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Getting a Nose Piercing

From the choosing your jewelry to aftercare, this is what to expect when getting a nose piercing.

Making the decision to get a nose piercing is only the first step in the process. The next big decision is which part of the nose you’ll pierce: nostril, high nostril, or septum. Women, especially, tend to choose a traditional nostril piercing placed at the crease on the side of the nose. The next most popular choice is a septum piercing, which is sometimes called a “bull ring” piercing. A high nostril piercing is often done in a pair and placed on the upper part of the cartilage, though well away from the bone.

The Procedure

When getting a traditional nostril piercing, your piercer may ask you to smile. He or she isn’t interested in your pearly whites; rather, the pro is determining the exact point in the crease of your nose to place the piercing, and a wide grin helps identify it. Before beginning, the piercer may insert a supportive device such as closed forceps inside the nostril to help stabilize the tissue. Then, a needle is guided through the relatively thick tissue from the outside in, making sure not to jab the inside of your nose. Your nose may drip blood for a few minutes, shed one drop, or not bleed at all. In any case, the best piercers will apply compression with a clean gauze pad placed on both sides of the piercing for up to a minute.

Since both the entry and exit of a septum piercing is clearly visible, it’s imperative that your piercer get a good “feel” for where he or she will place it. Some do it like ear piercers, placing a marker dot on the locations to guide them. Others can simply feel around inside your nostrils to locate the thin tissue known as the sweet spot just below the cartilage. Having a clear view of the area to be pierced is also crucial in this delicate procedure, so your piercer will likely ask you to sit with your head bent back or, even better, lie down. Septum forceps – not to be confused with regular forceps – will clamp the area. Septum forceps have hollow receiving tubs fused to the ends, creating the perfect combination of comfort and precision to allow the needle to pierce the proper area. Afterward, it’s common for your nose to run like you have a cold, and you may also bleed for a few minutes. You should be fine by the time you head for the exit, however.

Of course, you want to get an experienced, professional piercer to perform any procedure, but it’s especially important to find a top-notch pro to do a high nostril piercing. It’s less common than the other two and it’s also a more difficult piercing, so do your homework. If you wear glasses, it’s essential that you bring them to the appointment so that your piercer can avoid the area where your glasses sit on your nose. Like other piercings, you’ll experience some swelling, perhaps some bleeding, and maybe bruising of the area immediately afterward.

Type of Jewelry

When you get a traditional nostril piercing, you can select a ring, screw, or mini barbell as your initial jewelry. The ring should be at least a 20-gauge, and the post length of a barbell or screw needs to leave room for the post-piercing swelling. After the piercing has healed, the type of jewelry you choose is a matter of personal preference. Each has its own pros and cons: rings are noticeable yet low-maintenance; screws have a tail that curls around the inside of the nostril for security, though it can also irritate some wearers; the L-bend, a modified nostril screw, doesn’t have the tail, which is less secure but great for frequent changes; a mini barbell’s tiny circular backing inside the nose is very comfortable; a stud (or bone) has a straight post like an earring and a small ball backing to hold it in place on the inside of the nose.

For the initial septum piercing, a ring-style is best. A retainer is also an option, but it’s not entirely advisable because it can get knocked out during normal activity. The upside is that it can be hidden easily if need be. Choose a 16- to 12-gauge for the piercing jewelry. Septum piercings can safely be enlarged over time with minimum effort, so don’t worry if your initial piercing is smaller than you’d hoped for or even off (slightly!) in terms of symmetry. After healing, people who want to make a dramatic statement with their jewelry can choose a spike, which, as its name implies, is simply a piece of metal that tapers to points on the ends.

A nostril screw, rather than a ring, is the preferred jewelry for a high nostril piercing.


Typically, the first question post-piercing is, “How long will it take to heal?” The thick tissue through which the nostril piercing is placed means that it takes longer to heal than septum piercings – up to four months or longer versus four to eight weeks. That doesn’t mean that the initial swelling and redness will last that long; those side effects should subside fairly quickly. But in the weeks and months that make up the healing time, the most important thing you can do is keep the area clean. See “Nose Ring Care” for guidelines on how to maintain proper hygiene of your piercing.

Many people are hesitant to remove their nose rings for cleaning, and it’s certainly advisable to be cautious. Nose piercings close up rapidly; some people even report that’s it’s tough to re-insert their jewelry following a one-minute cleaning routine. Certainly while the piercing is healing – and even after healing is complete – you shouldn’t sleep without your nose jewelry or go for long periods without it. For the office or other occasions when a sparkly nose ring isn’t appropriate, insert a clear retainer that will camouflage the piercing.