Educational Resources for Piercers 

Dear Ms. Angel, 

I was wondering if you have any suggestions on where I can learn more to become a better piercer? I know that my apprenticeship was lacking in a number of areas and I could use some help. I had plans to shadow some other piercers, but that all fell through because of the pandemic.  


often struggle with septum piercings, and sometimes have trouble with tonguetoo. Not that I’m doing any of those right now, but I’m sure I will in the future. Also, I have only done a few genital piercings (frenum and labia), but I would really like to know more. I turn down a lot of business because I don’t feel confident and didn’t really get trained. Honestly, I would like to learn anything that will make me the best piercer I can be. Do you have any recommendations? 


Your help is much appreciated. 



Dear W., 

Thank you for caring about doing a good job. That is an essential element of being a truly good piercer, in addition to expanding your skills and knowledge base throughout your career. I support and encourage your quest to continue your education 


There is a shocking amount of inept “professional” piercing still taking place throughout the US and around the world; so, I’m always happy when piercers take a genuine interest in what they’re doing. Through the online consultations I perform for the public, I see photos of substandard piercings daily, and sometimes criminally deficient performance by members of our industry. They do not appear to care about doing a good job, and it shows in their work. 


It is important for piercers to seek updated information and ongoing training throughout our careersThere are always new developments and improvements in techniques, tools, and products to consider. We should openly embrace useful tips and proven changes that could make our jobs safer or our work more accurate and effective. I, too, continue to learn and revise my practice and wish all piercers were open to the same. 


Online educationcannot take the place of in-person, hands-on instruction under the guidance of a qualified mentor. When it is safe and possible to shadow other practitioners again (perhaps after being vaccinated against COVID-19), that avenue is worth pursuing. Meanwhile, below is a list of more accessible means for acquiring knowledge to help your professional development.  


Association of Professional Piercers resources: 


  • APPhas presented online coursesi covering helix and surface piercings, bedside manner, skin prep, surface disinfectants, tray set-up, instrument decontamination and reprocessing, initial jewelry sizes and styles, and other relevant topics. They plan to offer additional virtual education options in the future. The organization also has piercing-specific bloodborne pathogens training classes online. 


  • The APPhas Facebook forums for membersii and non-members,iii where you can ask questions and review others’ posts. 


  • TheAPPProcedure Manual should be required reading for every working piercer. It is available in print or digital download from the APP website.iv The comprehensive guide contains everything from a piercers’ introduction to microbiology and infection control, right up through ethics and legalities, dealing with emergencies, and much more. 


  • Current and back issues ofThe Point, the Quarterly Journal of the Association of Professional Piercersare available for download (and to view online).v They are well worth reading. 


  • The APP website contains a FAQviand brochuresvii that contain all kinds of information and advice. Note that you are permitted to use the pamphlets in your studio even if you are not a member. There is an excellent new guide for selecting a studio in which to work,viii (and also a handbook with apprenticeship guidelines and curriculum).ixMy resources: 


  • One-on-oneonline piercer coaching! I’m offering customized instruction based on each piercer’s individual educational needs. These services are intended to polish the skills of trained, working professionals and to fill in gaps left by an incomplete education. This seems like a good fit for you. 


Primary topics include my areas of specialization:
• Genital and nipple piercings (in general)
• Structured tutoring on specific placement (septum, VCH, Prince Albert, etc.) using instructive materials including PowerPoint presentations with photos and video.
• Q & A conversations (unstructured) are also an option.

Other possible discussion subjects:
• Piercing placement/aesthetics (for all areas)
• Jewelry selection (style, material, quality, and fit)
• Portfolio review
• Bedside manner and client relations
• Studio practices and policies
• Aftercare and troubleshooting
• Business operations, employee relations, etc. 


  • Ioffer online (photo) anatomy consultationsx if you are in need of input regarding anatomical suitability and/or optimal piercing placement. Consults are also available to piercers (or their clients) for support and assistance with unusual or persistent healing difficulties. 


  • Videosxiof me doing anatomy consultations and performing piercingsare available.xiiThey primarily cover nipple and genital piercings, but some contain nostril, eyebrow, septum, navel, and tongue piercings. They’re not “how-to-pierce” videos per se, but discuss an array of specific anatomical considerations and important issues like asymmetry and tissue pliabilityI clearly demonstrate exactly where I place piercings to suit the individual builds and explain why each chosen location is optimal. I show the particular techniques I employ to perform the piercings including tissue manipulation and the use of receiving tubes and forceps, as well as my grasps for freehand procedures. 


  • More than ten yearsafter my book’s release, the second edition, “The Piercing BibleRevised and Expanded is finally in production and will be available June 2021. I joined forces with a fabulous contributor: piercer and educator Jef Saunderswho has written several guest articles for Pain Magazine. The fully renovated text contains an abundance of new information! 


Other resources: 


  • JefSaunders has a fantastic blog: Confessions of a Piercing Nerd.xiii It contains comprehensive articles with excellent visuals providing practical information for piercers. 


  • Participate in online piercer groups such as Facebook’s “Body Modification Learning Forum,” “Piercer Babes” for women, nonbinary, and trans people in the industry,and “Freehand Piercing Professionals.”xiv Though not formal education, our peers can provide valuable feedback and often have worthy suggestions and ideas to share. Even if you just lurk, you will be exposed to new concepts and critiques of others’ work, which can be instructive. 


  • Look for webinars from industryleaders such as Ryan Ouellette,xvBrian Skellie,xvi Luis Garcia,xvii and others.  


  • Check outYouTubevideos from those respected professionals. Otherwise, when it comes to taking advice or tips from videos, you have to use good judgment, because many of them look more like How-NOT-to-Pierce lessons. 


  • Review the updated NEHA Model Body Art Code (2019) to see if your facility and practices meet the established standard.xviii


  • Take an online anatomy course.xixDistance learning is available from many reputable educational sources.


  • If your studio sells fine jewelry (gold and gemstones) consider takingan onlinecredential course from the Gemological Institute (GIA).xx 


I wish you the best of luck on your journey. Be safe and maintain your drive to always keep learning! 














[1] Disclaimer: some of the older videos show me using a Sharpie for marking, which is no longer standard procedure. I use gentian violet/individual surgical markers. 









COVID Considerations

Dear Elayne,

Due to the pandemic my studio was closed until recently. Now that we are open, everything seems so weird and complicated. I was talking with the other piercers here about just getting it over with and not even trying to avoid catching the virus. We’re all young and healthy, so I feel like we should be OK. But maybe it would be better to wait for this to be over when we have the vaccine? If you think we should wait, what are some tips to keep us and our clients safe?

Thanks so much,


Dear N.,

First off, allow me to strongly advise against lowering your guard or doing anything to contract the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 intentionally. While it is statistically less likely for young, healthy individuals to become seriously ill or die of COVID-19, it does happen. Nobody is guaranteed a benign outcome once infected.

Understandably, much focus has been on the staggering death toll caused by the virus (currently over 211,000 in the US). However, there is something that might ultimately be an even more serious crisis: survivors debilitated with “long COVID.” Months later, many who got sick are suffering from ongoing conditions related to many of the body’s systems: neurological, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, immune, etc. Patients are enduring a broad spectrum of symptoms, including severe fatigue, shortness of breath, persistent cough, muscle aches, joint pain, memory loss, lack of concentration, depression, loss of smell and taste, and other maladies. Experts don’t yet know the exact percentage of COVID long-haulers, or the duration their ailments will persist, though some victims are expected to have permanent damage. Long-haul COVID occurs in plenty of young, formerly healthy individuals, including those with cases that did not require medical attention.

Therefore, you and your colleagues should do everything you can to minimize your risk at work and elsewhere. A primary defense strategy involves limiting the time you spend with other people, especially indoors. Naturally, this is challenging in a retail environment, but you can take measures to reduce potential exposure. Maintain a minimum of six feet distance from everyone in the studio, except when performing piercing and jewelry change procedures.

Work by appointment only and provide clients with an online release form to fill out in advance. Close your waiting room, keep the door locked, and admit only piercees and scheduled jewelry shoppers into the studio (one at a time, and no friends or family). Decline to pierce minors since a parent must accompany them. Create a comprehensive aftercare video you can share, instead of delivering verbal in-studio instructions.

Do not let anyone remove their mask on the premises and decline oral and nasal piercings, even if permitted by local law. Not all masks are equally effective. Don’t permit the use of neck gaiters, bandanas, styles with valves, or single-layer face sdcoverings in the shop—they’re not sufficiently protective. For your own safety, supply disposable surgical masks at the door to clients arriving unmasked or with a sub-standard model. Alternatively, have masks printed with your studio name and logo and distribute those.

It is vital to consult an HVAC expert to ensure that your building’s ventilation is optimized. Use a HEPA filter in your piercing room, and possibly the retail area, too.

You should be aware that many COVID-infected people are asymptomatic; the current best estimate is approximately 40-45 percent of cases. Their viral loads are about the same as symptomatic patients, and they may shed virus longer than those who feel ill. So, we must behave as though all of our clients and coworkers are positive and could transmit the disease.

Many businesses take patrons’ temperatures upon entry, but this will not be helpful with those who are asymptomatic. A more effective measure is the proper use of a fingertip pulse oximeter. This inexpensive, easy-to-use device is readily available online. It determines the percentage of oxygen in the red blood cells. Many with COVID-19 have low blood-oxygen levels (hypoxemia), even when they are feeling well. You can pierce someone with a normal pulse oximeter reading, which ranges from 95 to 100 percent. Values under 90 percent are considered dangerously low and indicate a potentially serious respiratory issue. Anyone testing at that level should be referred for immediate medical intervention. 

Vaccines will be a vital tool in the fight against this coronavirus, but unfortunately, they will not allow life to immediately return to normal. There will likely be multiple options, given that over 200 candidates are in development worldwide, and 35 in human trials. Success depends upon how effective they are and how many people get inoculated. Additionally, it is unclear whether a vaccine—or natural infection—will impart lasting immunity, as a number of reinfections have been documented. Vaccines will be approved once verified to be safe if they prevent disease or decrease symptoms in at least 50% of those who receive them. Interestingly, all of the COVID-19 vaccines being studied are intended to reduce the occurrence or severity of illness, but not transmission of the pathogen, (though nearly all vaccines normally do). 

I was stunned by this revelation because a vaccine that stops transmission would reduce the entire population’s overall exposure to the virus. It would protect people who may be too frail to receive or respond to a vaccine, those who do not have access or refuse to be immunized, and those whose immune response fades over time. This could mean the only way to get rid of the virus would be near-universal immunization, which is unlikely to occur. All that said, when a properly vetted vaccine is available, I am definitely planning to get one. In any case, widespread manufacturing and distribution could reportedly take years.

Sadly, this is the “new normal,” and it will be with us for some time to come. But we have to move forward, live, and work as safely as possible. Use good judgment and be consistent and unwavering in following all safety protocols—as piercers should already be accustomed to doing. Check the website of the Association of Professional Piercers for more professional guidance on piercing in the era of COVID-19.

Communication and Consent 

Dear Ms. Angel, 

I feel totally horrible about something that happened and I need your help: A lady had a VCH piercing and she couldn’t get the jewelry back in after an MRI. She wanted a reinsertion, and if it wasn’t open, to get repiercedSomehow, it accidentally ended up being both.  


I couldn’t get a taper in from the top, but it went in partway from the undersideAnd when I pushed (not even that hard), it came all the way through and somehow made a new hole on the top, higher up than the old one!!! I figured I might as well finish the jobI had to get a bigger taper and stretch it up more to get jewelry in. The client said that this hurt way worse and took a lot longer than her first piercing, which is not surprisingThis so embarrassing but I didn’t actually tell her what happened. It looked great and she left with pretty gemstone jewelry in a VCH piercing, so I figured it was all good. 


Then she called because it was still really painful and swollen more than a week later. She sent me a photo and it is noticeable that the jewelry is sitting in a new spot on top and not in the original placeNow the old hole looks swollen and like there’s a pimple inside it. I feeso bad about the whole situation, but I just didn’t know what to sayShe is supposed to come back in. Did I do the wrong thing? What should I do now? 

Much appreciated! 

  1. E.


Dear E., 

That sounds fairly traumatic for both parties. I understand your reluctance to disclose what occurred, especially since the client left with a VCH piercing, which was her intention when she came to see you. However, it is essential to have the skills (and the fortitude) to communicate effectively and truthfully with clients when something goes wrong. If you do enough volume, an unplanned incident is bound to transpire eventually.  

If something doesn’t go as smoothly as usual during a procedure but everything comes out fine, there may be no need to have a discussion. But if you end up missing your markbadly fumbling a jewelry transfer, or having some other piercing-room glitch—or disasteryou need the ability to be informativeapologeticand reassuring. Being straightforward is best, while avoiding any statements that are likely to induce panic or alarm. 


The time to fess up would have been when you initially realized that the taper had penetrated the tissue and that you’d accidentally forged a new channel. That way, the client would have had the opportunity to make a choice about her preferred course of action. You would have allowed her the benefit of informed consentIt is defined as “agreement or permission to do something from someone who has been given full information about the possible effects or results.i Lacking thisyou made a unilateral decision for her body. In situation that involves such a delicate area, a woundand something unexpectedinformed consent truly is necessary. 


You could have said something like this:

“Are you doing okay? That might have felt pretty tender. Soyou do have a VCH piercing, but something rather unusual has taken place. I was able to use a thin insertion taper to enter your piercing channel from the underside, as it was partially open. However, when I exerted some pressure to advance the taper, it suddenly popped up through the top. Unfortunately, it exited slightly higher than your original piercing. I did not exert much force, but the tissue there is very fine. I apologize if that was uncomfortable. 


Now, I’d like to go over some possibilities with you, and will hand you a mirror so you can see what’s going onOne option is to use a thicker taper now to stretch this channel so that we can insert your jewelry. It will be a lot of pressure and probably quite uncomfortable. But then you will have your VCH done. You should be aware that sometimes piercing near an old hole causes it to become inflamedAlternatively, if you prefer, I can just back out this taper, we’ll let the area heal, and I can repierce you in a few weeks using the usual technique. So, you’d need to wait to get your piercing. The decision is up to you. I’m very sorry this didn’t go as planned. Do you have any questions? 


This way, the client knows what has occurred and is provided with the opportunity to request more information and make her own choice. You will have express consent for your actions going forward. I realize that you found yourself in an unexpected and startling situation and that it was hard to know what to do. It is fine to take a minute to collect your thoughtsbut then you have to get it togetherspeak up, and acknowledge your error. 


It is important to find an equitable way to make it up to the piercee if you cause undue discomfort or pain, or if the piercing comes out improperly placed. That could mean offering a redo, a refund for the piercing fee, discount on jewelry, and/or a free future piercing, for example.  


Since she is planning to return, you have the opportunity to come clean. I think an earnest and humble apology is in order. Explain what happened and admit that it surprised you so much you didn’t simply know what to say at the time. Based on the description, you should encourage her to try warm, moist compresses to resolve the issue with the prior piercing. Instructions are available on my website.ii 


Though it can be challenging, being truthful when we make a mistake is the ethical path. Your failure to address this situation watantamount to lying. That is particularly inappropriate when a choice must be made that has potential consequences. Informed consent gives your clients agency over their own bodies, which is always appropriate when it comes to piercing, and it is especially vital in unexpected circumstances. 

Piercing Beneath the Mask

Dear Ms. Angel, 


Do you think it is OK to do nostril piercings right now if their mask stays over their mouth, and I am off to the side? (Today’s headline was “U.S. reports record single-day spike of 60,000 new coronavirus cases, and we just passed 3 million confirmed.) I was thinking that septum and oral piercings might be more risky because of where I stand and the direction the client breathesI don’t know how to decide what is safe and my health department is nowhere to be found. Thanks! C. 


Hi C., 


There is debate within the industry about the safety and appropriateness of doing “below-the-mask” piercings during the Coronavirus pandemic. In many areas, oral and nasal piercings (and jewelry changes) have been suspended due to regulations intended to control the spread of COVID-19. And in others—like yours—no guidance has been provided. The number of cases varies considerably by region and over time, so your particular circumstances must be taken into account when making decisions if no restrictions have been imposed. 


Experts say distancing plays the primary role in reducing the spread of COVID-19, but of course, it is not possible to maintain physical separation while piercing. Fortunately, piercers are already familiar with using personal protective equipment (PPE) and taking measures to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and our clientele. Sowe should be capable of carrying out any changes needed to make our practices as safe as possible. 


Cases are currently rising in many localitiesand massively exploding in others. If you’re in a zone with large or increasing COVID-positive population, it would be wise to decline to pierce the nose or mouth and require every client to remain fully masked while on your premises. It is safest for you to wear a mask whenever people (patrons or coworkers) are in the building, even if it is not mandatory in your location.   


I would also encourage piercers to wear a face shield or goggles—especially if you’re working on the nose or mouth. An international research team that analyzed 44 studies from 26 countries reported that eye protection could reduce the risk of infection from 16% to 6% compared to those not using the safeguard.i  


Research has also shown that the virus can linger in the air for longer than was previously believed. A widely disseminated open letter to the W.H.O. was signed by 239 scientists. It states: “Studies by the signatories and other scientists have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking, and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in air and pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond 1 to 2 m[eters] from an infected individual.” The researchers also noted that the problem of virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets in the air is especially acute in indoor and enclosed environments, particularly if ventilation is inadequate or exposure periods are extended. When a viable virus is suspended in droplets smaller than five microns, they are termed aerosols. For perspective, a human hair is about 50 microns wide. 


Since air quality is critical, every piercer should have a HEPA filter in the piercing room. Depending on local circumstances and the quality of your facility’s HVAC systemit may also be appropriate to place a HEPA filter in the retail area.  

I discussed the matter of below-the-mask piercings with over 50 colleagues. I found that even in locations where no prohibitions exist, many practitioners are not working on those parts of the body at this time. Others who are not forbidden will pierce the nostril but not the septum, or the nose, but not the mouth.  

Like you, a number of piercers believe that the direction in which clients breathe relative to their own position makes certain procedures safer than others. There’s obviously no specific research on this, but it seems relevant to know that aerosols floatmove with air currentsand can stay suspended for hours.ii 


Most who are performing nostril piercings believe that they are safer than oral piercings, which they’re declining. Given that swabs are commonly placed in the nose to test for the virusit is unclear if this is accurate. The coronavirus is spread from the mouth and nose when infected individuals talk, cough, or breathe.iii Yes, normal breathing—including from the nose—can release the virus into the air. Piercers commonly guide clients to take slow, deep breaths during the procedure. While this practice is helpful to calm and relax the piercee, it is now potentially dangerous if their mouth and/or nose is unmasked.  

If the client wears a mask except for the marking, cleaning, and piercing, then puts the covering back in place after you complete the procedure, there’s still a risk of releasing virions (infectious viral particles) into the studio environment. Evidence shows that face coverings are better at preventing others from catching an infection from the wearer,iv so allowing masks to be removed in the shop elevates potential risks.  


Extended contact is another factor for COVID-19 transmission. So, to diminish the amount of in-person time you spend interacting with patrons, provide access to an aftercare video with all of the information you routinely impart during your in-studio speech. It is also helpful to use an online release form that clients can fill out in advance.v 


An additional concern is the prevalence of “silent infections.” Pre-symptomatic carriers (who are sick but have yet to develop signs of illness) can be exceptionally Asymptomatic individuals who test positive but never feel ill also represent some risk of transmission. The most conscientious pre-screening and temperature-taking still can not eliminate these individuals from your client pool. We must assume that every piercee can transmit the virus and behave accordingly. 


Yet another consideration is whether frequent (or constant) maskwearing over a fresh piercing will cause irritation and healing complications.   


Our understanding of the SARS Cov-2 virus remains limited, and research is ongoing. As more is discovered, it will likely become easier to make sound decisions. Meanwhile, contemplate the information above, your own situational factors, and use your best judgment. (Be safe!) 


Nostril Piercing: Rings, Studs, & Angles

Ask Angel

Elayne Angel with Images by Jef Saunders

Dear Ms. Angel,

Do you think that rings are OK for fresh nostril piercings? If so, do you have any suggestions about the angles, depending on whether they’re wearing a ring or stud (nostril screw or flatback) for the initial jewelry? What if the client wants to go back and forth between jewelry styles—after healing, of course?

Many thanks, C.

Dear C.

I think both styles can be safe, though I’ve found that regardless of angle and jewelry size, very thick nostrils often don’t do well with rings. But above-the-neck piercings are no longer my area of expertise, so to better respond to your inquiry, I brought in Jef Saunders. He is an esteemed colleague who has written a few previous articles for this column, and he’s also produced several incredibly informative blog posts that specifically address your questions[i]. I highly suggest you read them and review the excellent graphics, which help to clarify many of the principles.

Additionally, I’m proud and delighted to say that Jef and I are working closely together on a thoroughly updated second edition of The Piercing Bible, which is due for release in June 2021!

Jef says:

Nostril piercings with rings are different than nostril piercings with studs. Using rings as initial jewelry can be safe and appropriate, but the main downside is that their curvature naturally causes irritation, and on some individuals that triggers bumps to form. If a client requests a hoop for their new nostril piercing, I think having a consultation and discussion with them about the pros and cons of different initial jewelry styles is worthwhile.

The client should be informed about several important points:

· Ring and stud piercings are (often) performed at different angles.

· The client may not be able to change from one jewelry style to the other and have both look equally nice.

· A curved hoop resting in the straight channel made by the needle can cause irritation resulting in bumps.

· A slightly longer healing process is to be expected when starting with a ring.

Piercers do such consultations all the time: we warn our clients about the potential issues tongue piercings can have on their teeth and gums. We caution them about the temporary nature of surface anchors. We explain that scarring is possible on every piercing. Following our explanation, we let our clients make an informed decision to get pierced or not. Getting a nostril pierced with hoop-style jewelry is no different.

I find that most clients want a snug, thin seam ring for their nostril piercings; but, the jewelry they must wear for healing would be larger, thicker, and have a captive or fixed bead on it. If they are willing to wait for the gratification of wearing a ring without a bead, and follow my suggestions, I will proceed. That said, I have found that most of my customers decide to start with straight “stud” style pieces, and then segue into snug, thin seam rings after the healing process.


Optimal placement for a nostril piercing with a ring is essential. Ideally, it would be placed more toward the tip of the nose, at the front end of the pierceable crest of the nostril. This tissue both flattens and thins out. It also tends to be the best place on the nose to achieve a snug, “cuffed” look for the ring. Sometimes the ridge of a nostril can accommodate several hoops of the same diameter, but in most cases, as you place the ring further back, the diameter must be larger to fit.

One suggestion is the use of a handy tool called a size placement ring, or SPR for short. I was introduced to them by the Fakir Intensives.[ii] SPRs are just niobium captives without the beads, in a variety of sizes. You can distinguish the SPRs from your inventory by anodizing each hoop in two different colors.

When piercing with a ring, I will make a dot on the cleaned nostril with a disposable gentian violet marker, and then place an SPR on the mark. In

some cases, I will need to open the SPR larger than the size of the bead. Take this into account, as you may need to go with a larger diameter for the jewelry selection. The SPR helps me to determine the appropriate diameter, and also helps my client to visualize the size and angle of the piercing beforehand.

I find that many clients want a hoop that is impossibly tight. But the jewelry needs to accommodate some swelling and provide a small amount of space, so it doesn’t rub on the skin of the nostril. Therefore, they must be willing to heal with a ring that is larger than what they envisioned.


On a few clients with very narrow noses, the angles for snug hoop piercings and appropriately placed stud piercings are virtually the same. Both are perpendicular to the tissue, and both result in aesthetically pleasing piercings on this type of anatomy. But on a nose that is broader with a more pronounced flare to the nostril, the angle is significantly different for a ring and a stud. Piercing perpendicular to the tissue would cause the hoop to stick out too far. For the best results with a ring, the angle of the piercing for the average nostril tends to be almost parallel with the floor or tilted very slightly downward.

Ring-style Jewelry Options

Captive bead rings: “CBRs” are the old standby and I still like them for nostrils with hoops. l strongly suggest stocking several “half” sizes (9/32” and 11/32”). I prefer 18 gauge for nostrils with rings, as the curvature of the jewelry through the fistula tends to be even more irritating at 20 gauge. For some, jewelry as thick as 16 gauge will look appropriate, though the majority of piercees prefer thinner. Most of my clients opt to wear the bead on the inside of their nostril, so it isn’t visible.

Fixed bead rings: Obviously, these are very similar to CBRs, but they are available with slightly smaller beads than the ones commonly used in captives. This can make it easier to conceal the closure inside the nose. And, of course, there’s no possibility of losing a bead when it is attached.

Seam rings: I advise against starting a piercing with this style, as the small seam can be irritating and is a great place for bacteria to gather. Some colleagues will use a seam ring as initial jewelry with a small sterilized O-ring over the seam. This seems like an elegant solution to the problem,

although an O-ring seems as visible as a captive or fixed bead (if not more obvious).

Nostril nails: After healing, the nostril nail is an excellent option for clients who like to change jewelry regularly. It can also be modified without the use of tools to be slightly snugger than a traditional ring.

When we elect to use a hoop initially we need to acknowledge that the piercing will be more prone to irritation if the angle is not perpendicular to the tissue. That doesn’t mean we need to completely avoid it. If the client is informed and agreeable, and will wear appropriate jewelry throughout healing, then piercing with a ring can be safe and successful.

Insertion Fees and Appointment Bookings

Ask Angel 

Elayne Angel 


Dear Ms. Angel, 


Sorry, but I need to rant: So many people have been getting messed up piercings and coming in to have me fix them (change the jewelry, give aftercare info, etc.)and then they don’t even tip me! It seems half of them stop in here first, go get hacked for dirt cheap somewhere else, and then come back for me to fix it. Aaagh! They’re taking up A LOT of my time and energyI have always done free insertions and jewelry changes, and I don’t want seem greedy, but I’m starting to feel over it. If you think people should payI would welcome suggestions on how much to charge.  


Also, we have been doing only walk-ins but I want to start accepting appointments too. However, I don’t really know how to go about itYour guidance would be much appreciated.  


Thank you, 

Dear M. 

Your frustration is understandable! I think it is wise to request some input and a fresh perspective, though what works for one business won’t necessarily be the best approach for anotherRemember that it is okay to experiment with a new policy or procedure in order to determine the best solutions for your situation. If, after a solid trial, you find that something isn’t working well, then you can switch back to the old method, or attempt another new one.  



I did some investigating about current industry practices regarding jewelry swaps, reinsertions, stretches, and so on. It turns out that many studios do not provide such assistance gratis. It appears quite common to assess a “tray set up,” “materials fee, or “service charge” between five and twenty dollars, depending on geographic location (and prevailing piercing rates), how much time the client requires, and so on.  


Performing these services takes resources like gloves and other disposable supplies, and often requires the use of tools like tapers or hemos that need to be reprocessed (or discarded, if you have a disposable studio). Passing some of the costs along to your clientele is not at all greedy or out of line. And, as we all know, dealing with jewelry changes can end up taking even longer than a piercing. 

As a courtesy, I think it is reasonable to replace the jewelry in a healed piercing at the time of a new purchase without additional cost—especially a same-gauge itemWhen the new ornament is thicker, the piercing is troubled, the channel is empty, or there are other complicating factors, a charge would be fairSimilarly, if youre asked to remove jewelry—especially if it wasn’t purchased in your studio, requiring a payment is just.  

Having a flexible fee structure with an established minimum is sensible, since so many different situations are possible, and the amount of time, technical expertise, and equipment required will vary considerably. You can always choose to give a discount if the piercing was done in-house, the individual is a regular, or they are purchasing high-end jewelry. Also, for piercings done at the studio, I believe it is best not to charge extra for initial jewelry downsizes that must be done for safetyas is common with oral piercings. 

For piercees who are more independent, I sold insertion tapers and would happily share information so that they could swap out their own jewelry in healed piercings. I always insisted clients come in for any changes that became necessary during healing, however.  

Some studios also charge a consult fee ($10 seems most common) to evaluate a troubled piercing that was done elsewhere. This is certainly warranted in cases of people requesting advice after getting cartilage, nostril, or other piercings with a gun, or other inferior work—especially if they’d come in and inquired about piercing before getting hacked. See my article in issue #209, “Dealing with Difficult Clientsi, (October 2019) for more support. 

You have no reason to feel guilty or apologetic charging for the professional services you render! For example, you wouldn’t expect a hair salon to trim your bangs for free, even you got your hair cut there some weeks priorAnd your mechanic wouldn’t be expected to do a complimentary oil change just because you stopped by while in the neighborhood. Those professionals feel perfectly justified in collecting money for their services—and so they should, as should you. When piercers devalue ourselves, we train our clients to devalue us as well. Charge what you are worth! 



Accepting bookings in advance allows you to reward those who’ve planned ahead by serving them first, and it helps you to prepare for your day by anticipating at least some of your workload. I don’t think there’s any downside to it (when handled well), especially if you also take walk ins, which should be feasible unless your shop is super high volume. In my studio, we usually had two piercers on duty, which allowed for assisting someone in each category at the same time, but this is not required for success with pre-booked appointments 


Be totally honest with your walk-in patrons about how long they can expect to wait, or they’re likely to end up extremely disgruntled. Always offer to schedule a future appointment, so they can avoid hanging around for you to finish with your bookings, if that is their preference 


I have several colleagues who informed me that their monthly figures went way up when they began to offer online scheduling. There are many appointment-booking apps and services you can use to automate the task. Make sure to select one that allows you to record manual entries, too.  

Free and low-cost systems are available, so you don’t need to make a big financial commitment to give it a whirl. Carefully set up your account to accept bookings only during your available hours!  


I strongly suggest using a service that integrates taking deposits to confirm the appointments, which is a fundamental part of many of the available options. You may elect to require a deposit for half of the piercing fee up front, some other percentage, or the full amount. The latter is safest to encourage maximum compliance. Once someone has pre-paid a non-refundable deposit for a piercing, they will feel strongly encouraged to show up; and, only those who are serious about coming in will be likely to follow through with the reservation process 


You must have crystal clear policies posted so that online appointment booking doesn’t cause more problems than it resolves. Include your fee structure, minimum initial jewelry costs, ID requirements, and anything you need your clientele to know, including a comprehensive (and easily accessible) cancellation/refund/rescheduling policyiiClarify how clients should contact you in the event of questions or issues, whether by email, phone, or social media. My instructions include a link to my aftercare guidelines (which I also provide verbally, of course), advice to eat a light meal one to two hours before the appointment, and the following: 


Your deposit will be forfeit (lost): 

  • If you fail to appear, or cancel last minute. 
  • If you are more than 8 minutes late for your half-hour appointment. Yes, 8. 
  • If you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol (zero-tolerance policy). 
  • If you do not present valid photo ID (driver’s license, passport, or military ID). 


I hope some of the ideas above will prove helpful to you. 

Attitudes and Policies

Ask Angel

Elayne Angel

A few topics have come up recently that I wanted to address, so this month’s column is a discussion rather than a Q & A.

A woman contacted me for an online consultation and I was quite shocked at the placement of her piercing. She’d gone to a local studio for a triangle piercing but ended up with a long barbell through a small amount of tissue at the juncture of her inner labia and clitoris, which was far south and forward of where it should have been.

I messaged the piercer (which I often do for my consult clients) and sent him an image that the piercee had provided. I annotated the photo to show where the piercing should have been located. I inquired about the source of his training and also included a link to the page on my site that covers the triangle piercingi. I explained that it was my intention to share information in the hopes that he would be amenable to learning and improving. He responded:

Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention, and for doing so in a professional and positive manner. My mentor was a woman and she trained me on genital piercings, including triangles, during my apprenticeship back in 2000, so I’ve been doing this for very near 20 years now. But you made me realize that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to this piercing.

I’m more than happy to give the client a full refund and I’m going to stop offering this service until I can get some further education. I plan to get properly trained up so this won’t happen again. I’ve followed your career for many years and have lots of respect for you. Thank you for everything you do for this industry.

I really appreciated this piercer’s honesty, humility, and desire to learn. This approachable attitude earned my full support, and I’m doing everything I can to help bring him up to speed. I offered to share my PowerPoint presentation about the triangle piercing, which he eagerly accepted. I’m confident that the course materials will clarify where the piercing should go, though I issued some disclaimers: the information was not a substitute for hands-on training with a qualified mentor; and, viewing my seminar content in no way meant that he had been trained by me.

He appreciated my disclosure about a similar incident from years ago, when another piercer had the same reaction to being contacted about an improperly placed triangle. (I see a lot of them.) He later told me it was just the wake-up call he’d needed, subsequently got suitably trained, and is now a respected colleague to whom I refer clients!

On the other hand, I had another situation recently in which a woman received a triangle by a different piercer. That piercing was much closer to properly placed, but one side of it was too far forward. This resulted in the jewelry resting at an outward angle on that side, causing excess irritation and discomfort.

Even this gentle message I sent was met with a much less amenable response:

I want to say that we are all human, and we all do piercings that don’t come out as intended, myself included. It is evident that you do know where a triangle piercing should be placed, and I believe that you planned to position it perfectly. But that’s not how it turned out. (I can only imagine how hard it is to do a triangle piercing freehand!)

In any case, the client returned, and you agreed that the piercing was off enough to redo it, which was my assessment as well. I think it is always reasonable to offer a redo. However, she was uncomfortable to have you perform it again, which is also understandable. Therefore, I believe it is entirely appropriate to give her a full refund for the piercing fee.

Even if you have a general “no refunds” policy, I feel that this would be a time to circumvent it. Would you reconsider your decision and return her payment for the service fee? That seems an appropriate solution to the issue and would satisfy a client who did get a misplaced piercing.

This piercer became defensive. She talked about having an extended consultation in which she assessed the client’s anatomy as “borderline.” She said that the woman’s VCH was “barely healed (possibly a bit tight/swollen), which complicated things.”

She defended her “no refunds” policy, feeling it sufficient to offer a complimentary redo in cases where placement is off. She said, “In this case, our policy is more justified after the consultation I had with her expressing my concerns about her anatomy.” But, after hearing this history, I believe that the piercer should have declined rather than perform the piercing—at least at that time. When a customer desires a certain piercing (even if adamant about getting it), we are not obligated to accommodate them. It seems the best thing for everyone would have been for the piercer to postpone.

My opinion is that we should never perform piercings we don’t feel good about. In researching this article, I saw surprising number of piercers stating that they wouldn’t offer a refund on a piercing that was placed where the client insisted (but in a spot they didn’t approve of). Every piercing you do should meet your standards for placement, and each piercee should fulfill all requirements for suitability, regardless of how persistent or pushy they act.

I wouldn’t want my name and reputation associated with any sub-optimal piercing, whether related to their requested placement or inopportune timing. You should politely decline if the piercing would be unaesthetic. And you should postpone if there’s a fresh piercing nearby, as in

the example above, or due to ill health, or any known lifestyle factor that might contribute to healing complications such as upcoming travel to the beach or intensive athletic training.

I also want to touch briefly on the topic of “fault.” I frequently hear the victims of poorly placed piercings reflect the voice of the practitioner saying, “Oh, it is my fault because I moved.” Unless the piercee moves just before the puncture commences, I blame the piercer. We pierce every day—that’s our profession. We should know that, in response to being stuck with a sharp object, some clients will move. Therefore, I feel it is our own responsibility to prepare for that eventuality, and to be skillful enough to manage our procedures effectively and safely. Please don’t blame your clients for your own errors, and be accountable for your actions.

Naturally, when a piercing doesn’t turn out right through the fault of a piercer, the patron should have the option to be repierced at no cost. But piercing is a service industry that commonly entails a fair amount of anxiety (or genuine fear), and discomfort (or some actual pain) for our clients. Therefore, I feel very strongly that if the piercee does not wish to undergo to the needle again, they should be entitled to receive a full refund of the service fee.

Finally, I want to encourage all of us to remain open to learning, improving, and growing as piercers. Seeking ongoing education and being receptive to constructive input can only make us better at what we do. i

Piercer Burnout


I have been a piercer for seven years and there’s nothing I would rather do. I still love piercing, but I’ve been having a hard time at work for a while now. We have gotten busier and busier, which is great for tips, but I’m swamped doing piercings, dealing with customers, studio maintenance, jewelry inventory, and everything else I have to do. My boss is a decent guy but never gives me any props no matter how hard I bust my ass.

I’m sleeping like crap and am always tense and worn out. My stomach aches all the time. I feel irritated, distracted, and I’m constantly checking the clock to see how long until I can go home. I was always so into it, but now I’m just going through the motions, which is not like me at all. I really don’t know what to do. Please help me!

Thank you, O.

Hi O.,

What you’re describing sounds distinctly like job burnout: a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by extreme and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, drained, and unable to meet the constant demands of your employment.

Burnout is more serious than routine stress and it is accompanied by a sense of disillusionment with your job.It primarily affects people who are profoundly identified with their work and passionate about their careers. As piercers, many of us derive our sense of identity and self-worth from our profession. I know I do. Piercing isn’t just what we do—it’s who we are.

Virtually every occupation has some aspects that are tedious or difficult. Piercers deal extremely closely with people all day. Our clients are frequently indecisive or anxious, which is particularly draining and can require tremendous patience and reassurance. Also, the repetitiveness of verbally conveying aftercare guidelines can tax the interest and motivation of even the most dedicated pro. Feeling like you can never catch up–no matter how much time or energy you put in—is demoralizing, nerve-wracking, and regularly leads to the types of unpleasant consequences you’re experiencing.

Fatigue, pain, frequent illness, and sleep disturbances are common physical indicators of burnout. Emotional symptoms often include lack of energy, feelings of emptiness or hopelessness, and impatience or frustration with clients or co-workers. Behavioral signs can consist of absenteeism, loss of focus, and increased alcohol consumption or substance abuse.

Job performance is likely to deteriorate, too.When a piercer experiences burnout, needle stick injuries could occur, or clients might suffer from botched piercings. Burnout commonly spills over into your personal life as well, negatively impacting relationships with friends and loved ones.

Any combination of undesirable factors can potentially lead to burnout:

• Excessive workload, especially when combined with inadequate compensation

• Lack of recognition for your efforts, inadequate support from management, or other dysfunctional workplace dynamics

• Monotonous or repetitive tasks

• Insufficient down time (work-life imbalance)

Burnout is serious but fortunately it is reversible, so don’t let it be the end of your career.

Address burnout by taking a vacation as soon as you possibly can. Plan for some genuine all-out leisure and forget about the studio until your return. Rest, relax, and enjoy yourself. Right now,a vacation isn’t a luxury; it is as necessary as eating. A solid break can do wonders to provide a fresh perspective and rejuvenate you. American employees take only half of their eligible paid leave and time off. If you get vacation days, use them!

Contemplate the deeper impact of what you do and try to rediscover your purpose.Consider how your calling makes life better for other people: improving their self-esteem and body image, empowering them, etc.

Feeling more in control of your tasks can help to minimize negativity. Review your efficiency to make sure you’re optimally effective and managing your time as well as possible. Set priorities and identify any duties that could be postponed or omitted from your to-do list.

Every competent manager knows that happy employees are more productive,so it would be advisable to let your boss know that your responsibilities are overwhelming you. Be prepared to offer practical solutions for delegating certain assignments or otherwise reducing your burden. If you think he really does value your efforts, gently bring up the lack of appreciation, too. Hopefully, together you can reach compromises and revise expectations to make your work more viable.

Some of the methods I’ve used to keep myself from sinking into the burnout pit are outlined below:

Practice self-care; it really can help. Physically mistreating or neglecting yourself limits your ability to function and will affect your capacity to deal with your obligations and demands. Eat regularly (fresh, healthy food is best), stay hydrated, and don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. Consistently practice stress-reduction measures like meditation and exercise, whether yoga, gym workouts, or team sports. Find ways to de-stress during the week. Take up a hobby you can immerse yourself in for a few hours weekly like rock climbing, martial arts, music lessons, crafting, volunteering, or something else that interests you.

I take note of people who do jobs that are much less desirable than mine and experience gratitude for the enjoyable parts of my profession. I remind myself how lucky I am (not just saying the words, but really feeling the sentiment) to have a vocation that has such rewarding aspects.

I celebrate the exceptional encounters when I truly connect with a client. Cultivate those peak experiences by sharing a little more of the real (but professional) “you” when you click with a piercee and concentrate on those peak moments.

My hand-washing ritual is my reset button. While I’m at the sink preparing for a piercing, as my hands are going through the familiar motions of scrubbing and rinsing off dirt and germs, I use the time for the equally essential task of clearing my mind centering myself. I wash away the previous part of the day and begin fresh. I bring myself into the present and zone in my focus for the all-important duty at hand: to do my utmost, right here, right now.

Keep challenging yourself. Even though I have performed tens of thousands of piercings, I try each time to make the procedure smoother, gentler, and more perfect than any I’ve done previously. Refuse to let yourself pierce on auto pilot. Concentrate, and challenge yourself with every client.

Get a new piercing. If it has been a while and you’ve lost the sense of what it is like on the other side of the needle, go through the experience yourself with the intention of appreciating the unique magic of piercing—and recapturing your empathy for the people who are on the receiving end of your labors.

Connect and communicate with other piercers. The APP conferences and Camp APP members’ retreats are incredibly motivating and restorative. Regularly interacting and bonding with other piercers either locally or online (such as in Facebook forums) can be a fantastic support, too.

All occupations have pros and cons. If there’s nothing you’d rather do than piercing, I’d advise you to seek employment at another studio before giving up on your career. See my recent Pain Magazine articles, “The Importance of Sleep” and “Dealing with Difficult Clients,” for some additional helpful ideas.

Hopefully you’ll be able to weather the tough times using some of my tips, techniques, and suggestions.



Online Bullying


Dear Elayne Angel,

I don’t know if this is something you can help me with, but I couldn’t think of anyone else to ask. I have been posting on some of the FaceBook piercer forums for a while now because I value constructive criticism and input from my peers. But holy sh*t! Some piercers went OFF on me so hard that I am traumatized. One guy in particular was ranting and calling me names, and several others joined in. I don’t want to sound like a whiner or a coward, but they were really inappropriate and obviously intended to hurt my feelings and smear my name and professional reputation.

They dragged stuff into the thread that was totally unrelated to piercing and they were so mean to me for no reason that I feel brutalized. They were also saying stuff that is flat out not true. I did my best to stick up for myself, but that just seemed to make the whole thing worse. That one guy actually said he wanted to kick my ass. I’m still so upset and I don’t know what to do with it.

Do you have any words of wisdom on how to handle this situation? Now I feel I can’t participate anymore, and that really sucks. I would appreciate your help because I hold you in such high esteem.

Respectfully, M.

Dear M.,

First off, I’m glad you reached out, because it is definitely best not to keep quiet about what has happened. You should also tell a friend, family member, or someone else you trust. They might have gone through a similar situation and have advice to offer. Even if just to vent, talking to someone about your experience can be very therapeutic. Depending on how distraught you feel, you might want to speak with a professional like a counselor, too.

Next, I want to let you know that I understand what you’re going through. I’ve been on the receiving end of some extremely vicious online attacks myself, in which truly horrible and entirely untrue things were said about me. It is very hurtful and unsettling, and I empathize with what you’re experiencing.

“Haters gonna hate,” as they say. And the Internet gives angry tyrants a deluxe venue to spew their venom. Being on the receiving end of their contempt can be demoralizing, or even devastating—but you can get through it.

Cyberbullying is an umbrella term used to describe many different kinds of virtual abuse. The perpetrator uses technology with online access to harass, stalk, embarrass, hurt, or mistreat another person. This type of negative behavior is incredibly prevalent, and it happens to children, teens, and adults alike. According to a survey(i) from the Pew Research Center, more than 40 percent of American adults have been bullied online and nearly 75 percent have witnessed cyber harassment. When it came to observing others:

    • • 60 percent said they saw someone being called offensive names
    • • Over half observed efforts to purposefully embarrass someone
    • • A quarter witnessed someone being harassed for a sustained period of time

Anonymity still exists on certain forums and sites, but even when the real identities of users is known, the distance provided by virtual communications decreases empathy and emboldens bullies to behave in ways they would be unlikely to if face-to-face with a live human.

I’ve seen cute puppy videos with nasty flame comments that were intentionally posted to be offensive and trigger reactions. So, a topic as provocative as piercing is definitely fodder for some fire—whether from the world at large, or from within our own community (which was the source of the vitriol that was directed at me).

There are lots of reasons that drive people to behave in such a way. Some have been bullied themselves, others are jealous, and yet others may have misplaced anger or need to exert power or control a situation. Regardless of the motivation, cyberbullying is never acceptable behavior.

I know the impulse to defend oneself can be overwhelming, but that is not a winning strategy. Since bullies get off on trying to make you feel powerless, when you fight back, you’re showing them that they’ve hit a nerve. Not responding isn’t the same thing as ignoring the offender. So, what should you do?

1. It is natural to want to just delete a bully’s offensive or cruel remark, but first screenshot everything and store the records carefully. Having documentation is important if the situation escalates.
2. Next, report the account to the social network and block them.
3. If the harassment is ongoing or there are physical threats, alert the police right away and provide the documentation.
4. If you feel that significant damage has been done to your reputation, contact an attorney. You might be able to file a civil suit against the aggressor, depending on the nature of the case. Possible legal actions include intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation of character, presentation in a false light, invasion of privacy, and harassment.

All major social media outlets have community standards and provide guidelines for reporting violations, including Facebook(ii). They suggest hiding the abusive item from your news feed, sending a message to the poster asking them to take the item down, and unfriending or blocking the person. You can also set up permissions to approve tagged photos, turn off commenting on posts, and disable location settings.

Other advice is to type out or write down everything you’d want to say in your own defense, but do not send or submit it. Getting it down “on paper” can help you to release the feelings and dissipate your anger and frustration without engaging online. While difficult, try not to take the bullying personally. Attempt to view it as the aggressor’s problem—not yours. The Cybersmile Foundation, a nonprofit anti-cyberbullying organization has many additional online resources you might find helpful.(iii)

The decision to involve the authorities and/or file a lawsuit depends on what is being posted about you. Key advice from police is to inform them immediately if a cyberbully threatens your personal safety. I’m not sure if you took the “ass kicking” comment to be an actual threat, but if you did, you should report it. Although no federal law directly addresses cyberbullying, in some cases it overlaps with discriminatory harassment when based on race, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, or religion. Every state deals with the problem differently(iv), but many laws relate only to handling of the matter within school environments.

Losing our networks is hard, even with strictly on-screen friends and relationships. The human need to belong to something, to interact with others, and to share is very strong. Consider other forums or sites you can visit to connect with colleagues or like-minded people. Maybe start your own Facebook group. As moderator of a closed group, you’d have control over who joins. This might prove empowering and satisfying.

I’m sorry that you have gone through this distressing experience, but it is good that you’re open to talking about it. I emphatically advise you to avoid engaging with bullies and encourage you take action as suggested above. I don’t think you will feel the need to log-off forever—just be selective about where you participate, and with whom. Keeping away from the bullies isn’t cowardly; it is smart and safe.



Dealing with Difficult Clients


Dear Ms. Angel,

I’ve been piercing for over 20 years, and I’m running into so many customers that are hard to deal with. There’s way more than there used to be, and the problem is basically with the younger ones. They are super impatient, unfocused, rude and demanding. They want everything, and they want it right now. They just have to get the same piercing and jewelry as their friend or some Instagram pic, but won’t listen to the fact that they don’t have the same anatomy.

When I didn’t have jewelry they wanted, I’ve had them just turn around and leave. No, “thank you,” or anything. It is hard to get them to pay attention and sometimes I’m almost afraid to pierce them because I don’t think they can take in my aftercare info. They won’t stop using cellphones in the shop. I have signs up and I ask nicely and everything. But they just won’t put down the damn phone!

They’re more tiring to deal with, less satisfying than the people I can actually connect with, and they are leaving me feeling very frustrated with my job. I love piercing and I don’t want to stop, but I strongly prefer working on people who are present and into it.

I used to have problem customers now and then, but this has just gotten worse and worse. Some days it seems like everyone who comes in is like this. Do you have any suggestions? I’m losing it! Sorry about the rant, and thanks for everything you do for our industry. G.

Dear G.,

You’re not the first piercer to struggle with this issue, and I know that difficult clients can be taxing and exasperating. Having an occasional rant in the presence of an understanding and supportive person or audience is good for you, so no apology is required.

Though I’m not a fan of stereotypes, your description does sound like Millennials: a quarter of them even characterize their own generation negatively, commonly labeling themselves as “lazy,” “entitled,” and “impatient.”(i) The entitlement mentality has been defined as the belief that the person is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. According to psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, those with an entitled mindset, “…may think nothing of inconveniencing others by canceling at the last minute, or no-showing for appointments, and have trouble compromising, negotiating, following rules, and waiting their turn. They’re also manipulative and controlling, but if that doesn’t get them what they want, they can become threatening and hostile.”(ii) Yikes!

A significant demographic shift is at least partially responsible for the increasing changes. As of this year, Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) number around 73 million. They’ve surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living adult generation and are on track to spend $1.4 trillion by 2020. So, they’re a population we cannot ignore or avoid, especially since they fall squarely into the age group of the typical piercee.

Since piercing is a personal service business, we obviously can’t do it without live customers. (And fortunately, they can’t get pierced via mobile device.) I would love to present you with a simple and effective solution, but I’m afraid that there isn’t one—short of specializing exclusively in children’s ears and/or mature clientele.

The truth is that you will probably have to learn to cope with them, and it is going to require some patience. Okay, a lot of it. Fortunately, patience can be increased through practice and using a variety of techniques. Take some time to study up and perform recommended exercises and practices (iii), (iv). It could save your job and your sanity. If you value either or both of those, do not skip this recommendation.

Interestingly, adjusting your expectations may also be helpful. A University of British Columbia study cites customer incivility as a cause of stress, exhaustion, absenteeism, and reduced work performance. The research showed that employees who expect to encounter rude customers at work react far less strongly than employees who face unexpected rudeness.(v) So, oddly, it may be beneficial to anticipate dealing with problematic patrons. Then when you have a day filled with easy pleasant ones, you’ll be exceptionally gratified.

Below are some other suggestions that I hope you will find useful anytime you encounter a challenging customer.

1. Remain calm- When a client is being rude or difficult, nothing will be gained by responding in kind. Maintain control of yourself no matter how hard your buttons are pushed. Be polite and provide tactful, professional responses. Something as simple as taking several slow deep breaths can help you to keep your cool. Deliberately unclench your shoulder and jaw muscles, and any others that have tensed up.

2. Listen- Allow the person to have their say, even if they are mistaken or lack pertinent information. Provide feedback that you’re listening through nodding and verbal cues. Attempt to comprehend your customer’s perspective. Unless someone is intentionally messing with you, they believe that their unreasonable request is realistic. This is frequently because they don’t know anything about piercing and need educating.

3. Reflect back- Let them know you hear them and understand their position. Express regret that their expectations cannot be met and apologize for any disappointment that they may be feeling. Sometimes just acknowledging that you’ve truly heard them is enough to neutralize the situation. Try to connect and build rapport—use their name often (everyone loves this!) and attempt to maintain eye contact.

4. Don’t take anything personally- Remember that the customer doesn’t know you and this isn’t really about you. If they try to make it personal, gently guide the conversation back to the issue and how you intend to deal with it.

5. Stick to policy- Making exceptions reinforces bad behavior, so consistently abide by the clear, written policies you have in place. If you don’t have them, create them now! Protect yourself by setting limits, treating everyone the same, and not compromising where you shouldn’t. For example, to enforce your phone policy: point to the posted “Please turn off and put away your phone” sign, and then wait for them to do it—right then, before proceeding with the next step. You may have to be somewhat bossy, but you are in charge in the studio. Explain that if you’re distracted by the phone their piercing might not come out right, or you risk a needle stick. Hopefully information will lead to better understanding.

You will have to consider the consequences of establishing limits and being firm. There’s always a chance of losing the client if you don’t give them what they want. But if their behavior or request surpasses your acceptable parameters, you need to be willing to let them go. The customer isn’t always right, and when conduct is unacceptable, their departure from the studio is an appropriate outcome.
Remember to deeply appreciate and enjoy the wonderful piercees you do connect with. Times change, and unfortunately, I don’t think you’ve simply been unlucky. I believe that certain common characteristics of the Millennial generation can make more of our clientele extra challenging. Though other people’s behavior is beyond our control, we do (or should) have command over our own actions and reactions. Don’t let them beat you. Learn what approaches and techniques are most effective for you to cope and utilize them to do your best.