Why Does My Septum Piercing Smell and How do I Fix It?

As body piercings and modifications have become more accepted in recent years, there has been a rise in the number of people getting septum piercings. A septum piercing can completely change the look of a person, and with that many people have reported feeling more confident after getting their new piercing.

A septum piercing can have its drawbacks for some people. They can be a bit painful and sore in the days after the piercing. It’s also very important to provide proper aftercare to the piercing to ensure it doesn’t get infected as it heals.

One of the common complaints from people with septum piercings is the smell that sometimes comes with it. We’ll look at why your septum may smell and what you can do to fix it.

Why does my Septum Piercing Smell?

During the healing process, your body will naturally secrete a pus-like substance called ‘sebum’. Produced by your skins sebaceous gland, sebum works to coat, moisturize, and protect your skin. Sebum by itself is odorless, but when mixed with dead skin cells, bacteria, and dried blood, can smell like stinky cheese.

Also known as ‘septum funk’, a smelly septum piercing won’t last forever. Let’s take a look at some tips and tricks to combat that rotten odor.

How Do I Stop My Septum from Smelling?

Most people with septum piercings experience septum funk at some point or another. It’s a totally natural process that is to be expected during the healing process. Sticking to a consistent cleaning schedule is the best way to get rid of and prevent that funky septum piercing smell.

While your septum piercing is still healing, you’ll want to regularly wash the affected area with warm water and a clear glycerin soap. Your body piercing artist may have given you an antiseptic soap to prevent an infection. This antiseptic soap will also help prevent septum funk. Use the antiseptic soap as directed by the professional piercer.

If your artist did not provide you with an antiseptic soap, then you can add a small amount of sea salt to your warm, soapy water solution to help fight off any sort of infection which can lead to an unpleasant smell.

To clean the jewelry itself, use a q-tip or cotton swab with warm soap and water. Do not take your jewelry out if the septum piercing has not healed yet. If you do, you run the risk of the hole closing, and you may have to go back to the studio to get your septum pierced all over again.

Instead of removing your septum piercing, rotate it in both directions and clean as much of the surface as you can. You’ll want to focus on the area that typically rests within your septum channel.

If you still can’t get the smell to go away and your septum piercing is completely healed, then remove the jewelry and soak it in soap and water after giving it a scrub. To really get at the odor, consider purchasing a jewelry cleaner that is compatible with your piercing’s material.

After your septum piercing is soaked in warm, soapy water, add a drop of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural antimicrobial agent that will help fight off odor-producing bacteria.

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How Long does the Septum Smell Last?

Septum funk may last as long as it takes for your septum piercing to completely heal. Most septum piercings take anywhere from 2-3 months to heal. Sebum is naturally secreted throughout the healing process. As long as there is sebum being produced along with dead skin cells, there is a possibility that the unwanted odor will persist.

The healing time for a septum piercing varies from person to person. Some individuals claim that their piercing heals as quickly as one week and never experience pain or odors. Other individuals may take longer than three months to heal. You can aid the healing process by regularly washing and taking care of your piercing. There’s nothing worse than an infected piercing!

If your septum piercing hasn’t healed within three months, is painful to the touch, and is still smelly, then you’ll want to consult with your body piercer. There’s a chance that your septum is infected and needs to be treated with a topical antibiotic.

An irregularly smelly septum piercing accompanied by pain and redness is a strong indicator of an infection. The bacteria from an infection is a breeding ground for unpleasant odors.

Don’t panic if your septum piercing smells for an extended period of time. The smell by itself is not a sign of an infection and is completely normal. Similarly, don’t panic if your septic piercing didn’t smell for the first month but starts to smell in the second, or vice versa.

Septum funk can come and go throughout the healing process. This is completely normal!

Can I use Alcohol to Clean my Septum Piercing?

Do not use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean your septum piercing unless you have an infection. Both rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide slow the healing process by over drying and killing new and healthy skin cells. A general rule of thumb is to not put anything into or on your piercing that you wouldn’t put in your eye.

A more obvious reason to stay away from alcohol as a cleaning solution is the sting! If you’ve ever cleaned a wound with alcohol, then you know that it burns. Don’t inflict unnecessary pain onto yourself if you don’t have to. You already sat through the painful experience of getting your septum pierced, so don’t make it worse than it has to be!

Alcohol may be used to clean your septum piercing if you have an infection, but don’t overdo it. Rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide should not be used more than once on any infected septum piercing.

If you continually use rubbing alcohol of hydrogen peroxide to clean your infected septum piercing, then you run the risk of slowing the healing process and increasing the likelihood of irritation and over drying. A safer alternative to treat an infection is a warm water and sea salt solution. If your infection worsens, then you should consult your piercer or doctor.

In regards to using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean your jewelry, you shouldn’t. Alcohol may be too harsh for low quality piercing materials such as coated metals. High quality materials such as stainless steel can be easily cleaned with just soap and water. There’s no need to tarnish your newly purchased jewelry with harsh alcohols.

Choosing the Right Material for your Piercing

Cheap materials such as coated metals should be avoided for new piercings. These poor quality piercings are known to cause infections, irritation, and pain.

Over time, the coating from poor quality jewelry will break off, revealing the metal alloy base which could cause an adverse reaction with your healing wound. In addition, the broken off pieces of coating can get lodged in your septum piercing, causing even more pain and leading to infection.

Organic materials such as wood or bamboo are generally regarded as odorless, but are porous and difficult to clean Glass is another material that doesn’t build up a smell and is easy to clean.

Silicon piercings are also porous, but typically wade off unwanted stenches. Silicon piercings should be cleaned more regularly to prevent any odor buildup.

Unfortunately, all of the piercing materials listed above are rarely offered in starter piercings, but are great options for once your septum piercing heals to a point that you are comfortable changing jewelry without running the risk of the septum hole closing.

Sterling silver is a material for your septum piercing that should be avoided at all costs. Sterling silver easily oxidizes, which is particularly harmful to any body piercing.

As silver oxidizes and rusts, it can cause severe reactions to your unhealed septum. This material is also a soft metal and is easily scratched.

When scratched, sterling silver flakes that peel off can become lodged in your septum. This is not only difficult to clean, but is also a recipe for a bacterial infection.

The best option for your new septum piercing is a low-carbon surgical stainless steel. Stainless steel is widely used in the medical community for its antibacterial characteristics, and is a great option for your new septum piercing.

Stainless steel still contains reactive alloys, but the alloys are encased by an electroplating chemical process, so it isn’t a concern. Another plus is that stainless steel is hypoallergenic!

Other safe options for septum piercing materials that won’t carry around a nasty smell include platinum, 14k gold, titanium, and niobium. Titanium is probably the most common metal used in piercings. It is hypoallergenic, pure, and affordable.

Niobium is incredibly similar to titanium, but a bit heavier and expensive. Niobium and titanium can both be anodized with a color of your choice.

Platinum and 14k gold are the most expensive and also hypoallergenic. 14k gold will need to be professionally serviced every now and again since it does scratch easily.

With new piercings, it is important to stay away from any 14k white gold than contain nickel, as it can cause adverse reactions that can lead to unwanted odors.