methods.
That’s it for this week! Next week we will be looking at Aseptic Piercing Techniques and the use of sterile gloves. Have a good week everyone!
Stretched piercings can be found in cultures all across the globe. From stretched ear lobes to stretched lip piercings and even stretched genital piercings. Stretching can give a very distinctive look and as long as it is carried out carefully it is a safe practice. This weeks blog will be explaining how to stretch safely to prevent damage and have large piercings that last a lifetime.
Stretching is a simple process where larger and larger jewellery is inserted into the piercing over time. It has become common practice in the UK to use tapers to stretch piercings. This is NOT recommended as it is very easy to cause permanent damage using a taper. A slow approach that involves listening to your body is required to achieve end results that are free from scars.
How to Stretch Safely
At Rogue we recommend to use single flare glass plugs to stretch piercings. This is because glass jewellery is available in 1mm diameter increments and glass is the smoothest body jewellery material available so it helps to insert and for the body to heal around.
Stretching is a slow process! Do not attempt to rush or you can permanently damage your piercings.
Once your piercing has fully healed for a minimum of 6 months you will be able to begin stretching. If your piercing started at 1.2 or 1.6mm then we would recommend the first stretch to be to a 2mm single flare plug. This piece will be worn for 3 months and then a 3mm plug will be able to be inserted. This pattern can then be continued all the way up to your goal size. 3 months is recommended to allow the skin to relax and become supple again. When inserting the next size there should be no pain or forcing. If it hurts then stop and wait another month.
Tapers are a tool used by piercers for the insertion of jewellery. Tapers should not be used to stretch piercings home. Incorrect use of a taper can lead to splits and tears in the piercing channel and these can become scar tissue. Scar tissue will not stretch like skin so if stretching continues then the healthy skin will get damaged which leads to more scar tissue. If this pattern continues then there is a high risk of a blow out.
Tapers are rarely made from safe materials. The most common material is acrylic. Acrylic has been linked to releasing carcinogenic chemicals at body temperature. This will severely damage the health of a piercing over time and potentially your health in general.
Tapers are NOT jewellery. The weight distribution is imbalanced due to the long tail. Wearing a taper in a piercing for a prolonged period can lead to deformation of the piercing and even blow outs. There is also a much higher snag risk.
Tapers come in gauge sizes rather than mm increments. This means that they can expand your piercing more than the skin is able to deal with. If you look at the percentage change of circumference it explains how tears and scar tissue happen.
Stretching from 4mm example:
The next size from 4mm for single flare plugs would be 5mm. The circumference of a 4mm plug is Pi (3.142) x Diameter (4) = 12.568mm The circumference of a 5mm plug is Pi (3.142) x Diameter (5) = 15.71mm This means the skin has to stretch 3.142mm to accommodate the next size.
The next size from 4mm for tapers would be 6mm. The circumference of a 4mm plug is Pi (3.142) x Diameter (4) = 12.568mm The circumference of a 5mm plug is Pi (3.142) x Diameter (6) = 18.852mm This means the skin has to stretch 6.284mm to accommodate the next size.
The body just can’t handle stretching that much without damage. Different tissue types on different people will have different elasticities. We can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to your body. If it hurts, then it is too soon to stretch.
A blow out is when the skin from the inside of the piercing channel gets damaged and pushed out. A blow out is likely to be permanent. If a blow out is caught very early on you can attempt to reverse the damage by removing the jewellery for at least 8 weeks and doing twice daily massages using an oil such as vitamin E. Sometimes the tissue can be slowly massaged back into place but this does not always work.
If after 1-3 months the blowout is still there then the only option would be surgical removal of the scar tissue. This is a service that plastic surgeons and body modification practitioners can carry out but there are varying results and varying legality.
The best way to prevent blowouts is to not get them in the first place. Prevention is better than cure. Stretch slowly and your piercings will be happy and healthy no matter the size.
Almost any piercing can be stretched. Here is a video showing the Nostril Plugs of the Apatani women of North East India. These practices are sadly dying out.
If you require help with your stretched piercings, would like new jewellery or would like us to stretch your piercings for you then book an appointment using the book now button above.
That’s it for this week. We’ll be back next week with a blog all about sterilisation. Have a good week everyone!
Lumps and Bumps are a common occurrence in piercing. The vast majority are easy to deal with but take some time to go down. This blogs aim is to show you how to minimise the chance of bumps in the first place and also how to get bumps to go if you do get one. DISCLAIMER: We are not medical practitioners at Rogue. If you are concerned that your piercing is infected then seek out professional help from a dermatologist.
The vast majority of piercing bumps are NOT keloids or hypertrophic scars. The vast majority of piercing bumps are trapped fluid and are known as irritation bumps. A piercings official name in the medical world is a “Draining wound”. A piercing needs to be able to drain fluid to promote healing and keep pathogens out. This fluid dries and becomes the crust/secretion that piercers advise you to clean.
Irritation bumps are small bumps that form at the entrance or exit of a piercing. They can be caused by a wide array of issues. The main causes being poorly placed piercing, bad piercing angle, incorrect fitting jewellery, low quality jewellery, poor aftercare regime or lifestyle. Once the source of irritation has been found and remedied the bump will start to dry out and drain until it fully disappears.
Keloids are actually quite a rare occurrence within piercing. The medical world is still studying the cause of keloid scarring but it is now generally thought to be something that is passed on through genetics. Darker skinned clients can be more prone to keloid scars. A keloid scar is an overproduction of scar tissue that doesn’t stop growing and are very large. If you have had one keloid then you are likely to get more keloids in the future. If you think you have a real keloid on your piercing then you will need to contact a dermatologist as this is out of the scope of a piercer.
Hypertrophic scars can appear similar to keloid scars except that they form and then stop growing. Hypertrophic scars are generally darker than the skin around them as they have an excess of collagen within them. Hypertrophic scars look similar to surgical scars and again are outside of the scope of a piercer and will require a dermatologist. Hypertrophic scars are uncommon in piercing but can form if an irritation bump is left for a long period of time. Hypertrophic scars can go down on their own by installing correctly fitting jewellery. Daily massages with a vitamin e oil have been shown to reduce hypertrophic scars.
The best way to avoid lumps and bumps is to make sure you get pierced by an experienced piercer. If a piercing is placed where it is working against the anatomy or at a bad angle the likelihood of bumps forming is high due. An experienced piercer will talk you through placement positions to get the smoothest heal, select the correct size of jewellery and pierce at a good angle.
Downsizing after your initial swelling has gone down is another important way to avoid bumps. If the jewellery is left too large then it is likely to apply pressure to the piercing or get snagged a lot. Pressure and snags will irritate the piercing and cause the body to form bumps.
Wearing quality jewellery is key to a piercing healing well and this includes avoiding bumps. If the jewellery material is not safe for the body, the surface finish is rough or the design scratches the body then the piercing will become irritated and form a bump. We talk about quality a lot but it really is important to having well healed, beautiful piercings.
Caring for and Removing Lumps and Bumps
It is possible to get lumps and bumps to go down and heal nicely by following some simple rules:
1. Minimise all touching and prevent movement of the jewellery – a piercing being touched or moved means that the body is dealing with pressure and damage to the piercing channel. The first step is to make sure you aren’t touching your piercing and that nothing is pressing or pulling the piercing. Tight fitting clothing, headphones and sleeping habits are prime culprits to avoid here
2. No picking or scratching – You may be tempted to try and pick the bump away. Do NOT do this as the bump will just come back larger than before and you will open your piering up to risk of infection.
2. Get correctly sized jewellery fitted – if you never went back for a downsize or you think that the jewellery you have fitted is the wrong size then a simple step is to go and see your piercer and have them assess the piercing for you. If you are wearing an incorrect size they will be able to swap to the correct size smoothly to prevent damage to the piercing.
3. Wear higher quality jewellery – if the jewellery you are wearing has a poor surface finish, is made of unsafe materials, has exposed screw threads, is damaged or has a coating on then this may be causing the irritation bump. Swapping to a better quality piece will remove these sources of irritation
4. Aftercare solutions – making sure you are using a gentle aftercare regime that doesn’t involve any harsh chemicals (surgical spirit, hydrogen peroxide etc) and you aren’t pulling or moving the piercing during cleaning is an important part to getting bumps to go. Sterile saline solution is the preferred cleaning solution as it is gentle.
5. Home made remedies – Home made remedies from the internet will NOT help a bump go down. The bump may go away temporarily but it will return if the source of irritation hasn’t been found. We have come across a whole plethora of bad advice on the internet. Always remember that piercings need to be treated gently. Aspirin paste, tea tree oil and other chemicals have no place in caring for bumps. Aspirin paste is a type of acid that ‘burns’ the bump off only to have it return. Tea tree oil will block Oxygen from the healing cells and trap moisture in the bump so it cannot shrink. Salt pastes will dry the skin out, damage healing cells and cause ‘salt burn’ to the area.
If you would like more information about lumps and bumps then check out the website of our good friends at Holier Than Thou in Manchester here. Their head piercer Helen is a UKAPP member that helps the industry understand bumps through classes at the annual UKAPP conference.
If you would like help working out what is causing your bump and finding a way to make it go down then book a free piercing check up and one of our team will help you out.
Have a good week everyone! We’ll be back next week with a blog all about how to stretch ear lobes (and other piercings).