All About Nose Piercings
After ears, the nose is the second-most popular place to get a body piercing. A longtime presence in Indian, African, and South Pacific cultures, in the last three decades this small bit of body jewelry has gone from rare to nearly everywhere in the US and Europe. Yet, as prevalent as this piercing seems, it can be tricky to heal without complications and causes much debate in the professional working world.
What you will find here is information about the different types of nose piercings that exist, advice for before you get pierced, options for jewelry, videos of the process, some piercing "no-nos" to avoid, and much more. Here's a list of topics you'll find covered here.
Everything You Need to Know About Nose Piercing
- Types of Piercings (Nostril, septum, and bridge.)
- Piercing Info and Links (How to care for a nose piercing, and more.)
- Types of Jewelry (Rings, bones, studs, and screws.)
- Things to Ask Your Piercer Beforehand (Questions to ask before you get started.)
- Nose Piercing No-Nos (What to avoid while you're still healing.)
- Aftercare Products (Suggested products for cleaning and caring for your healing piercing.)
- What Happens When You Take out the Jewelry? (If you wish to permanently remove it or if your jewelry gets knocked out before it's done healing.)
- When Not to Get a Nose Piercing (There are some instances when it might really be better to not get a nose piercing. Also, there are age minimums for getting pierced.)
- Frequently Asked Questions and Forum (If you still have a question, here's where you can ask the author.)
Types of Nose Piercings
Noses allow for a few variations in piercing. It's cartilage, a tissue that is tougher to pierce and can be more problematic to heal compared to earlobes, which are soft.
This is the most common place for a nose piercing. The jewelry is placed somewhere along the rim of the nostril, either on the left or the right side of the nose. There is no significance or meaning to which side you get pierced; it's just your preference. Anything you hear to the contrary is just an urban myth. A ring or stud is best for starting but make sure the jewelry is not too tight if it is a stud. That can lead to healing problems.
Below, you can see what it looks like to get a nostril piercing done. Note that no piercing gun is used.
These are placed in the cartilage wall between the chambers of the nose, at the bottom of the nostrils. It's sometimes called a "bull ring" as you might see cattle with this style of piercing. This spot can be a bit sensitive, especially if the ring gets snagged. This is the only type of nose piercing that can be made completely and truly invisible.
In the video below, you can see how a septum is pierced.
Sometimes called an "Earl" piercing after the first man to get this kind of modification, this is done on the surface of the bridge of the nose, lining up between the eyes. This piercing can be very hard to heal and carries a high potential for rejection or healing out.
You can see how it is pierced in the following video.
Types of Nose Jewelry
Sadly, a lot of people refer to any and all types as "nose rings," which is inaccurate. There are many different types of jewelry available, such as the following.
Ring: Only circular barbells, loops, or hoops are really "nose rings." A tiny captive or fixed bead ring is very popular.
Rings are the best option for starter jewelry until the initial healing period is over, as they make it easy to clean the piercing thoroughly and allow room for any swelling.
Bone/Pin/Stud: This is a short post-style piece of jewelry with a small bead or decoration that rests on the outside of the nostril. Items described as "bones" or "pins" often do not have a conventional backing. Sometimes they are just a straight post, and sometimes the inside end terminates with a larger bead end.
I get a lot of email from people complaining that bones are hard to get in and out and are painful to change. Do not get a bone when you first get your nose pierced. Essentially, you'll just wind up ripping it out later if you ever want to change it.
Do not get a bone, pin, stud, or (as you will read about further down) spike when you first get your nose pierced.
Screw: A nostril screw is a style of jewelry from India and has become very popular in Western piercing. It has a short post that then goes into a small curl. This curl works instead of a backing to hold the jewelry in place. A more modern variation on this style is the "L-bar," which has an angled straight piece on the inside end instead of a curl.
U-Bend: This is a jewelry option just for septum piercings. It is a small "U"-shaped piece that can be worn with the ends flipped up inside the nostrils, thus making the piercing undetectable. This is the only type of nose jewelry that can truly be entirely invisible.
Spike: This is another jewelry option for septums, and sometimes bridge piercings. It's essentially a straight taper worn horizontally through the piercing, with pointed ends that stick out. Not for new piercings!
Things to Ask Before You Get Pierced
- Ask about what products to use for proper healing: Find out if the piercer recommends any special soap or aftercare product. Be sure to mention any allergies to ingredients or fragrances you might have.
- Ask how your chosen jewelry works, or how it goes in and out of your nose: Some people get pierced and then, months down the road, want to change the jewelry and don't know how. Your piercer should be able to easily show you.
- Ask about any medical concerns you have: If you are worried about colds, allergies, or activities, bring these up.
- Discuss aftercare. If your piercer tells you he or she they have an aftercare sheet to give you, be sure to go over it together before you sit down and get pierced. That way you can be sure you understand everything, and that way you don't forget after you are pierced since you may feel a bit lightheaded.
And as with all body service situations, if you don't like the answers that you are given or feel like the piercer is blowing you off or treating you like you are dumb, don't get pierced by that person! Go find someone else with better training and a more professional manner.
Traditional/Tribal Nose Piercings
Nose Piercing No-Nos (and Ways to Avoid Complications!)
Do not get your nose pierced with a piercing gun! These were not invented for noses, and the jewelry used by these guns is very blunt and often way too tight. This increases your chances of infection, keloids (scar-tissue bumps), and scarring. But the really big reason not to go to a place that uses such tools is that the employees of these types of locations are not trained properly about blood-borne disease transmission, and the piercing guns are not sterilized properly in between customers to prevent the spread of HIV or Hepatitis C!
Do not wear sterling silver or plastic in a new or healing piercing!
Sterling Silver: When this metal tarnishes against unhealed skin, it can permanently stain the skin, leaving a black mark around the site that will never go away. I have no knowledge of any method for getting rid of the staining. New nose piercings need to be healed wearing stainless steel, niobium, titanium, or 14k gold. If you find out you have sterling silver in your new piercing, go see a reputable piercer and have them switch it out for a safe metal.
Plastic or Nylon: Although hypoallergenic, these materials are porous, so they can absorb body fluids that can lead to infection. The plastic can discolor, and the jewelry can stick to the unhealed skin.
Do not change your jewelry too soon! Noses take three months or longer to fully heal, and some people find that if they take out the jewelry sooner, the piercing collapses or closes down and they can't get any jewelry back in, thus losing the piercing entirely. Changing jewelry too soon can also re-tear the inside of the piercing and make you start the healing process all over again. If you have some sort of crisis with a piece of jewelry and really have to change it out, go back and see your piercer, who can swap the jewelry in a way that doesn't let the piercing close down on you.
- Do not use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean your new piercing! They both can cause tissue burns and increase irritation, which slows down healing and increases the chances of scar tissue or bumps forming.
- Avoid swimming pools, hot tubs, and swimming in the ocean during the healing period. Chlorine and other chemicals used to maintain public pools are very bad for the healing tissues. Ocean water poses the danger of bacterial infection from pollution contaminants.
- If you exercise or sweat heavily, the toxins in perspiration can also irritate piercings, so be sure to rinse or wash off your face when you get done playing sports or working out.
What Happens When You Take Out a Nose Piercing?
- How long after piercing do I have to wait to to take jewelry out temporarily? No clue. Some people's piercings are very stable after the initial three-month healing period, and some take much longer. There's no way to be able to tell when your piercing becomes stable. Some never do!
- Will the hole close up after I take out my nose ring? Mostly. No one can predict how your body will respond once you take out the jewelry, but the hole will probably shrink. You might wind up with a small dimple, or it might be barely noticeable.
- What happens if I take out my nostril or septum piercing before it's done healing? It will heal shut. You may or may not wind up with a mark or dent of some sort. I know this may seem obvious to some, but clearly, it's not to others, as I get asked this fairly regularly.
- My jewelry got accidentally knocked or pulled out of my nose, and I can't get it back in. What do I do? Many piercings close up really quickly if the jewelry comes out during the healing period. So that you don't cause too much trauma and wind up with scar tissue, it's best to let your nose completely heal before you get it pierced again.
(As nose piercing continues to gain in popularity, I'm getting more and more of this category of question, but healing time is one of the gray areas.)
Take the Nose Piercing Poll!
Do you think employers/businesses are over-reacting when they make people take out or cover their nose piercings for work?
Don't Get Pierced If
- Your school or participation in sports doesn't allow it. If you think you are going to successfully take it out repeatedly while healing or somehow hide it and not run into healing problems, you are wrong.
- Your job doesn't allow it. If you think you can wear clear jewelry or cover it up, note that both of those things actually make it really obvious you have a nose piercing.
- You are worried about what it might look like later, or if you think you'll stop wearing the jewelry. The hole is about the same size as an ear piercing. Sometimes the hole stays open once the jewelry is removed, and sometimes it shrinks down a bit, but most often, some sort of dimple remains afterwards. If that makes you concerned, don't even go there.
- You are worried about how much it might hurt. Every person feels pain differently, so you can't ask others what their experiences were like and get an answer that will help you predict what you'll feel. You won't know how much a nose piercing hurts until you get one. Please note that not all body parts will hurt as much as others, and that the skills of your piercer can add to or lessen the pain. (Emailing me and saying, "But really, how bad is it?" is not going to get you an answer. Your body is not my body.)
Nose and Body Piercing Laws—Details for How Old You Have to Be to Get Pierced
Before You Ask a Question Below:
If you ask something that is obviously answered in the article, you'll be told to re-read that section.
If you have a question about cost or pricing, go ask a body piercer, as only they know what they charge.
Information will not be given on how to do self-piercing due to legal liabilities.
I won't give advice on how to convince parents to let a minor be pierced. Go see a family counselor for help in dealing with those conflicts.
- If you are looking for info on healing or aftercare, see my article about Nose Piercing Healing Issues.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2008 Raye