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Jobs 101: Body piercer

piercing-modifications-body

JobsInterviewsHealth & Body

The work that goes behind getting your ears, nose and other body parts pierced.

When people talk about 'body modifications', plastic surgery usually comes to mind. However, the term also applies to tattoos and even piercings. 

Youth.SG met up with Vincent Tan – who does piercings on areas like the ear, helix, tongue, nose, and even genitals – to find out what it is like working as a professional body piercer

Who: Vincent Tan, 27 
Occupation: Professional body piercer 
Studied: Basic Western Fine Art in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) 

piercer-split-tongue-modifications
Vincent showing off his split tongue, which is also a form of body modification – apart from tattoos and body piercings. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRENDA TEO 

Tell us more about yourself! 

I got my first piercing while I was in secondary school. I liked Linkin Park at that time and the lead vocalist Chester Bennington had a labret piercing (below the lip above the chin). 

It looked kind of good and that was when I decided to do my own labret piercing. I used ice cubes to numb myself and then I used the sewing needle to pierce my skin. 

Honestly, I have just been lucky with my piercings. After learning how to pierce professionally, I just tell people to never DIY their piercings and simply go to a professional to get it done. 


Vincent shares some professional tips on how to get and care for your piercing. 

How and why did you become a body piercer? 

I did not complete my secondary school education and decided to be an apprentice at a tattoo parlour. Over there, I got introduced to doing piercings and that was when I realised that I liked what I was doing. 

It is the closest I can get to becoming a surgeon and not having to be a doctor! (laughs) 

Even when I had to serve my National Service (NS), I continued my apprenticeship for most of it and I also decided to enrol myself in a part-time art course in NAFA. 

ear-piercing-needle-sterile
Vincent dissuades his customers from using numbing cream as it requires some time to take effect. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRENDA TEO 

What do you like about being a body piercer? 

The beauty of my job is that it requires me to work hard to earn my keep. I have to go out to find my customers and ensure that I build a great portfolio at the same time. 

I make sure I do many piercings and take nice pictures of them to post on Instagram so that hopefully, through word-of-mouth, customers will start streaming in. 

body-piercing-modification-ear-piercing
"We use surgical grade needles, so it won't rust and everything's sterile," said Vincent.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRENDA TEO
 

What are some challenges you face as a body piercer? 

We are like freelance people. We do not have a fixed income, so that is one of the biggest challenges. 

Another challenge is complacency. After doing this for so long, sometimes you get a little complacent. 

My tip for professional body piercers is to remember what got you to where you are today. If there are three steps to do something, do not skip any step. 

body-piercing-body-modification
Vincent colouring the tip of the toothpick used to mark the area to pierce. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRENDA TEO 

What are some memorable experiences you have had as a body piercer? 

Once, I pierced someone's genitals which had a lot of implants and it was just really weird. 

Another time, a customer thought that he could enlarge his own ears, so he did it himself and forced a double flare plug into his ear lobe. 

ear-piercing-plug-earrings-studs
A double flare plug is a type of jewellery that is flared on both ends and should only be used on healed stretched ears. 
PHOTO CREDIT: VINCENT TAN 

His ear got so swollen that he could not remove the plug. I had to soak his ear in cold water for a while and remove all the pus that had formed around his ear. It was really bad. 

What advice would you give to youths considering a career as a body piercer? 

Do not come into this thinking you can earn a lot of money, or get that fame or title that you can boast to your friends about. 

It is a very difficult career to build up, but the time you spend working on your skills will determine what you will reap in the future. 

Educational requirements: There are no particular educational requirements.

Qualities needed: You must be logical, hygienic and not afraid of gore. Preferably bilingual. A good attitude and conversational skills are important as well.

Salary range: $300 to $3,000 (depending on the number of customers)

Working hours: Roughly eight hours a day, depending on your appointments.

Career prospects: "There's no ladder to climb other than the popularity ladder."

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/BRENDA TEO