First off is the studio itself clean and neat? Is their used equipment setting around and /or does the studio seem dirty and cluttered? The artist and employees are in contact with this all day long, if they are willing to put their health at risk they will more than likely put your health at risk. Does the piercer consult you on aftercare and ask questions regarding health and etc.? Piercings take a commitment and additional care. A good piercer will make you aware of this before hand. Also, a responsible piercer wants to know if you have any health condition and/or sensitivity to the metal and other products they will be using. Do they use an autoclave? When in doubt ask to see it. Fun thing is that we are pretty damn proud of our autoclaves and are more then willing to show them off. Does the piercer seem stand offish, uneducated or unwilling to answer questions? Education is a big part of an artist's job. I consider it about 90% of the job. I love sharing my knowledge when ever I can. This is my art and my career. If the artist doesn't answer your questions before you spend your money, do you really think they are going to be there if there is a problem after they have your money? and more importantly are they going to have the knowledge to correct the problem. Ask, where and what their experience is, how long they have been piercing, where they did their apprenticeship or their training, where they worked in the past and anything else about their past that comes to mind. Understand that many high profile studios have a revolving door of employees and there is usually a reason for that. Weather it be never ending line of unskilled artists or a change in the studio's policies or management. Many studios state that they have a combined experience of let's say 25 years. This seem very impressive until you consider that they have 15 artist working for them and none of them have over 2 years working experience. This person is selling themselves to you, don't be afraid to ask questions and if you feel like you are being lead down a primrose path to an alternative universe, leave. Also, are they willing to Volunteer information that may change your mind about getting the piercing? Things like healing time, weather or not you can swim, refusing to do the piercing with improper jewelry and the risks involved with the piercing. A good artist should be willing to watch business walk away and refuse business, if performing the piercing may put the piercee's health at risk. This is a question of ethics. If their motivations is solely the bottom line they well promise the world, lie, cheat and distort the facts to get your dollars. Check around, talk to people that collect piercing. Nothing is ever as effect as first hand knowledge. That and most collectors love to talk about their piercings. As long as the first question you ask isn't, "Did that hurt?" Ask to see some photos of their work. Visit the studio and talk to the artist ahead of time. Just cause you are in the studio doesn't mean you have to get something done that day. Try to visit as many studios as you can and use your own judgment. Let the artist skill, knowledge and experience dictate your choice and not the price. The old saying "You get what you pay for.", holds very true with piercing. If studio A charges $25 to do a piercing that studio B charges $50.00 for the same piercing. Chance are that studio A has cut their overhead some how to get the price down. Most of the time, this cost cutting is a reduction of the investment in quality of jewelry, the experience of the artist and the level of sterilization and cross contamination prevention. the only cost cutting I do at the Axiom is advertising. The biggest thing is how do you feel about the person. If you feel uncomfortable or like your are getting the hard sell, leave.
This all also applies to tattooing.
All equipment, tools, needles and jewelry that the Axiom uses are wrapped in a proper wrapping, sterilized in an Autoclave and then stored until needed. For more information on the Axiom methods of sterilization and etc.. go to
An Autoclave is defined at http://www.xrefer.com as "A vessel in which high temperatures can be achieved by using high pressure; the domestic pressure cooker is an example. At atmospheric pressure water boils at 100 °C; at 5 lb (35 kPa) above atmospheric pressure the boiling point is 109 °C; at 10 lb (70 kPa), 115 °C; at 15 lb (105 kPa), 121 °C, and at 20 lb (140 kPa), 126 °C".
The most common cycle is 121°C under 15psi for 15 minutes. once an item has been autolaved it can be considered sterile and autoclaving is to date the most effective method.
The Concise Medical Dictionary, Oxford University Press, © Market House Books Ltd 1998 defines sterilization as "the process by which all types of microorganisms (including spores) are destroyed. This is achieved by the use of heat, radiation, chemicals, or filtration." and sterile as "1. (of a living organism) barren; unable to reproduce its kind (see sterility). 2. (of inanimate objects) completely free from bacteria, fungi, viruses, or other microorganisms that could cause infection."
First off see "Does a piercing hurt more with a needle or an Ear Piercing Gun?" in the Pain FAQ.
The number one problem is sterilization and cross contamination prevention. Since they are made of porous plastic they can not be autoclaved and tend to collect containments. Since, often they are used over and over and the action of the device when it pierces the skin can cause a spray of bodily fluids, they present a health risk. They are only safe when they are one usage and even then their safety is in question.
With needles everything can be autoclaved and sterile. Ear piercing devise and the jewelry were only designed for the lobe of the ear. Actually the devices were originally designed for cattle tagging. The jewelry type makes cleaning the piercing very difficult and often doesn't allow enough room for swelling. Also the jewelry does not work well or at all in other places of the body like the upper ear cartilage and nostrils.
Also you need to consider the knowledge of the person using the Device and the environment they are using the device in. Often the piercing is done int he middle of a retail space or in the middle of the mall. Even something as basic as a sink for the employee to wash their hands between customers isn't even available. The set up area is often used as a counter that is also used for retail sales. The employee also generally has no trying or understand of the concept of cross contamination prevention. Since their main job is not piercing and their other duties involve waiting on other customers, answering the phone and ring up sales. I have personally watched an employee at one of the local retail stores in the Des Moines, put on a fresh pair of glove, answer the phone, disinfect the lobes she was piercing, ring up a customer, take a drink of soda and then hold the lobes while she marked the lobe and then drive through a storage container to find the device. Just as she was about to load the jewelry, the phone rang, she set the device down on shelf where they kept hair products, answered the phone, took another drink of soda and at last pierced the lobes of the poor preteen girl. All of this with one pair of gloves. Why? because no one has trained her to not to.
I counted around a dozen surface, not counting whatever else was stored with the device in the container, that she touched. The scary part is it would only take one customer with Hepatitis B which under the right conditions can live on a surface for up to 28 days and you suddenly have huge health risk to not only those getting the piercing but all the employees and customers.
You might be thinking, it's only an ear lobe piercing, tons of people have healed them out just fine, the gun piercings are cheaper and I can start off with that really cool huge bling bling past diamond stud but why risk it. You have to ask yourself do you want your health or in a lot of case the health of your child at risk?