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Body Piercing - So you are thinking of getting a piercing

Where do I go?

Go to a registered studio/shop. Do not get a piercing done by a friend, neighbour or anywhere except a registered shop. Going to a registered shop reduces the chances of getting an infection as a result of the piercing. The shop will have been regularly inspected for compliance with the legislation including the infection control practices. All equipment used will be clean and sterilised.

Body Piercing is a popular form of body art. All parts of the body are seen as avenues for piercing with rings, studs and bars are being inserted in the face, neck, tongue, eyebrows, navels, nipples and genitals. It is important to consider all aspects of getting a piercing. You should make an informed choice about why and where you get it done. Think about the premises/studio, the piercer and infection control practices at the studio.

Body piercing is the process of penetrating a person’s skin or mucous membrane with a sharp instrument for the purpose of implanting jewellery or other foreign material through or into the skin or mucous membrane.

What is the legislation?

Body piercing is a high risk personal appearance service. The Public Health (Infection Control for Personal Appearance Services) Act 2003 covers this procedure. The piercer requires an infection control qualification before piercing anyone - HLTIN402C - Maintain Infection Control Standards in Office Practice Settings.

Age specific legislation for body piercing

In Queensland you are a minor until you turn 18 years of age. It is against the law to pierce the genitals or nipples of a minor. (Summary Offences Act 2005).  Your parents cannot give consent for this sort of piercing.

Consent

While there is no requirement for consent to be given, reputable operators will discuss this issue with you. It is a good idea to discuss any body piercing or tattooing with your parents. You may be asked if you have consent of your parents if the tattooist is concerned you may be under 18.

Why is body piercing a higher risk personal appearance services?

It is a higher risk procedure due to the risks of disease transmission. Contaminated equipment, unclean premises, unsafe procedures and a lack of infection control knowledge may potentially contribute to the spread of blood-borne disease such as hepatitis C, hepatitis B, HIV (the virus that can lead to AIDS) and a range of bacterial infections.

Infection control guidelines

Everyone in the body art/personal appearance service industry must follow the infection control guidelines and make sure good infection control practices are in place at their studio. Instruments, equipment and surfaces are cleaned between clients, contaminated instruments are cleaned and sterilised before reuse, the piercer washed their hands between clients and at other times when appropriate. Single use equipment is disposed of immediately after use.

What to consider?

  • Do you have a medical condition that might impact on the procedure or impact on healing? You may need to discuss this with the piercer.
  • Does the piercing site have any anomalies such as a rash, lump, scars, moles?

What to look for?

  • The shop is registered
  • Registration certificate visible
  • Premises clean
  • Operator is clean – no exposed cuts or wounds
  • Instruments sterilised and stored in sterilisation bags
  • The studio piercing area should be separate from the retail counter and waiting area.

What should I ask the operator?

  • You should ask any question that allows you to make an informed decision about having or not having a piercing.
  • Is your premises licensed by the local council? When was the last inspection?
  • Do you have an infection control competency? Is it HLTIN402C - Maintain Infection Control Standards in Office Practice Settings?
  • Explain the procedure to me please.
  • How do you clean and sterilise your equipment?
  • Is the jewellery clean and sterile?

A responsible piercer will operate from a clean and hygienic studio and should:

  • Answer any questions about their experience and infection control procedures in the studio
  • Ask you about any personal health matters which could indicate that you should not be pierced or tattooed
  • Outline any potential risks, complications and healing times
  • Wash their hands and put on new disposable gloves before starting your procedure, and following any interruption in the procedure where gloves may have been contaminated
  • Open sterilised, packaged needles, instruments and jewellery in front of you
  • Clean and disinfect the piercing, tattooing site
  • Encourage you to return so the healing process can be checked.
  • Provide you with aftercare information.

Piercing Guns

Piercing guns are designed to pierce a particular part of the body. They should only be used on that part of the body. An ear piercing gun should only be used on the ear lobe. Complications can arise if piercing guns are misused. Their use is exempt from the Act but the Infection Control Guidelines for Personal Appearance Services 2012 apply.

Reactions

Some people react to the metals contained in the jewellery. If you have a reaction, consult your doctor.

New piercings can become swollen and are at risk of infection during the healing process. Using the correct jewellery is very important. Using a short bar can result in your body reacting to the piercing e.g. a swollen tongue due to a stud that is too short. Infection can be indicated by increased pain, redness and an increase in the amount of discharge around the site of the piercing. Infected discharge is usually thick and yellow, green or grey and may have an unusual odour.

If this happens, do not remove the jewellery yourself go to your doctor or piercer and seek advice first.

It is important to note that a piercing should not be attempted if there is not enough tissue to support the piercing. Piercing flat areas of the skin may result in the piercing being rejected or migrating through the skin.

Your piercing may bleed a little during the process but not for a long period after the piercing is done.

After care instructions (very important)

Listen to the advice given to you by the piercer about caring for your piercing in the next few days. Serious infection can occur if the piercing is not cared for properly.

The advice may be along the following lines:

  • The piercing should be kept dry as much as possible.
  • Always wash your hands before touching the piercing.
  • Don’t play with, rub, pick or scratch at a new piercing as this can lead to infections and extend the healing time.
  • When showering use an anti-bacterial soap on the piercing site.
  • After showering/bathing use a tissue or cotton bud to dry the piercing. Do not use a towel or a face washer.
  • Avoid swimming until the piercing has healed.
  • Some antiseptics, skin disinfectants, alcohol based cleaning solutions, tee tree oils skin cleaners can dry out the skin and result in prolonged healing times.
  • Do not share jewellery with friends.
  • Any problems return to the piercer or see your doctor
  • Any other concerns contact your local council Health Department.

More information

Healthy body art – Pull-out brochure for consumers on Healthy Tattooing and Piercing

For further information in Queensland contact your local council health department or the Public Health Units in your area or the Communicable Diseases Branch

Health Insite: