Our feelings on the Association of Professional Piercers and how it blinds clients from looking for quality studios.
The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) is an organization that started in 1994 with the goal of improving the piercing community. It is a great organization that has helped create and set modern piercing standards. You can visit their website and find out more about them at www.safepiercing.org
How does the APP certify it's members?
Quite simply it doesn't. The APP allows for people to become members, but it doesn't certify anything or anyone. I recently was going through a list of piercers in Jacksonville and noticed that a couple of places had mentioned that they were soon to be "APP Certified", and not only is this inaccurate but it's insulting to a client. The hopes of people who claim that they are APP "certified" or that they are an "APP Studio" is that you will automatically assume that they are good at what they do and choose them. It's a manipulative marketing technique and it's outright dangerous. It's probably better for you to understand by explaining how someone becomes a member.
To obtain membership into the APP there is an initial fee of between $100 and $150 depending on membership type, and to maintain membership there is a fee of $50-100 a year to maintain membership. You can find all of the membership fee schedules directly on their website. A studio is not allowed to be a member, only piercers and those directly involved in the body piercing industry may become members. An application for a piercer is about 10 pages long, and asks basic questions about how they pierce, what type of instruments they use, and how they sterilize things. The applicant must also make a video of their studio to submit to the APP for approval. A committee processes the application within about 60 days. If any answers to the questions are out of line with the APP guidelines, the applicant will be notified of the variation, still approved but given a written notice on their application approval of the differences. If the video shows anything that is out of line with the APP guidelines the applicant is forced to resubmit the video until it meets the minimum requirements. Receipts showing purchase of high quality jewelry from reputable jewelry companies must accompany an application. Beginning in 2018 Studios will only be allowed to have high quality jewelry in their studio and will not be able to have cheap imported jewelry on hand for clients that do not wish to purchase quality jewelry.
Why isn't this always a trustworthy thing in regards to choosing a piercer?
To be fair, this section is completely the opinion of someone who works in the industry and knows the inner workings of the behind the scenes of the industry. I do not favor this process of applicant screening. I have been a member of the Association of Professional Piercers for several years and never once has a person of authority in the APP ever stepped foot in my studio to verify that anything I told them was accurate. The tattoo and piercing industry has over the years earned a reputation of having a lot of unsavory characters, and while it's not as rampant as it once was, this membership relies solely on the integrity of the members submitting applications to tell the truth with no verification. I don't trust this one bit.
If an applicant submits answers on the application questionnaire that are incorrect, they are simply told it's incorrect. It's up to them to change it. If a studio is nasty 364 days per year but cleaned on the day that an applicant decides they want to film a video for submission, they clean it - what type of representation is this? I have overheard piercers asking another studio to borrow an autoclave and other supplies so that they can film their video to become an APP member. I think you get the point.
Why should I care?
Contrary to popular belief a piercing can be a pretty serious issue. It's handled much differently by health departments than tattoo's as someone is making a wound that goes through parts of your body. Sure in the past it was treated as if a piercing was just something minor to do to pass the time, but science has now shown how important sterility is and how easily something can go wrong. A piercing needs to be taken serious.
So what can I do to make sure I'm getting someone quality?
Do your due diligence. Check out the studio beforehand and compare it to somewhere else. Ask to see redacted receipts from jewelry companies of high reputation. Ask to see their autoclave logs. Ask them about their experience and their sterilization procedures. Have them show you the studio. Ask about the quality of tools they use. Educate yourself beforehand. 90% of the time I think that the cheaper a piercer is the chances are you are not getting the best of something. I would rather pay $20 more at one studio over another to ensure that I'm getting single use sterile everything, top of the line needles that cause minimal pain and heal faster, and to ensure the safety of my health. These extra steps cost money and I'm willing to pay for the safety and comfort every single time.