So you wanna get something pierced, huh?
Well, you've come to the right place. Unless you've already done a lot of research (in which case this node might not be of any help to you), you've probably got a few questions. Hopefully, this node will advise you in how to go about getting pierced safely and with a worry-free conscience (or parents, as the case may be).
Don't pierce yourself. Just don't do it. Seriously.
Find a Studio:
You'll need to find a piercing studio somewhere near you. There are a few ways to do this: you could flip through the yellow pages under "tattoos" (looking under "piercing" or "body piercing" will usually tell you to look under "tattoos") and note all the studios that say they do body piercing as well. These days, many tattoo studios also do body piercing and basically every piercing studio happens to be in a tattoo studio, though there are exceptions. You could also call 411 and ask whoever answers, but I've never done that so your results may vary. My favorite method is to ask anyone with a few piercings (aside from earlobe, standard cartilage and nostril, as those are often done at a mall) — you'll want to know the name of the studio, the name of the piercer who did the piercing, and any and all opinions on the studio, piercer, pricing, and anything else on your mind.
Once you've identified a few studios that are within your travel distance (whatever it may be), go to them all. (Find out what their hours are before you go, and get there a couple hours after they open because often if the studio is quiet, piercing studios close their doors a few hours early.)
At the Studio:
Meet whoever will be piercing you (hopefully, someone recommended to you by another who has been pierced by hir more than once); if sie's not there, see when you can come back to talk to hir. You'll want to know how long sie has been piercing (ideally five years or longer; my favorite piercer had been doing it for nine years). Sie should have a portfolio of photographs of piercings; ask to look through it (hopefully it's a big notebook; you don't have to look at every picture — especially the X-rated ones — unless you want to). Make sure the studio has an autoclave that has been serviced; asking to see the autoclave and its latest spore test (which should not be more than two months old) is not a bad idea either. Ask how often your to-be-piercer has done the piercing you want to get. See how much the piercing you want costs, and (even if you already know) ask the piercer about healing times, how much it will bleed, and the different kinds of jewelry you could have it pierced with. Does the price of the piercing include jewelry, or do you have to purchase that separately? Can you come back and get a smaller ring once the swelling goes down? Sometimes the piercer may even offer to have you watch the process with someone else; take the opportunity to do so if you can.
Then take a look around the place. Wander around the studio a bit (before or after talking to the piercer) and see that it's neat and there aren't giant cockroaches playing soccer behind the counter or in the bathroom. If the studio also does tattoos (this isn't a bad thing; it's just rare to find a piercing-only studio), poke your head in a tattoo room to make sure it's clean too and there aren't screams of torture coming from anyone in there. Most importantly, ask to see the piercing room and make sure the chair and room are clean. If you notice any nasty details, cross that studio off your list.
Do this at all the studios on your list. Ask each piercer all the same questions, even the ones you already know the answers to, just to make sure the piercer knows what sie's talking about. If you and everyone you've talked to knows your piercing will heal in three months, but one piercer says it'll only take a few days and never gets infected, don't go to that studio.
Get Yourself Pierced:
Once you've settled on a studio, the rest is easy. Call and make an appointment: sometimes you can just walk in, but it's not fun when you only have a half hour of time and there just happens to be a three-hour wait. Make sure that you will be pierced by the piercer you "interviewed." Just like any other appointment, show up around 15 minutes early, let them know you're there, and sit around. They'll make you fill out a form and should photocopy your ID. Then the piercer will bring you into the back room, sit you down, talk a bit about what's gonna happen, and stick a bit of metal through your body. Hooray, it's pierced! Now all you do is take care of it according to what your piercer said and you're golden.
What Should Happen:
An hour or so before your appointment, you eat a sandwich or something. Nothing real big, no elaborate feasts, but you do not want to go on an empty stomach (despite whatever you think or your friends have told you; trust me, you're all wrong). Don't take any painkillers, and do not drink any alcohol or take any other drugs. (The impaired-judgement part aside, alcohol and some kinds of painkillers thin your blood and could make you bleed quite a bit. Also, any respectable studio will refuse to pierce you if they notice that you're under the influence of anything.) You get to the studio early, fill out the form they give you, and wait until it's your turn. The piercer leads you into the piercing room and tells you to sit down in the chair. You get your little lecture on the piercing process; pay attention so you don't get surprised. At this point, you'll probably be asked to remove any articles of clothing necessary to reach the part of your body that's about to be pierced — only take off what's required (your shirt stays on when getting your belly button pierced, your pants stay on when getting your nipples pierced, etc.). After your piercer puts on hir gloves (if you're allergic to latex, make sure to tell your piercer before the gloves go on!), the area to be pierced is rubbed with a cotton swab and an antibacterial soap to kill germs (unless it's your tongue; then it gets dried out first) and the piercer puts little dots on your skin for the entrance and exit points of the piercing. Your piercer should hand you a mirror and ask if that's where you want it; check it out and if it's a little off from where you'd wanted it, say so. Don't worry about being picky with placement, because it's much easier to reposition the dots than it is to reposition a needle that's already through you. Note: the piercer's hands or equipment should not come near the area to be pierced unless they are in gloves or came out of an autoclave pouch.
The needle and jewelry are taken out of their autoclave pouches (that's a plastic-like pouch that the piercer will rip open and throw away) and might also be dipped in the antibacterial soap. The piercer grabs a hold of the area to be pierced (either with forceps or just hir gloved hands), tells you to take a deep breath, and sticks the needle through your skin when you exhale. While you're focusing on the fact that there's a bit of metal in your body, sie carefully pushes the needle out and the jewelry in, and a moment later, has the clasping ball on.
There! You're done. That was fun, wasn't it?
You might want to stay seated for a little bit; oftentimes your body doesn't like that sort of shock and it's common to get lightheaded which makes walking difficult. Don't be ashamed, it happens to almost everyone (including me).
Now, this is not the end-all be-all of piercing procedure; I am not a trained body piercer and have only my knowledge and experience and (admittedly shoddy) memory. My piercing experiences (well, the ones in studios) have included the above elements of procedure, although they do not have to be in that particular order; as long as the sterilizing and marking comes before the piercing, you should be fine.
Normally, your standard piercings don't bleed very much. If it does, your piercer has gauze nearby and will put it over the piercing to soak up the blood — there's nothing to do except wait until it stops. Taking the jewelry out will just make it bleed more (take my word on that one).
What you do to take care of your new piercing depends on what kind of piercing you have. With just about every normal piercing ("normal" meaning "common"), you should wash the area thoroughly with a liquid antibacterial soap, like the yellow Dial, twice a day. Clean both sides of the skin and the metal that goes through your skin: push the jewelry all the way to one side and gently wash the extended jewelry, then do the same thing with the other side. The first couple times you do this you will invariably yank the metal in a direction that hurts, but after a few yanks your body toughens up and you learn to stop doing that.
Weird pus-like stuff will come out of the piercing. This is nothing to worry about as long as it's whitish, that's called lymph and it's your body doing its job to fight infections. If the ooze is yellow or green, there's a good chance you have an infection, and you should call your piercer. This usually happens because you're not cleaning it enough or you're touching it with unclean hands, so cut it out. It is also quite important not to pick off any dried blood or dried crusties: it's very easy to reopen a tiny part of the piercing with your unclean hands and get more nasty germs in there. Instead of picking 'em off, soak the piercing for a little while and any crusties should come off easily. You can also reopen the piercing by just playing with the jewelry: your skin will try to heal with the metal and when it moves, it rips open the piercing again. Don't move it until it heals unless you're washing it or soaking it.
Showing It Off:
If this is your first piercing, just about everyone who sees it will ask you this stupid question: "Did it hurt?" The obvious answer is yes, getting a needle shoved through your flesh does indeed hurt. Try thinking of some creative answers to this question. You'll probably also get, "Why did you do that??" Again, there's an obvious answer, but it's much more fun to think of creative comebacks. Enjoy yourself.
If this is not your first piercing, those around you may already be used to you having bits of metal sticking out of your body, so you may not get much attention. Many people didn't notice when I got my nostril pierced (even though it had this huge ring in it), and there are a few people who I see almost every day who only recently realized that I've had my lip pierced (it's been in for months). A good friend of mine only just noticed that I had my tongue pierced (and that's been in for about six months)! However, if you have that many piercings, you're probably not doing it for attention anyway, so it won't matter.
There you go, you and your new piercing are developing a beautiful new relationship. Treat it well and it will treat you well!
SEF says [...] hey, dont forget to check with your parents if theyre supporting you or paying your college tuition. I've forbidden piercings for my college aged daugther. Unless she's got $40K for her eduational expenses. All good.