You just got your nose pierced, and you can hardly wait to switch up the jewelry. Not so fast. Nasal piercings are delicate and can close quickly if they're not completely healed when you remove the original jewelry. Changing a nostril or septum ring too soon also can cause infection, swelling, bleeding and redness at the piercing site.
Nostril piercings normally require two to four months to heal completely. Septum piercings need six to eight weeks to heal. During that time, it's important to properly care for the piercing site each day. Failing to do so could significantly delay the healing process and could cause an infection that forces you to have to prematurely remove the ring.
It's important to clean your piercing two to three times a day to promote normal healing. To do this, dissolve 1/4 tsp. of sea salt in 1 cup of warm water. If you're cleaning a nostril piercing, soak a cotton ball in the solution and hold it over the piercing for 3 to 5 minutes to kill bacteria.
If you're cleaning a septum piercing, drench the tip of a cotton swab in the solution and gently slide it into each nostril, holding it against each side of the piercing opening for 3 to 5 minutes. Rinse away the residue with a fresh cotton ball or cotton swab soaked in warm water.
Pat nostril piercings dry with a fresh paper towel. Septum piercings do not require drying. Never use cloth towels on the piercing area, as they can snag the ring and spread bacteria to the site.
Once or twice a day, gently wash the piercing site with soap and water. Rinse throughly and dry the area.
Signs of Healing
Your piercing is likely healed if at least the minimum amount of healing time has passed and the area appears normal. That means no discoloration, swelling, discharge or flaky areas on your skin. The hole itself likely will feel very tight, making it difficult to move the ring around in the piercing. Do not force it.
Your piercing may appear healed before it is. This is because piercings heal from the outside in. A nostril piercing that looks clear on the outside or a septum piercing that no longer stings when you move the ring still could be delicate inside.
For this reason, most piercers recommend that you wait the maximum four months for nostril piercings and eight weeks for septum piercings before attempting to change the ring yourself. If you need to switch the ring before then, ask your piercer to tackle the job.
When you choose new jewelry for a nostril or septum piercing, make sure it is the right size. Ask your piecer what gauge the original ring is so you can choose the same size when buying new jewelry.
Also ensure all surfaces of the jewelry are free of nicks, polishing compounds, burrs and scratches. Reliably safe nose rings include those made from stainless steel, solid 14-carat or higher nickel-free gold, solid nickel-free platinum alloy and titanium. Nonmetal rings made from polytetrafluoroethylene or medical surgical tubing are also fine.
When your piercing has healed, gently unclasp the ring and slide it out of the nostril or septum, immediately inserting a new, clean ring. Do not force the jewelry if it won't slide through the tight hole. Try cleaning the site with warm water to loosen any debris that might be catching in the hole. If the ring is stuck, it's best to let a piercer remove the ring and insert the new one.