Changing out the jewelry in your piercings is a quick, easy way to refresh your look right now. Swapping in hoops or trying out a new combination of studs is sure to give your ears — or even your nose — a fun, new vibe in seconds.
However, if you recently got your ear pierced, you may have piercing jewelry in it. Unlike the typical butterfly-backed earrings, piercing jewelry has flatbacks with studs that seem impossible to remove. Typically, you'd be advised to visit a piercer to remove them.
"The biggest [reason] is there are just some piercings you can't really see or access easily on your own head, even with a mirror," says Lynn Loheide, a piercer at Icon Tattoo and Body Piercing in Nashville. "I'm a professional and still have piercings I can't or won't try changing on my own. That said simple piercings like lobes, helixes, nostrils, and septums are really easy to change in and out on your own with a little practice — and what else do you have time to do in quarantine but practice."
Step 1: Check For Soreness
Before anything, make sure your piercing is fully healed before even thinking of taking it out. Usually, a piercer would make sure you're good to go, but here are some guidelines to follow on your own: Depending on its location, healing can take up to a year. "I estimate around two months for lobe piercings and three to six months for all other ear piercings," says Ava Lorusso, a piercer at New York City's Studs. Tell-tale signs of a healed piercing are no redness, swelling, soreness, and crustiness. If moving the piercing jewelry hurts, it's not ready to be changed.
Step 2: Get Yourself and Your Station Ready
Next, wash your hands. If you're planning to take out your piercing jewelry in the bathroom, Loheide recommends placing a towel down in your sink, so nothing falls down the drain or bounces off the sink and across the room.
Step 3: Assess the Jewelry Type and Remove Accordingly
If your earring has a flat back, it might be a type called threaded. The stud is screwed into the post, so you need to unscrew it to remove it. "Righty righty, lefty lousy," Loheide says.
Although this sounds easy enough, you'll need a good, firm grip on both the front and back of the earring to properly unscrew it. Cassi Lopez-March, owner and piercer at So Gold Studios in New York City, recommends slipping on some gloves to help you better grasp the jewelry.
Threadless earrings look the same as threaded ones upon first glance, but they have a bent post. Instead of unscrewing them, pinch the front and back and firmly pull apart to remove, says Lynn.
If you're having trouble, Lopez notes you might have to gently twist both sides as you pull them apart.
If you have a ring in your ear or septum, you might want to hold off on taking it out. Lynn believes they should be removed by a piercer with the proper tools. But if you must have something new in your piercing, you'll want to locate the opening of the hoop first. Then, grab both sides and twist them away from each other — "like an S not a C," she says. "Imagine taking keys off a keyring."
For rings that have a hinge, "pinch the decorative section and the hinge, and pull apart," Loheide says.
Captive Bead Rings
Of all the ring situations, captive bead ones are the most likely to cause you trouble. "They need to be spread open, usually with a tool, so the bead can be popped out," Lopez says. "The ring [needs to be] made large enough to fit over the area you're removing it from."
With just your hands, you can try to remove your captive bead ring by pinching with ring with one hand and the bead with another, Loheide says. Then, pull them apart from each other.
Step 4: Insert New Jewelry
Once your piercing jewelry is out, you'll need to put in something new or the hole might close up. When picking something to replace it, look for jewelry made with implant-grade materials, like titanium. As Lopez points out, piercing studios typically have online shops that you can support at this time by buying jewelry directly from them. I highly suggest checking out her selection at So Gold Studios. I'm also a fan of the Cult Classics collection from Studs.
Sizing is also important. If you're unsure of what's best for your piercing, simply contact your piercer. Many offer free video appointments, including famed Maria Tash. Even though her stores are closed at this time, "we can continue to be an expert resource for anyone with questions on piercing, healing, ring and post sizing, and aftercare," founder Maria Tash tells Allure. "The one-to-one consultations are fun for both parties. They give our piercers the opportunity to be creative, share their deep knowledge and inspire, as well as allay client piercing concerns while simultaneously fostering their vision for a curated body."
Step 5: Follow Aftercare Steps
For a week after changing out your jewelry, pretend your piercing is new and treat it with the same care as when you just got it to avoid complications, Lorusso says. Need a refresher? Spray it on both sides with a saline spray a couple of times a day or wash around the jewelry with unscented soap. New York City-based dermatologist Arash Akhavan also recommends "for the first two to three weeks, avoid sleeping on your side to prevent friction on the area."
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Originally Appeared on Allure