How to (Safely) Remove Piercing Earrings

Piercing Earrings

Getty/Design by Cristina Cianci

Getting your ears pierced is a popular choice for many people, regardless of factors like age or style. Typically, though, the jewelry your piercer uses during your appointment is fairly basic—for example, gemstone studs or small, simple hoops. While you may be ready to add a bit of flair with some new jewelry, trying to remove the metal without proper instruction could irritate the piercing, or worse. If you’re ready to change out the earrings you were pierced with, read on to find out when you can safely do it and how.

Meet the Expert

  • Jenny Liu, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Minneapolis.
  • Eileen Cabral is a California-based professional piercer at Dark Rose Tattoo Parlor.
  • Michael Johnson is a professional body piercer at A Wicked Sensation in Salt Lake City.

When Can You Remove the Jewelry?

The first step in removing or changing out the jewelry you were pierced with is to be sure the piercing is completely healed. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you are sure the piercing is healed and then wait a few more weeks to be sure. If you try to change it out before it’s healed, you could cause immense harm to the piercing.

“Wait for [a] piercing to heal before doing anything else to it, as repeated trauma to healing skin can delay wound healing, lead to infection, and again [cause] abnormal scarring,” says board-certified dermatologist Jenny Liu, MD, FAAD.

If you’re a bit impatient and don’t particularly like waiting, professional body piercer Eileen Cabral says that earrings have a general healing time that you can aim for: 4–6 weeks. Once that time is up, and once your piercing no longer exhibits any of the active signs of healing, you can safely remove the jewelry you were pierced with.

Of course, if you’re not sure that your piercing is fully healed, it’s best to speak to your piercer. They can give you better instructions pertaining to the specific jewelry you were pierced with and whether it can be removed yet. Remember that there isn't an exact time period; each person and their piercing heals at their own pace.

“Waiting a few months for a piercing to heal will always be better than ruining your piercing because it wasn't treated properly,” says professional body piercer Michael Johnson.

How to Remove the Jewelry

Once you’re sure that your piercing is fully healed, the next step is to understand how to remove the jewelry. If you’re not sure exactly how to remove it, your best bet—as with any uncertainty—is to contact your piercer. It may feel like a silly thing to ask about, but as Johnson notes, “There is no shame in asking your body piercer for assistance.” You’re also more than welcome to ask your piercer to change your jewelry out for you to save you any worry.

If you attempt to remove the jewelry without knowing what you’re doing, it’s possible you could cause more harm to the piercing and your skin. That’s why it’s so important not only to wait to remove the piercing until it has healed but once you’re certain about how to properly remove it.

“[I] recommend following instructions from [your] artist, as [the] location of piercings can affect healing and/or potentially increase risk of infection or abnormal scarring,” says Liu.

The most important thing to remember is that everything needs to be clean, from your own hands to the new jewelry you’re inserting. Even if your piercing is fully healed_and even if you follow your piercer’s instructions—anything that’s dirty could wind up getting bacteria in the hole, which could jeopardize the health of the piercing. In fact, Johnson notes that most infections he sees are “caused from early jewelry switching and doing so in an unclean environment.”

To start out clean, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before removing the piercing. Then, carefully remove the jewelry according to the proper instructions. Once the old earrings are out, Cabral says to “clean out area with either sterile saline, wound wash, or non-iodized sea salt” to ensure the piercing site is clean for the new jewelry. Then, make sure the new earrings are sterile, wash your hands again, and insert the metal into the now-empty hole.

How to remove the earrings depends on what kind of jewelry you were pierced with. The most common type of jewelry for new ear piercings are simple studs, which are removed by pulling off the back and sliding the front forward out of the ear. However, some people prefer to be pierced with hoops. These are removed either in the same way or by disconnecting a small piece of the earring from the other side and sliding it out from the ear.

“Not all jewelry is created equally,” says Cabral. “Do your research!”

Regardless of what kind of jewelry you were pierced with, removing it doesn’t have to be hard. Make sure to wait until the piercing is fully healed and follow the piercer's instructions. If you do, your new jewelry shouldn’t cause you any problems. Plus, you’ll get to marvel at how it looks when it’s done properly!

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