This Is What It's Like to Be a Celebrity Piercer

Meet Stephanie Anders, who throws a birthday piercing party every year for Nicole Richie.

Stephanie Anders admits she has an unlikely path to piercing celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, and January Jones. She grew up in a small town in Iowa where very few people had piercings and tattoos — plus, her mom was a preacher and not particularly down with body art.

But for some reason, Stephanie was obsessed with piercing: she practiced piercing her own ears at age 11 and by 17, she was already working at a body piercing shop, practically learning on the fly. “Thank goodness, I was fairly decent from the beginning and didn't mess up a bunch of people because that's a scary scenario, to be like, ’OK, you don't really know anything, go stab a hole in somebody,'" she jokes to The Lookbook.

Flash forward to now, Stephanie and her husband have their own studio in Los Angeles, Royal Heritage Tattoo, where she creates works of art with ears and faces as her canvas. She's even designed her own line of high-end jewelry. Her mom's come around, to the extent that she gets a piercing whenever she visits Stephanie in LA.

"Not only did my parents see that this is something that I love doing and that I made it in Los Angeles doing this, but the people that I work with are beyond what anybody expects when they decide to tell their parents that they want to be a body piercer in Iowa," she says. Here's what Stephanie has learned during her decade as a piercer, including what it's like to work with celebs:

Piercing as an industry has evolved.

Stephanie herself has 9 piercings in her face, but the effect isn't overwhelming because of her delicate jewelry. "Back in the day, if you look at the jewelry people were pierced with, it's not very flattering,” she says of all the surgical steel piercings from the ‘90s. “You can be pierced nowadays with solid gold and genuine diamonds, really elaborate beautiful pieces. You didn't see that 10 years ago.”

She never knows who will walk into her shop in L.A.

Many celebrities book their appointments, but there are walk-ins too. "A few weeks ago, I had Charlize Theron just pop into my studio. It was my first time working with her. I was in the front working with another client and she goes, 'I'm here to see Stephanie.' I was like, 'ah, that's me!'"

Stephanie will clear her entire day to make celeb clients more comfortable, and she even throws piercing parties. "We do birthday parties with Nicole Richie almost every year, where her and her friends come in and I'll book out my whole day for them so I know we won't have any interruptions," she says. "We've had times where they've come in for her birthday and there's 12 of them."

Septum rings are still hugely popular.

Stephanie's been doing a ton of septum rings (FYI: that's the piercing right in between your nostrils). "When I had my septum pierced for the first time 10 years ago, it was really frowned upon. Everyone said that I looked like a bull," Stephanie jokes. "I just had a piece of surgical steel jewelry in my nose that was kind of garbage in relation to the solid gold pieces that I have now. Actually now, I have two septum piercings and clients love them."

In terms of earrings, she also has been doing a lot of stacked piercing designs, or piercings in a triangle or a little row of three piercings. "My favorite thing is to take the person's anatomy into consideration, look at their ear, and ry to maybe create something that's a little more unique to them," she says.

Everything you learned about piercing at the mall kiosk was wrong.

Remember getting your ears pierced and turning them every night? Yeah, that wan't helping. “There's no twisting, no turning, no touching,” Stephanie says. “That's super detrimental to your healing process. You have cells that are trying to form into a tunnel of scar tissue for this puncture wound. Every time you're twisting and turning, you’re tearing those — and it's producing more scar tissue and more irritation and a longer healing duration.” And instead of a little bottle of alcohol, she recommends a sterile solution spray.

Don't try to do your whole ear at once.

Even if a client wants six earrings in one ear in one day, Stephanie won't do it. "I actually have a cap," she says. "I'm not going to do something that I feel for whatever reason wouldn't heal well or they might be complications and issues."

Don't be scared!

For clients who haven't gotten pierced in 20 years, Stephanie promises that its not as painful as they might think. "What I think it truly is is the fear of the unknown. You're going into a situation where you don't remember how it felt or how the healing was," she says. "If you take that small leap of faith, you kind of open yourself up to having all of this real estate for new jewelry."

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