What to know before the needle: Your step-by-step guide to getting a piercing

Jon Dahl pierces sophomore Kelsie McFadden's ear at Black Mammoth Tattoo (Emma Witter | Collegian Media Group) Photo credit: Emma Witter

Piercings are a form of body art and self-expression that are becoming more widely accepted. For those considering a piercing, Manhattan has several options. Both Black Mammoth Tattoo and Syndicate Tattoo, two of the most well-known body art shops in the area, are just a few doors apart on Poyntz Ave.

But before heading straight down to Poyntz to get pierced, make sure to consider the following tips.

Findand consult with a professional piercer

Find a certified professional piercer to ensure a quality job. A good rule of thumb is that if a shop uses piercing guns or offers free piercings with the purchase of jewelry, it would be wise to look elsewhere. Piercing guns are more likely to spread infection, and most professionals won’t use them.

Jon Dahl, professional piercer at Black Mammoth Tattoo, has been in the piercing industry for almost seven years and is passionate about what he does, he said.

“If I could do it every day for free, I would,” Dahl said.

Dahl said his number one tip for getting a piercing is to “stay…away from the internet when it comes to getting sound advice.”

He said to instead bring questions to a professional piercer.

John Fitzgerald, professional piercer at Syndicate Tattoo, also said to always ask your piercer any questions that come up. Fitzgerald has been piercing for over 20 years and said he urges anyone with questions to come in and talk with him.

“I don’t charge to consult with people,” Fitzgerald said.

Kelsie McFadden, sophomore in secondary education, said she recommends going to a piercer who makes you feel comfortable. McFadden went to Dahl for her second lobe piercing.

“He did a great job of making me feel calm and prepared,” she said.

Fitzgerald echoed McFadden’s advice.

“If you come in, and we don’t mesh, find another professional,” Fitzgerald said.

Schedule a time, or just walk in

Fitzgerald said small town shops typically only have one piercer on staff due to lower demand. If you want to walk in without an appointment, it’s likely an artist will be able to fit you in.

However, it is important to set aside a good chunk of time to get your piercing done.

Dahl said a good artist shouldn’t rush through the process, and taking it slow can alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with getting piercings while ensuring a quality job. Just take a deep breath, and be patient with your piercer. Even ask him or her to slow down if you get overwhelmed.

The timing of your piercing in relation to your personal health is also crucial to consider.

Dahl said it’s important to understand that everyone’s body handles the healing process differently and that overall health will affect the healing of a piercing.

Even stress levels and sleeping habits come into play, Dahl said. So try not to schedule a piercing the same week you have five midterms to cram for.

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It’s easier said than done, but when you’re getting pierced, try not to think about that needle too much. This is especially important for those who get squeamish easily.

McFadden said she appreciated not seeing the piercing needle as Dahl was getting ready to pierce her ear.

“I know better than to show the needle,” Dahl said.

Take care of your piercing

One thing that most piercers agree on is that taking good care of a piercing is non-negotiable. Both Fitzgerald and Dahl said the key to allowing a piercing to heal is not touching it.

Anyone who has ever gotten a piercing at Claire’s has been told to spin the earring every few hours. Dahl said this could be one of the worst things for your piercing. He said it’s important to give piercings time and space to heal.

Dahl said he can’t stress that point enough.

According to both Dahl and Fitzgerald, a mild soap and saline solution are all that is necessary to keep a piercing clean. Dahl said to stay away from anything else.

Fitzgerald said some other professionals may not recommend saline, but “it’s worked well for 17 years of my career.”

Beyond keeping it clean, just leave your piercing alone.

“Your body is made to heal,” Dahl said. “Let it do its job.”