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The Best Piercers in New York

Photo-Illustration: Curbed; Photos: Getty

For Snakebites, Philtrums, and Tongues

Oren Misholy at Cherry Bomb, 231 Eldridge St.; 929-434-8004;

The head piercer at Cherry Bomb, Oren Misholy is best known for their skill with complex face piercings (such as snakebites or tongue piercings) and for being extremely hands-on and patient with clients. When barber and bartender Elona Hoffeld went in for a cheek-piercing consultation, Misholy advised her “for an hour,” she says. They are highly cautious and knowledgeable and talk clients through every possible outcome — they told Hoffeld they don’t recommend cheek piercings because “there’s a salivary gland in your cheek that, when pierced, may occasionally leak.” She and Misholy eventually landed on doing spider bites (two piercings on the left side of the lower lip) — Hoffeld says they helped her pick out jewelry best suited to the spot and talked her through aftercare. She says that her piercing healed up with “no infection and no pain.” Tattoo artist Aisha S. also had a positive experience when Misholy pierced her eyebrows (from $70). “They told me that if a piercer hits certain nerves in the area, you can get a droop,” she says. “So they really analyzed my face to make sure that the piercing was appropriate for me.” She suffered no such droop — both piercings healed within weeks.

For the Pain Sensitive

Starr Ellis at Nine Moons Piercing, 424 Broadway, second floor; 646-891-7907;

Those with especially low pain thresholds (or particularly bad needle phobia) should see Starr Ellis. She’s known for coaching clients (many of whom come to her for piercings in sensitive areas, like the inner ear or nipple) through the skin-punching process. Broadway performer Lana Gordon calls her the “piercing whisperer.” “What’s great about Starr is it’s not painful at all,” Gordon says. “Before a piercing, you always think, Oh my God, it’s gonna hurt, but she makes it feel so, so easy.” Gordon has had her lobe and helix pierced by Ellis (from $40) as well as her nipple. Ellis “made sure that I knew exactly what kind of pain I might experience,” she says. “There was a little bit of a pinch, but it was just ‘Breathe in, breathe out,’ then she goes, ‘We’re done.’ And you’re like, ‘What, really?’ She’s just incredible.” After such a smooth experience, Gordon wanted to pierce her bellybutton next, but after a consultation, she decided against it. “She told me I probably don’t have the right amount of skin,” Gordon says. “There are some piercers that probably would do it, but if she sees something that is not pierceable, she will not pierce it just for the sake of making money.”

For Multiple Piercings

Adrian Castillo at 108 Studios, 37 Greenpoint Ave., No. 106, Greenpoint; 917-275-8270;

One doesn’t go to Adrian Castillo for a single piercing; one goes for the whole earscape. He’s known for balanced, tasteful, and harmonious groupings. That’s what first appealed to software engineer Djassi Julien when he came across Castillo’s Instagram. “What’s cool about Adrian’s aesthetic is that the individual piercings themselves definitely shine, but he’s really got an eye for big-picture composition,” Julien says. Makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci calls Castillo “an actual artist who doesn’t just stick a hole somewhere without paying attention to placement. He really has such a cool, keen eye for what looks good” (black and white diamonds scattered along the ear or an assortment of different-size hoops and studs). After encountering Castillo, both Julien and Ciucci refused to go to any other piercer. Castillo is responsible for eight of Julien’s 11 piercings (from $60), including both second lobes, a floating rook (where the piercing point is hidden by the ridge of the ear), and his eyebrow, and half of Ciucci’s 29 ear piercings — but his impeccable judgment means he knows when it’s time to put down the needle. “I’m always like, ‘I need another hole.’ And he’s like, ‘Ashleigh, there’s no more room,’” Ciucci says.

For a Piercer Who’s Also a Friend

Cassi Lopez-March at So Gold Studios, 387 Manhattan Ave., Williamsburg; 718-389-4310;

Piercer Cassi Lopez-March’s popularity is skyrocketing — she has over a million followers on TikTok — but she still manages to spend quality time with her clients, many of whom consider her an actual friend. “I actually did her flowers for her wedding,” says floral designer Rachel Clark, who has lost count of how many piercings she has (“Over 30?”) but knows that most were done by Lopez-March. Clark first met Lopez-March when she was working at New York Adorned, and followed her when she opened her own shop in Williamsburg. “I thought she was just so cool and so relatable and a boss babe,” she recalls. Clark isn’t the only one in Lopez-March’s coterie of loyal clients turned close friends. Filmmaker Joey Chriqui goes so far as to describe getting pierced by Lopez-March as a spiritual experience and their relationship as “sacred.” The main thing, all of her clients say, is that she’ll get the job done, no matter if that job is a lobe or tragus, nose or navel (from $40) — she has 20 years of experience and doesn’t make a mistake. “She knows what she’s doing,” Clark says. “I trust her with my life.”

For Infants and Kids

Rachel Smith at Clinical Ear Piercing, 302 Fifth Ave.; 212-844-9185;

When their daughters start begging to get their ears pierced, Upper East Side moms call Rachel Smith, a registered nurse who runs Clinical Ear Piercing. Her hospital-quality piercing process (from $220) reflects her nursing-school training and includes masks, alcohol wipes, sterilized needles, and medical-grade earrings. (Smith does house calls with the same commitment to cleanliness.) She also has a nurse’s patience. Writer Claire Hoffman says her daughters were “literally running around the house, screaming,” before they were scheduled for their piercings, but Smith’s “unruffled, reassuring” demeanor never wavered. She’s equally skilled with toddlers and babies. Dr. Allie Nadelson, an ophthalmologist, took her two daughters to Smith when they were 6 months old and 5 months old. “It was seamless,” she says. “She couldn’t have been more professional and sweet and caring to both kids. She kept them and me calm.”

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The Best Piercers in New York