All body piercings run the risk of infection if the initial jewelry is changed too soon, according to the Association of Professional Piercers, but belly button rings are especially susceptible to problems and have a minimum waiting period of 16 weeks before you can change it. Once your belly button piercing heals, you can change the jewelry on your own. But careful handling of the piercing and the new jewelry is essential in making sure you don’t cause infection or other damage to the piercing area.
Wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap before handling your belly button piercing or jewelry. Rinse your hands thoroughly (any lingering soap could get into the piercing and cause irritation), then pat your hands dry with a paper towel.
Soak your new belly button ring in rubbing alcohol for 10 minutes or so to disinfect it. Remove the belly button ring from the rubbing alcohol and pat it dry with a paper towel.
Unscrew the top ball from your current belly button ring. Grip the bottom of the ring and gently slide it out of the piercing. Screw the top ball back onto the belly button ring and set it aside. If you plan to keep the old ring and wear it in the future, soak it in rubbing alcohol immediately after removing it.
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Unscrew the top ball from your new belly button ring. Insert the top of the ring in the piercing hole, using gentle pressure until it slides completely through.
Replace the ball on the top of the ring and screw it tightly into place. Work the new belly button ring gently in an up and down motion to ensure it is properly secured.
If you’re having trouble inserting the new belly button ring, take a break and put your old one back in for a few minutes--if you leave your piercing completely without jewelry, it could close within minutes.
Immediately contact a professional body piercer if you cannot change your belly button ring or if the area becomes red or a discharge forms. Do not use a cloth towel to dry your hands before handling your piercing, because it could have bacteria on it, which could spread to the piercing.
Allison Boelcke graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor's in English and a minor in psychology. She worked in print journalism for three years before deciding to pursue Internet writing. She is now a contributing web writer for Demand Studios and Conjecture Corporation.