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Labret Posts – Simple Right?

Neometal Threadless Labret
A photo of the Neometal threadless labret available here

Labret posts seem like humble little pieces of metal but they are the true workhorses of the piercing world. This week we will be looking at the importance of labret posts, why they are the shape they are and why we love them so much!

So to start with lets refresh on what a labret is. It is a Post with a disc on one end. The disc can be fixed or removable and they post can be threaded or threadless. The labret post is the part which passes through your body and the part that holds all the beautiful ends in place. Many different manufacturers make labrets but sadly not all are made equal. For a refresh on all of the different aspects of high quality jewellery then take a look back at our High Quality? Series of Blogs here.

Importance

Labret posts are one of the key reasons we have so many piercing and jewellery options available to us. Before labret studs the only options were rings and barbells. By changing the ball on a barbell to a disc, piercers were able to offer piercings in much smaller placements e.g. forward helix, with less space at the back e.g the labret piercing and for more comfort e.g. sleeping on lobe piercings.

Design

A CAD drawing of a threadless labret by Aiden

While they may seem simple there are a lot of design constraints. A labret must be sized correctly in post length and gauge, connection choice and disc diameter and thickness.

Length

NeoMetal: Threadless Titanium Labret Post - POST ONLY (16g and 14g posts  for 16g and 14g ends) - Body Jewelry
Labrets are available in an array of sizes, gauges, disc size and style

The length of the post for a jewellery maker is more than the piercer approach of ensuring the jewellery is long enough to not embed and not too long so it snags. The gauge of the post must be thick enough that a suitable thread can be placed inside with enough metal left to support the thread without breaking. 1.6mm/14g barbells were already around when labrets were invented but as demand grew for 1.2mm/16g and 1.0mm/16g jewellery the labret was ready to take the top spot.

Connection

Press-fit Jewelry
Threadless example from Neometal

Connection choice might seem simple. Just drill a hole either small enough for threadless or large enough to tap a thread. But threadless has been under patent since the early 90’s and has only just entered public license so this wasn’t an option for most manufacturers. For threaded pieces large taps could easily break the labret and smaller thread patterns can be weak and easily stripped. The solution was to settle on an unusual thread pattern for the smaller bars. 000-120 for 1.2mm/16g and 1.0mm/18g. For the larger 1.6mm/14g and 2.0mm/12g a much more readily available thread pattern of M1.2 is used. To top all of this off if the labret has got a removable disc then the post has to be long enough the the holes drilled for threadless of threaded don’t meet in the middle. Since threadless has become public domain we have seen a lot of advancement in the miniaturisation of jewellery and a rise in the popularity of smaller piercing sites such as forward helixes.

Disc Size

M&M Ends
An M&M Disc by Anatometal shown here

The Disc on a labret has 3 main dimensions; diameter, thickness and angle.

The diameter is important because it is used to balance the weight of the end placed on the labret. If the disc doesn’t balance then gravity will pull the jewellery down and the edge of the disc will start to irritate the piercing site. Diameter is also especially important during the initial healing phase as it prevents the body swelling over and embedding the jewellery. Conversely a disc that is too large will be pulled down by gravity and can pull the end into the body. It is all a balancing act.

Thickness of the disc can help to minimise any irritation of the jewellery in the body. If the disc is too thin it will essentially be knife edge scraping and cutting the piercing site all day. If it is too thick then it creates a corner that acts the same as a thin disc. The key here is ti find the balance in the middle and then polish the edges so that there are no sharp points that could hurt the piercing.

By angle of the disc we mean the angle from the post to the edge of the disc. We don not mean the angle of the post coming out of the disc. An easy visual of this is a Flat Disc compared to an M&M Disc. The reason for different angles is to allow space between the piercing and jewellery for drainage, to minimise sharp edges in soft tissue e.g. tongue piercings and to give more weight to balance larger ends.

When your piercer selects the labret post for your piercing they are taking all of this and more into consideration. No two bodies are alike and so our body jewellery has to be as unique as we are. Just remember that your piercer will pierce you with initial size and for comfort and a happy, healthy piercing you will need to go back for a downsize.

So hopefully we’ve shown you that we love labret posts. Without this humble piece of jewellery the world of piercing would be a much duller place! We’ll be back next week with another lockdown blog. Stay safe everyone!

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High Quality? Part 20 – Gem Settings

Gem settings are how jewellery manufacturers make sure the gems in jewellery don’t fall out. There are different types of gem settings and each has its pros and cons as well as bringing a different style to the final piece. This week we will show some of the different settings and their pros and cons.

Bezel

An Industrial Strength Bezel Set Synthetic Pink Opal – available here

Bezel settings give one of the simplest and cleanest styles of all the gem settings but don’t let their simple look hide their hidden complexities. Simply put a bezel setting is a cup or box that a gem sits inside, and the top lip of the cup or box is rolled over to hold the gem in place. This could be something as simple as a standard round gem or something more complex like an asymmetric piece. Bezel settings are great for initial piercings as they have less snag risk than other options and, when well-made, will have nowhere for crusties to build up and dull the gems shine. As the gem is enclosed in the setting, bezel set gems don’t shine as much as other options. When mass manufactured bezel settings require calibrated gems (gems cut to tight measurement tolerances) and a high level of quality control to ensure gems do not move or spin.

Pros

  • Minimal snag risk
  • Can hold asymmetric gems
  • Cleaner for initial piercing

Cons

  • Gems can spin if not set correctly
  • Gems aren’t as bright due to being enclosed
  • Jewellery has to be deeper to enclose the gem

Prong/Claw

A Neometal Prong Set Ocean Grey Swarovski – Available here

Prong and Claw settings are two names for holding a gem in place using small pieces of metal around the gem like claws. Prong and Claw are interchangeable terms. These settings are perfect for making gems shine and sparkle as the light can enter the gem from all sides. Prong/Claw settings are capable of holding both large and small gems but at smaller sizes the gem can get obscured by the setting or not have enough metal for a strong setting. Due to requiring less metal to hold the gem securely, prong set jewellery can be made smaller so are perfect for daintier options.

Pros

  • Lots of light play
  • Can hold asymmetric gems
  • Gives a lighter and daintier look due to less metal

Cons

  • More attentive cleaning regime required
  • Can obscure smaller stones
  • More expensive due to highly skilled practitioner required

Pavé

A BVLA Pavé set Swarovski Snowflake – available here

Pavé settings are pure decadence as an entire surface is covered with gemstones. To achieve this lots of small settings halfway between a bezel and a claw must be made. This is the setting choice for those that really want their jewellery to stand out and to show off the gemstones more than the metal. By embedding the gemstones into the jewellery the jewellery will need to be slightly deeper. Snag risk is low to medium with this setting as the settings are low to the metal surface, but there are lots of them.

Pros

  • Lots of gems can be placed tight together to create a unique style
  • Minimal metal is visible for a more gem based style

Cons

  • An extremely skilled stone setter is required
  • If the setting becomes damaged multiple gems can be lost

Channel

An Industrial Strength Channel Set Clear Swarovski End – Available here

Channel settings involve cutting grooves into a channel so that multiple stones share the same setting. This is a very secure method of holding gems but requires very accurately made gemstones and jewellery. As the gems and setting are completely enclosed the snag risk is very low with these. Due to the open space between the gems channel settings allow a fair amount of light play and sparkle but can allow build up of crusties so require careful cleaning.

Pros

  • Lots of sparkle
  • Minimal snag risk
  • Durable design for high friction areas

Cons

  • Cleaning can be tricky if crusties build up
  • Not many manufacturers available for body jewellery
  • Calibrated gems are required

There are many variations on these settings and some jewellery will contain multiple different types of setting. If you are unsure about which settings will work well for you and your piercings then get in touch and let us know what you’re thinking. We will be glad to help you find the jewellery of your dreams.

That’s all for this week but we’ll be back next week with more piercing and jewellery knowledge.

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High Quality? Part 19 – Education

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.

Apprenticeships

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.

Education - Not this guy please
When we say The Apprentice we’re not talking about Lord Sugar’s gang.

An apprenticeship would ideally cover the following subjects in a high level of detail:

  • Anatomy
  • Hygiene
  • Sterilisation
  • Sharps handling
  • Chemical handling
  • Customer management
  • Stock management
  • Bloodborne Pathogen training
  • First Aid training
  • Jewellery design
  • Materials technology
  • Troubleshooting piercings
  • 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

Education - No Schools
Piercing Schools are not recommended or respected by the piercing industry

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.

Conferences

Education - UKAPP.org.uk

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.

Shadowing

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

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.

Education - https://www.facebook.com/groups/UKPiercingProfessionals/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/UKPiercingProfessionals/ – A group for professional piercers. Proof of work must be given before access to the group is given.

Self Taught

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.

Conclusion

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!

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High Quality? Part 16 – Piercing Associations

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

APP - Association of Professional Piercers

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.

Aiden's Safe Metals Class at APP 2018
Aiden’s Safe Metals Class at APP 2018

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.

UKAPP

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.

UKAPP - United Kingdom Association of Professional Piercers

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.

UKAPP conference 2017
UKAPP conference 2017

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 Organisations

Other sister organisations to the APP have formed across the world. Notable organisations are:

VPP – Germany
LBP – Latin America
APPe – Spain
RuAPP – Russia

Membership

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:

First Aid and CPR training are requirements for association membership
First Aid and CPR training are requirements for association membership

  • 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!

Conclusion

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!

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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!

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High Quality? Part 14 – Aseptic Technique

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.

Gloves

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

Aseptic - A standard black examination glove
Aseptic – Standard exam gloves are fine for cleaning and skin prep but not for the actual piercing

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

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtFCpOjc5zc
Aspetic Technique – Ansell sterile gloves being made

Techniques

Aseptic No Touch Technique

Aseptic - a phlebotomist taking a blood sample with no gloves on is fine because they are using mechanical barriers for an ANTT
Aseptic – a phlebotomist taking a blood sample with no gloves on is fine because they are using mechanical barriers for an ANTT

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

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.

Conclusion

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!

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High Quality? Part 14 – Sterilisation

Sterilisation - Biohazard Symbol
When sterilising contaminated items it is important to understand Biohazards and how to deal with them.

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.

Cleaning

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:

Sterilisation - An Ultrasonic Cleaner
An ultrasonic cleaner is used to remove dirt and debris before sterilisation

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.

Sterilisation

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.

Sterilisation - A SciCan Statim 2000S Autoclave
At Rogue we use a Statim 2000S Class S Autoclave for rapid sterilisation and plastic minimisation

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.

Sterilisation - Chemical Integrators for use in Steam Autoclaves
Chemical Integrators are placed in each sterilisation cycle to show that items have sterilised correctly in Steam Autoclaves

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!

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High Quality? Part 13 – Stretching

A Karen woman from Myanmar with stretched earlobes

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

Stretching - Single Flare Plugs from Gorilla Glass. Available in the webstore here
Single Flare Plugs from Gorilla Glass. Available in the webstore here

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

Unsafe acrylic tapers

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.

Blow Outs

A example of a blown out earlobe

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!

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High Quality? Part 12 – Lumps and Bumps

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.

Lumps and Bumps - a piercing bump on a nose piercing
A piercing bump on a nose piercing

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.

Lumps and Bumps - A keloid scar on a lobe
A keloid scar on a lobe

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.

Lumps and Bumps - A hypertrophic scar
A hypertrophic scar

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.

Avoiding Bumps

Lumps and Bumps - A well healed pair of nose piercings
Well placed, correctly sized rings in nostril piercings that have healed with no bumps

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).

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High Quality? Part 11 – Rings and Bars

“Can i get a ring to start?” – We hear this everyday at Rogue. We love the classic look of a ring too but when starting a fresh piercing there are some caveats that must be followed to get the piercing to heal smoothly. This weeks blog is aimed at explaining how rings and bars effect the healing process.

Pressure

Rings and Bars - Image showing an angled stud
A well placed piercing sits at 90 degrees to the skin

Pressure is the enemy of a healing piercing and can come from sleeping on a piercing, wearing tight fitting clothing, the shape of the jewellery and so much more. Pressure on a fresh piercing will cause the piercing to become irritated and swell. Rings and bars can both suffer from pressure issues if the piercing isn’t cared for carefully.

For a piercing to heal well the piercing should enter and exit the body at 90 degrees to the skin. If the piercing doesn’t sit perpendicular (90 degrees) to the skin then there is a high chance of irritation bumps forming as well as an extended healing period due to the pressure being exerted on the entry and exit points. This pressure is constantly pulling and stretching the piercing channel and slowing down the healing process.

Rings and Bars - Image showing an angled stud
An angled piercing will lead to unsightly irritation bumps and a harder heal

Experienced piercers will even be able to predict where irritation bumps will form from the position of a poorly placed piercing. The bumps form to try and make the entry and exit points of a piercing to become 90 degrees and remove the pressure from the wound. The image to the right shows an angled bar piercing. The red areas show where the jewellery is exerting pressure on the body and the purple bumps show where irritation bumps would form.

Sleeping on a fresh piercing or wearing tight fitting clothing over a fresh piercing can cause a well placed piercing to become angled from constant pressure on the body. Once the piercing angle has been altered there will be a continuous pressure from the jewellery and there is a high likelihood of bumps forming. This is why piercers stress the importance of not sleeping on piercings until they are fully healed.

Drainage

Rings and Bars - Image showing a small diameter ring
A small ring will not block the bodies drainage and increase pressure on the wound leading to irritation bumps

As piercings heal they secrete body fluids. This secretion is a good thing as it is sealing the body from the outside world and preventing pathogens getting in and causing an infection. Excess secretion needs to be cleaned away during the healing phase to keep a piercing happy and looking good. The body will continue to produce secretion until it has grown fresh skin around the jewellery. The choice of jewellery can greatly affect how much secretion the body produces and for how long.

Piercers will generally recommend bars over rings for initial piercing jewellery as the diameter of the ring can affect how well the body is able to drain away secretion through the entry and exit points. If the jewellery is tight the body will not be able to drain and the piercing will become swollen. This swelling can cause jewellery to embed (bars) or to start a vicious cycle as the swelling causes more pressure (ring). The red area on the small ring image shows where secretion would build up due to being unable to drain.

Jewellery Size

Rings and Bars - Image showing a large diameter ring
A larger ring will minimise pressure and drainage issues

It is possible to start a piercing with a ring but to combat pressure and drainage issues the ring is generally much larger than snug style that we all love. If you have your heart set on a ring then the best course of action is to start with a stud and change out to a ring once the piercing has healed enough. If you really want to start with a ring then a larger diameter could be an option but this comes with it’s own downsides.

Larger pieces of jewellery have a higher snag risk. Snags, bumps and knocks can cause trauma to a healing piercing and this could set you back to day 1 or cause unsightly bumps to form.

Rotation

During aftercare your piercer will tell you not to rotate or twist your jewellery. This is because the jewellery will drag dry secretion and potentially pathogens through the piercing channel. When the piercing is fresh this could damage the piercing channel or cause an infection. A piercing with a ring has a higher likelihood of rotating through a piercing than a stud. It is possible to minimise this rotation by using jewellery such as BCR’s. The ball will cause a heavier side of the ring that gravity will pull down. This will minimise the rotation risk but it will not negate it all together.

Conclusion

Bars are the recommended starting jewellery for most piercings. There are a few exceptions such as daith, septum and PA but they have different anatomical considerations. The best way to get that snug fitting gold nose ring we all love would be to start with a stud and switch out once the piercing is well on it’s way to being healed. If you are determined to have a ring then a larger diameter, strict cleaning regime and even stricter no touching policy will be required. Whichever rings and bars you choose for your piercing the quality of the jewellery will greatly affect the bodies ability to heal as well as keep away the dreaded irritation bump. Keep it high quality.

For a more detailed look at using rings in piercings check out Jef Saunders Blog Post

Thanks for reading folks! Next week we will be looking into irritation bumps in more detail. Have a good week!