Congratulations on getting your nipples pierced and surviving the prolonged healing process! If you've had your nipple piercings for a little while now and you're wondering if it's safe to change your nipple rings, go through this quick little check list to see if you're cleared to go nuts with new nipple jewelry:
- Has it been at least 9 months since you had your nipples pierced?
- Are your nipples discharging lymph (clear fluid that dries to a whitish crust) regularly still, periodically, or not at all now?
- Are your nipples extremely sore to the touch still?
- Did you have any hiccups during the healing process, like infection or ongoing irritation?
If your answers were Yes, Periodically or Not at All, Not Terribly, and No, then there's no reason you can't try changing your nipple piercing jewelry. If you can hold out, it's really best to wait a full 12 months before you try changing your jewelry yourself. (You can do it with a piercer's help earlier in the healing process, if you have to because of issues like swelling necessitating longer barbells.) That said, if at least 9 months have passed with few to no hiccups in the healing process, and if your nipples are no longer extremely sore to the touch, then you shouldn't have too hard of a time swapping out your starter barbells for some new nipple bling.
It would probably be best to give your body a little more healing time before you try changing your nipple jewelry if you had an infection at some point during the nipple piercing healing process or you've experienced regular irritations such as ongoing swelling, excessive discharge of lymph, hypergranulation (red pustules or other irregularities on either side of your fistulas), dry/cracked skin, or other such issues. Changing nipple rings can re-inflame your nipple piercings, so if your nipples have already been in a regular state of aggravation, it's best to err on the side of caution and give your body a few more months to stabilize. The extra time will allow the tissue to calm down and the fistulas (holes where you were pierced) to further reinforce. The stronger and tougher the tissue around your piercings is when you change your jewelry, the less likely you'll be to experience discomfort when changing your jewelry or cause a new flare-up of this sensitive tissue.
Best Methods for Changing Nipple Jewelry
- Water-Based Lubricant (Consider using a product like Astroglide.)
- Jewelry Taper (Use one if you're going to replace your starter jewelry with threaded jewelry like straight barbells or even circular barbells.)
- Emu Oil
For 2-3 weeks before changing your jewelry, massage a small amount of emu oil into each nipple every day. Emu oil is moisturizing, yet it won't clog your healing fistulas the way that other oils can. It will also enhance your skin's natural elasticity, which means your fistulas will be looser and more flexible when the time comes to change your jewelry.
The first time you change nipple jewelry, you may want to consider swapping in internally-threaded jewelry like straight barbells or circular barbells in place of your starter jewelry. Threaded jewelry is ideal, because you can attach it to a threaded taper of the same gauge. Internally-threaded jewelry is better than externally-threaded jewelry, because the threading can't scrape your delicate fistulas when it's bored into the ends of your new jewelry instead of protruding from it.
When you're ready to begin, unscrew one of the decorative ends from one of your new pieces of jewelry. Screw the exposed end onto your threaded taper. Add a tiny drop of water-based lubricant to the end of the taper, and add another small drop to the side of your fistula after removing your old barbell. (Be conservative with the lube, so you don't turn your new jewelry into a slippery, unmanageable mess.) Slide the pointed end of the taper into your lubricated fistula, and gently work it in until you've pulled the jewelry all the way through your fistula. Unscrew the taper from the jewelry, replace the ball or other decorative end, and repeat the process on your other nipple.
Alternative: If your starter jewelry has external threading, buy internally-threaded nipple jewelry with a complementary thread pattern, and screw the two pieces of jewelry together before removing your starter jewelry. Use the new jewelry to push the old jewelry out. This method allows you to skip the jewelry taper altogether. (If your starter jewelry had internal threading, it's okay to get replacement jewelry with external threading if you're going to take this approach, because the threading will be screwed into the starter jewelry and won't risk scraping your delicate fistulas.)
If your new nipple jewelry isn't threaded, at least make sure it's the same gauge as your starter jewelry. It isn't wise to try going up a size on your own the first time you change your nipple rings, especially if you can't use a threaded taper to assist in the process. Apply a small drop of lubricant to the end of the jewelry you're inserting, and another tiny drop to the side of your nipple piercing, and then gently work your new jewelry in freehand.
Choosing the Best New Nipple Jewelry
As stated above, it's ideal to purchase threaded jewelry to replace your starter nipple jewelry, because it gives you the option of using a threaded taper or the attachment method (connecting new and old jewelry before transitioning) to change your jewelry more easily. If you have your heart set on a non-threaded style, like pinchers, that's okay, too. Just be sure to take your old nipple rings out one-at-a-time so that if you have a problem changing the first nipple ring, you don't end up with 2 closed holes before you can get to a piercer for help.
There are a wide variety of nipple ring styles from which to choose when you're ready to start shopping for new nipple jewelry. Our Nipple Rings section is broken down by style so you can jump right to the variety that appeals to you most. If your nipple piercings are fully healed, there's really nothing holding you back from choosing whichever style you fancy most. However, if you're still experiencing occasional irritations, you may want to consider sticking with jewelry that won't put too much downward pressure on your nipple piercings–in other words, stick to straight barbells and other simple designs rather than nipple rings with dangles or even captive bead rings and circular barbells that, thanks to gravity, will pull down on your still-sensitive nipples.
Below is a representative image from each of our nipple ring shopping categories with the category name underneath. If you see a style you like, click the category link to see all similar nipple jewelry available in that section of our Retail Store.
Once you find a style you like, make sure to choose the best material for you. If you have sensitive skin or have experienced significant irritations during the nipple piercing healing process, you may want to stick with titanium nipple rings (titanium is the least inert metal and therefore least likely to trigger an allergic reaction), surgical steel nipple rings or possibly even bioplast barbells (PTFE is also a hypoallergenic material). If your nipple piercings are well-healed nd you don't have any metal allergies, then you can branch out and choose from nipple rings made of other materials, like 14k gold.
Other Tips for a Smooth Transition
There are a few other measures you can take to ensure that your first nipple jewelry change goes smoothly. First, make sure that your new nipple jewelry has been properly sterilized. If you order new nipple jewelry from Painful Pleasures, you can add a Sterilize My Jewelry to cart for each piece you want us to sterilize (i.e. if you're purchasing 2 straight barbells for your nipple piercings, add 2 Sterilize My Jewelry to cart).
Next Order of Business: Clean your nipples well before changing your jewelry. That doesn't mean you should wash them with soap. Just perform a thorough sea salt solution soak beforehand. You can either fill a shot glass or other small container with a store-bought saline wash like Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray, or you can make a homemade sea salt solution. To make your own solution, you'll need to stir 1/4 tsp. sea salt (aquarium salt from a pet store works well) into 1 cup sterile water (bring water to a full boil on the stove, and let it continue to boil for 5 minutes to sterilize it). If you tend to have dry skin, add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to the solution. Tea tree oil has natural moisturizing and antiseptic qualities, so it's a great addition whether you're using store-bought saline wash or a homemade solution, as it will help protect your nipple piercings from any stray bacteria that might pass through as you change your jewelry.
Once you have a small cup filled with saline wash or sea salt solution enhanced with tea tree oil ready, lean forward and place the cup firmly around one of your nipples. Sit upright again, holding the cup tightly against your breast. Let your nipple soak in the solution for 5 minutes, and then dump the contents of the cup, rinse it out, refill it, and repeat the process with your other nipple.
After cleaning your nipples, don a clean pair of gloves or wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Lay out your sterile body jewelry and any tools you plan to use, like a threaded taper and lubricant. You're now ready to begin changing your jewelry!
Once you get your new nipple jewelry in, do another sea salt solution or saline wash soak. Repeat twice a day for the first few days to a week after changing your jewelry. In between soaks, spritz your nipple piercings a few times a day with Recovery Piercing Aftercare Spray or a similar product. Essentially, you want to ramp up your aftercare regime to a level on par with the nipple piercing aftercare you performed right after you had your nipples pierced. These efforts will help calm the irritated tissue and aid in both your body's healing process and its adjustment to your new nipple jewelry.
If you encounter issues at any point while attempting to change your jewelry–whether you can't get your jewelry in or you tear your sensitive fistulas during the process and experience some bleeding–don't be afraid to turn to your piercer for help. You can also ask your piercer to just do the jewelry change for you from the onset. S/he may charge you a small fee, particularly if you don't purchase your new nipple jewelry from his or her shop, but the peace of mind and hassle-free jewelry change will be worth the money.