One of the nice things about having a nose pierced is that you can change the type of jewelry you wear and match it to the latest mood or style! However, nose piercings are sometimes susceptible to infection even months or years after the piercing, so it's important to know how to change nose piercing jewelry cleanly and safely. Fortunately, most problems can be solved with common sense and making sure that the piercing is cleaned properly.
Part 1 of 3: Removing Old Jewelry
Step 1. Wait for the piercing to heal completely before changing jewelry
For most new piercings, you should wait for the hole to heal before removing the jewelry. Changing jewelry too early can be painful and potentially cause irritation and infection. On top of that, the healing time will be longer.
- While every piercing is different, most new nose piercings will take at least a month to heal until you can safely remove your jewelry. However, a longer wait (up to two months or more) is usually better. As a general rule of thumb, if your piercing is painful when you remove your jewelry, it means the piercing is taking longer to heal.
- Note that if your piercing has an infection, your doctor may ask you to remove your jewelry early. Read the article on infection in piercings for more information.
Step 2. Wash your hands or put on sterile gloves
Clean hands are very important when removing piercings. Human hands have the potential to carry millions of bacteria, especially if they have recently touched a bacteria-infested object such as a doorknob or a piece of raw meat. To protect your piercing, which is prone to infection despite a good healing process, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap or a sanitizer and water.
Another good option is to wear new, sterile latex gloves (unless you are allergic to latex, in which case you should avoid them). Gloves can have the added advantage of making it easier for you to hold the slippery tip of the jewelry inside your nose
Step 3. Remove the bead or fastener
Now you are ready for action! To get started, you will need to remove the tool/mechanism used to hold the piercing in place. Depending on the type of jewelry you wear, the exact mechanism may vary. Most should be very clear and easy to understand, but there are some general guidelines for some types of nose piercing jewelry:
- Seamless hoop (sealless ring): This jewelry is a metal circle or ring with an opening in the middle. In preparation for removing the ring, simply bend the two ends of the ring in opposite directions to enlarge the opening.
- Captive bead hoop (ring with a bead in the middle): same as a seamless hoop (see above), but with a bead in the middle to cover the opening in the ring. Preparation for removing the ring is to pull the two ends in opposite directions - the bead will eventually fall off the ring. This type of jewelry is notoriously difficult to remove for beginners, so if you're having trouble, consider asking a professional for help.
- L.-shaped studs: Basic “earring” designed with a 90 degree bend in the thin section so that the jewelry forms an “L” shape. In preparation for removing it, hold the ornate part on the outside of your nose and gently press down until you see an L curve coming out of the piercing. Note that you may feel a slight pinch as the grooves of the studs come out of the holes.
- Nose Screw (nose screw): Same as regular studs but has a grooved part that looks like a corkscrew. To install and unscrew it, you will need to make a few turns. Preparation for removing it is to carefully push out the tip of the jewelry that is inside the nose. The jewelry will start to slide out. Twist carefully as you push it through your nose, following the direction of the curve. Depending on the type of jewelry, you may need to make two or three turns before the stud comes off. Perhaps using K-Y jelly or another mild lubricant can help while you're at it to keep the studs from snagging.
- Bone or Fishtail (stick/rod studs): Mini “sticks” or “poles” with beads or other holders at both ends. The main mast can be straight or curved. While some bones have removable straps, most don't, so they are the most difficult pieces of jewelry to remove. To prepare to remove it, press the tip of the jewelry inside the nose with your finger or thumb and push until the jewelry sticks out slightly.
Step 4. Carefully push the jewelry out
Once you've finished preparing your jewelry for removal, removing it is usually very easy. Carefully pull the jewelry out of the hole at a steady speed. If the jewelry has a bend, go slowly and be prepared to change the angle of pull to accommodate the bend.
- For some types of jewelry, it may be helpful to place a finger inside your nose to guide the piece of jewelry that is inside as it is removed. Don't be shy about it - it may look like you're picking your nose, but if you're doing it in private, this trick can save you some discomfort.
- For a nosebone without a brace, pulling off this piece of jewelry will require more force than would be needed to pull off other types of nose jewelry. Try to remove it in one firm, careful motion. Be prepared for an uncomfortable pinching sensation as the bulge at the inner end comes out through the piercing hole. Don't worry if you bleed a little after the jewelry comes off, especially if it's your first time doing it, but make sure you clean it thoroughly if this happens (details on how to clean are below).
Step 5. Clean the nose with an antibacterial solution
Once you've removed your jewelry, store it in a safe place so that small pieces don't fall apart. Next, use a cotton swab to clean both sides of the piercing with an antibacterial solution. This solution kills bacteria around the piercing site and reduces the risk of infection. When it comes to cleaning solutions you can use, there are several options. Here's a short list of sample solutions - see section below for more information.
- Saline solution (salt and water)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Antibacterial ointments (eg, neosporin, etc.)
Part 2 of 3: Cleaning Piercing Jewelry
Step 1. Use a saline solution to clean your jewelry
After removing your jewelry, you have two cleaning tasks: to clean the jewelry you just took off, and to clean the new jewelry before you put it on. For convenience, you can use the same cleaning method for both! The first option when it comes to cleaning is to use a saline solution. The advantage of this option is that it is inexpensive and easy to prepare at home - but it takes time to prepare.
- To make the salt solution, heat two cups of water in a small saucepan. When the water starts to boil, add teaspoon (not a tablespoon) of salt and stir until dissolved. Let the water continue to boil for 5 minutes to kill all microorganisms in the water.
- To sterilize your jewelry, pour the saline solution into two separate clean containers, then put the old jewelry in one container and the new jewelry into the other. Soak both jewelry for 5-10 minutes.
Step 2. Rub the jewelry with alcohol
Another good option for cleaning your jewelry is to use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl), which can usually be obtained cheaply at your local home improvement store. To clean jewelry with rubbing alcohol, simply pour a small amount of alcohol into a small clean container, and use a cotton swab to wipe all over the jewelry, whether it's old jewelry or new jewelry you want to wear.
Let the new jewelry dry first by placing it on a paper towel before attaching it to the piercing. Rubbing alcohol will sting slightly if applied directly to the piercing (though it doesn't cause any serious harm)
Step 3. Use Bactine or other antiseptic solution
Antiseptic liquids (such as Bactine or other brands that contain benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient) are perfect for cleaning nose jewelry. Not only does this solution kill harmful bacteria on contact, it's also easy to use - just drop the solution on a clean cloth or cotton swab and rub it over the jewelry, then let it dry before putting it on.
Another advantage of using Bactine or a similar product is that it can help relieve the pain that can accompany changing jewelry for the first time, so don't be afraid to apply a small amount of it, carefully to your piercing
Step 4. Consider applying an antibiotic ointment
If you have antibiotic ointment in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, you may be able to use it in addition after using one of the cleaning solutions above. To apply, simply rub a small amount into both pieces of jewelry, paying special attention to coating the piece of jewelry that will be embedded in the piercing hole. Suitable ointments include ointments containing polymyxin B sulfate or bacitracin as active ingredients.
- Be aware that the use of ointments for piercings is somewhat controversial - although they are effective at killing bacteria, there is some evidence to suggest that using them in this way can actually slow down the healing process of the piercing.
- Also note that some people are allergic to regular antibiotic ointments. If you experience pain and swelling after putting on new jewelry that has been cleaned with ointment, remove the jewelry and stop using the ointment. Call the doctor if the problem persists.
Part 3 of 3: Installing New Jewelry
Step 1. Carefully thread the pointed end of your new piece of jewelry through the piercing hole
If new jewelry has been sterilized, getting it into the piercing is usually fairly easy. Simply remove the holder or bead and carefully slide the thin piece of jewelry into the piercing.
- If the piercing is in the septum (the "middle" part of the nose), you'll need to slip the jewelry into the piercing through one nostril. However, if the piercing is on one side of the nostril, you will need to slip it from the outside of your nose.
- Just a reminder, make sure you wash your hands or put on gloves before handling your new (sterile) jewelry or touching your piercing.
Step 2. Feel the metal on the other side of the piercing
To help the jewelry pass through the piercing, try slipping one finger on the other side of the hole as you push the jewelry in. This will help you get the angle of insertion just right – when you feel the jewelry poke your finger, you'll know you've “skipped” the hole.
Step 3. Follow the bend of the jewelry as you insert it into the hole
Continue to push the jewelry through the piercing, using both hands to guide and adjust as needed. If the jewelry has a bend, turn or reposition the jewelry carefully as you push to accommodate the bend and avoid unnecessary pain.
Step 4. Fasten the jewelry with beads, clamps, and so on
When your jewelry is fully assembled, the only task left is to lock or button it to prevent it from falling out. Depending on the type of jewelry you use, the exact way to do this will vary - the same as for the jewelry removal process above. Here are rough directions for some of the common types of nose jewelry:
- Seamless hoop: Simply bend both ends of the ring so that they are aligned inside the nose and the ring is firmly seated in the piercing hole.
- Captive bead hoop: Bend the two ends of the ring so that they meet inside the fastening bead. As noted above, these jewelry can be quite difficult for beginners, so consider asking a professional for help if you're having trouble.
- L.-shaped studs: Slide the pointed end of the jewelry through the piercing. The ornate part of the stud should be above the piercing if you want the "L" tip to point to the nostril and vice versa if you want the tip to hang down. Push in on the stud until you reach the indentation, then carefully allow the stud groove to pass through the piercing (pull down if you're starting at the top of the piercing and push up if you're starting at the bottom of the piercing).
- Nose Screw: Tuck the end of the stud through the piercing. Place your thumb or finger on the side of the inside of the nose as a guide. Carefully push in the screw, turning it clockwise until you feel the tip of the stud poking the inside of your nose. If necessary, keep turning the studs until the jewelry is flat against the outer nose surface.
- Bone or Fishtail: As mentioned above, while this type of jewelry is comfortable to wear for a long time, it can be the most uncomfortable to put on or take off. To attach a bone or fishtail, start by tucking the protrusion of the jewelry into the outside of the piercing. Using your thumb or one finger on the inside of your nose as support, push the rod firmly through the piercing until you can feel it on the other side. Don't worry if you feel an uncomfortable pinch while doing this.
Step 5. Clean your nose once again
Once your new piece of jewelry sits comfortably on your nose, congratulations - you've just successfully changed your piercing! At this stage, complete your task by performing another nasal cleansing with an antiseptic to prevent infection. Apply a mixture of warm water and soap, an antibacterial cleanser, or the other cleaning solution described above to the area around both sides of your new piercing.
Step 6. See a professional if you experience serious pain or bleeding
Putting on new jewelry may be a bit awkward and uncomfortable, but it shouldn't cause serious pain or cause significant bleeding. If you experience any of these symptoms or your piercing is red, inflamed, and/or irritated, this could be a sign that your piercing hasn't had enough time to heal or that it's infected. In either case, visit a reputable professional piercer to determine the problem. See a doctor if your symptoms do not improve after some time.
- Don't buy cheap metal piercings - these are usually made from materials that can cause an unpleasant allergic reaction.
- Most piercers sell post-treatment lotions in their salons. While this lotion is not essential, it can be a profitable addition to your nose ring maintenance schedule.
- Another good antiseptic is benzalkonium chloride (available over-the-counter at most pharmacies).