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A Guide to Piercing Parlors

By Morgan Pershing

GONE ARE THE DAYS of searching for the piercing pagoda at the mall in order to put some holes in your ears. No, piercable horizons have greatly broadened. Add to ears: eyebrows, noses, lips, nether regions, basically any body part a needle can fit through without hemorrhaging is fair game. And now there are whole shops dedicated to such a purpose.

Ways have changed as well. No more piercing guns, for instance. Widely regarded as unsanitary, this instrument has been replaced by surgical sharpened canulas (needles) and clamps. These days, in any respectable shop, sanitary conditions take precedence. Of course, misconceptions about piercing and its counterpart--tattooing--abound: "It'll get infected" or "Oh, you'll get hepatitis, maybe even contract HIV." Let's debunk some of these myths, probably created by parents to scare "sense" into their kids.

In reality, every instrument is thoroughly sterilized in an autoclave, jewelry included. In addition, gloves are worn to handle shop garbage to prevent cross contamination--and no, needles are not reused. California has passed laws outlining standards of sterilization, which are fully supported by the piercing community. In fact, they are the ones that started the move toward regulation. This industry isn't the rusty-needled harbinger of rebellion it's often made out to be.

Piercing has been customary in all sorts of cultures throughout human history. Perhaps piercing is yet another practice appropriated from other cultures, but in any case, Santa Cruz seems a particular Mecca for the pierced. Santa Cruz is also one of the few progressive cities to pass anti-discrimination laws regarding the bodily adorned. So if people won't hire you because of the way you look, tell them just where they can get pierced.

Anyone considering getting pierced should be sure to get it done right and to take responsibility for the care of any new body adornment. Definitely go to a shop; when it comes to needles, professionals know best. They've been apprenticed and trained for safety and accuracy. It never hurts to inquire about a piercer's training. Avoid those who have completed the two-week or one-month course in piercing. Opt instead for someone who served for at least a year under a reputable piercer and who has lots of experience. Yeah, many of us have pierced our ears ourselves or have had friends do it for us, but when venturing into less expected areas, it pays to do it right. Don't be your friend's guinea pig. And no safety pins!!

And speaking of jewelry, in addition to safety pins avoid low-grade metals such as silver (its high nickel content can be an irritant), acrylic and wood--though wood may look cool, be wary: it's usually safe but has been known to cause adverse reactions. Instead, opt for grade-2 surgical stainless steel (used by the AMA for surgical implants), 14-18 karat gold, surgical-grade titanium, surgical-grade plastic and glass.

Once pierced, your body is in your care. In addition to specific instructions, some general rules apply, such as leave it alone (excessive handling may lead to infection), avoid natural water sources that can carry bacteria and, most important, keep it clean!! Basically, treat it as an open wound, cause that's what it is. An infected piercing can lead to a bad situation. For example, the infection from a septum piercing can spread to the brain. But that's a worst-case scenario. In reality, a properly done piercing poses little to no danger to the piercee.

Morgan has pierced her ears and is ready to move on.

703 Pacific Ave., SC (423.3208)

1117 Soquel Ave., SC (469.3642)

628 Ocean St., SC (425.7644)

True Art
1430 Soquel Ave., SC (426-TRUE)

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From the September 22-29, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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