Ask a Piercer:
Ryan Dreyfuss of Relic Body Arts

Ryan Dreyfuss of Relic Body Arts found connection and meaning in the piercing community as a high schooler growing up in Seattle, Washington. “My forever goal is to make people more confident in themselves, to show them their worth when they can’t see it, and to give them the same sense of a community I received when I was a teenager being bullied," says Ryan. 

Read on to learn why piercings are meaningful, what you should know before getting your piercing, and how to take care of your piercing to heal in the best way possible.

Why are piercings meaningful to you?

“The piercing community during that time was a life saver. People just like me, the “weirdos”, found an outlet for whatever troubles life was throwing at them. To some, using the pain of piercing to cope with the pain of life in combination of that instant gratification of new jewelry could be seen as morbid, but it was a healthy outlet in my mind. The lesser of two evils,” says Ryan.

Ryan was instantly hooked - as he found community and connection in his new online family, he got more piercings of his own. By his junior year of high school, he took the next step and started his piercing apprenticeship. Over the next ten years, his views and motivations have evolved as he has, but the one constant is why he does what he does.

“My forever goal is to make people more confident in themselves, to show them their worth when they can’t see it, and to give them the same sense of a community I received when I was a teenager being bullied. In short, yes I pierce people for a living, but everyone gets pierced for a reason. Some people get pierced to celebrate a time in their life while others use it to cope with something. Either way I want to offer them a safe, positive space where they can be confident they will get the best service possible.”

What are you best known for? What’s your specialty?

Today I am known for what is widely known on the internet as “ear curating”. Ear curating is where a piercing specialist looks at your ear anatomy, lifestyle and personal aesthetic to suggest the best piercing placements and jewelry styles that only complement each other and you.

What trends have you been seeing for piercings or piercing combinations?

We have been doing a lot of “stacked” earlobes at our studio. Stacked earlobes are two separate earlobe piercings that are placed vertically on top of one another. Stacked ear piercings are a great way to transform your awkwardly placed “Claire's” piercing you got in grade school into a setup that now looks intentional and elegant.

✨ Ryan's Advice to You ✨

What do you wish people knew before coming to get a piercing?

Most of my clients are well informed about the piercing process, but for some of my newer clients, healing times and cost seem to be talking points. I have found that some clients are seeking a new piercing but haven't done much research.

Healing times can range from as quick as six to eight weeks all the way up to a full year - so depending on your commitment and lifestyle, certain piercings may not be the best choice. So I would say always do your research on the piercing you are wanting to get and seek out a reputable piercer in your area if you have any questions prior to getting your piercing.

The next topic is cost. Jewelry quality is a crucial factor for the healing process. In this case it really is true that “you get what you pay for.” Reputable jewelry manufacturers within the industry are continuously evolving to meet the needs and desires of piercers and their clients. Quality jewelry will reflect a higher price point.

What should you bring with you to your piercing appointment? What decisions should you have made beforehand?

Every state is different on what is required for your appointment, but generally you will bring a valid government issued ID for your consent form. Some people also choose to bring what I like to call a “battle buddy”: a friend that can help you get through the normal fear of getting pierced. It is also a great idea to have eaten at least four hours before your appointment, to wear suitable clothing, and where applicable, to tie back your hair.

Before coming into your appointment, you should have decided on a general vision of what you are looking to achieve. This can be ideas about piercing placement, jewelry styles or a mood board of screenshots of completed ears that you love for inspiration. From there, your piercing specialist can lead you in the right direction based on your anatomy and lifestyle.

What should you look for when deciding on a piercer and piercing shop?

The most important thing to do when thinking about getting your next piercing is do your research. Find a reputable piercer in your area that meets, but ideally exceeds, all requirements set through your state.

At a minimum this means your piercer will have a clean, inviting studio, an in depth portfolio showing healed work, and has met all standards set forth by the Association of Professional Piercers. You can find many reputable piercers through the Association of Professional Piercers website or even send me a direct message and I will do my best to send you in the right direction.

What questions should you ask your piercer before your appointment?

After you have sought out a reputable piercer in your area that follows all local guidelines, there are some questions you may want to ask. Within the studio, you can always ask for a tour to make sure you are comfortable with the staff and environment. In my opinion this is huge! You will want to be able to easily talk to your piercing specialist and understand the ins and outs of the piercing process.

Prior to your appointment, feel free to ask your piercer anything about the piercing process. We are here to help and guide you! The most common questions are about healing time, lifestyle limitations while healing, and even if you can/should travel afterwards. No question is a bad question.

What should you expect when you show up to your piercing appointment?

When you arrive at the studio you should expect to be kindly greeted at the front counter, where you will fill out a consent form and have another opportunity to ask any questions you may have. From there, your piercing or jewelry specialist will go over your piercing ideas and look at your anatomy so they can help tour your jewelry options with you.

Once you have found your dream jewelry, your piercer will be take it into the piercing room to undergo sterilization. Feel free to ask if you can watch this process happen as well.

Now the fun part: getting pierced. Your piercer will walk you through the piercing process as it is done, explaining each step as necessary to you. Your piercer will also review how to do your daily aftercare routine.

After you get your piercing, the healing process begins. This isn’t the end of your relationship with your piercer: four to six weeks into your healing process, your piercer should recommend a check-up to ensure you are healing the best you can and adjust your jewelry as necessary.

How many piercings can I get in one session?

I personally believe that you should never get any more than two piercings in a single session. Getting any more than two or three piercings would be a brave venture and is only recommended for well experienced clients. If you get too many in a single session you may have a troublesome healing experience leading to issues such as scarring, piercing drift, and excess inflammation.  

How long should I wait before getting another piercing?

If your ear goals are already set in place and you are eager to get your next one done, it is recommended that you wait at least six to eight weeks after your previous piercing to get another. That said, this isn't a rule that is set in stone, and everyone heals differently, so please reach out to your reputable piercer to see what your personal timeline would be.

What are the different gauge needles used for different piercings?

Without being too direct and giving away information that might encourage some individuals to pierce themselves, I will go over the basics. Side note; never pierce yourself! Always seek out a professional.

Various places on the body will require larger or smaller gauge piercings. This all boils down to anatomy and lifestyle. Here’s an example: If you have a larger build and are working at Amazon carrying heavy boxes throughout the day, but want to get your nipples pierced, you will need a larger gauge piercing. The reason for this larger gauge is stability. The larger the gauge, the less at risk you are for tearing your piercing channel if that box gets caught on your healing piercing.

In short, always ask your professional piercer what gauge they would recommend for you, your personal anatomy, and your lifestyle.

What aftercare recommendations do you have for the days after you get your piercing?

During the first few days of healing you may experience minor swelling, bleeding or even bruising. Don't worry, this is normal. To combat these effects, simply rinse the area with a sterile saline and dry with a hair dryer.

These steps are consistent throughout the entire healing process. Refrain from touching the area, don't twist your jewelry, and rinse with a wound wash to irrigate any buildup of lymphatic fluid.

After roughly a month of doing this, you will want to get in touch with your piercer to do a one-month checkup. At the checkup, your piercer can see how you are healing and change your jewelry as necessary. Aftercare steps may vary from piercer to piercer, so always check with your local reputable studio to see what they recommend for you.

What are some things that you should absolutely avoid while your piercing is healing?

As stated previously, always avoid pressure on your healing piercing. Pressure is the devil for healing piercings and can give you a problematic healing experience.

Some other no-no's are using harsh chemicals to “clean” the area. We never want to introduce any chemicals like soaps, alcohol, peroxide, tea tree, etc. This will only slow down your healing and most likely cause other issues.

If we take this a step further, it is also recommended to avoid stress, poor diet and smoking. Intrinsic factors are just as important to consider as the extrinsic.

I know some symptoms of piercing infections are pus-like discharge, redness, itching, swelling, and tenderness, but what should you do if you think you have an infection? 

First and foremost, professional piercers are not medical professionals. We cannot diagnose or treat infections, so seek medical attention if you truly think you have an infection. The good news? It’s probably just irritation. Many people think that if they see swelling or discharge that their piercing is infected. In reality, you will see some form of this throughout the healing process.

Always feel free to always reach out to your reputable piercer with any concerns you may have throughout the healing process or otherwise.

If you are prone to scarring, what extra precautions should you take - for both your piercing, and your aftercare?

There are a few different types of irritation bumps that can happen during healing. The most common type of scar tissue is called hypertrophic scar tissue, and it can happen because of uneven pressure on the healing piercing channel. This uneven pressure can range from a poor piercing angle to sleeping on your healing piercing.

The way to prevent scar tissue is to avoid pressure on your healing piercing at all costs. Seek out a reputable piercer in your area, which will ensure the piercing angle and jewelry quality isn't a concern.

Then really look into your daily habits. If you sleep on your left ear and always will, you may want to get your right ear pierced or invest in a travel neck pillow, which can be used on your ear during sleeping to elevate your ear off your mattress. If you wear stethoscopes, but want a tragus piercing, you may want to get something else. Just a few examples, but if you are concerned about scar tissue, ask your reputable piercer.

What are your best tips in cleaning a new piercing? Are there particular products you’d recommend?

The only product I recommend during the healing is a sterile saline rinse. Using a natural, sterile, isotonic solution like saline works with your body to rinse off those pesky lymphatic fluid crusties that get built up during healing.

If I had a top tip, it would be to remember that piercings on the outside of your body need to stay dry. Directly after rinsing with saline or showering, remember to either pat the area dry with sterile gauze or blow-dry it with your hairdryer.

What is piercing drift, and how can you prevent it from happening?

Piercing drift is when a healing piercing can become crooked. This occurs when uneven pressure is applied to the jewelry during the initial healing, causing the cartilage to “refracture” to the angle in which the pressure is being applied. This really only occurs with cartilage piercings and usually happens from sleeping on your healing piercing. It can be avoided by sleeping with your ear in a travel neck pillow. PS: This travel neck pillow is a great trick for people who sleep on their sides.

See more of Ryan's work on Instagram at @relicbodyarts

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