In the last few years, it has become more and more common to see women (and even some men!) with piercings in their noses. And not just the sides, but the septum, the bit of cartilage that divides your nasal cavity. Septum piercings have quickly become the rage, adopted by everyone from Hollywood celebrities to YouTube stars.
Before you head over to your local piercing parlor, here’s what you need to know about septum piercings:
How the Septum Piercing is Done
This is the easy part!
Basically, it’s the same process as any other piercing:
Step 1: The piercer cleans the area with disinfectant.
Step 2: The piercer applies a clamp to the septum and works with you to get the placement right.
Step 3: Once you’re both satisfied with the placement, the piercer inserts a cannula (a hollow needle) through the clamp and your septum. The hollow needle allows the piercer to insert the septum jewelry as they pull out the needle.
Quick and easy, right? The question is, how painful is it?
What’s the Septum Piercing Pain Level?
On a scale of 1 to 10, you can expect a pain level of anywhere between 4 and 6. The piercing won’t actually pass through cartilage, but instead it goes through the columella, the thin flesh at the front of your nose. This means that there is far less pain than with piercings in the top of your ear, your lip, or other highly sensitive, nerve ending-rich locations.
Some people have compared the pain to an ear piercing, though oddly enough they say it makes you feel like you need to sneeze. That is simply the reaction that occurs when the nerve endings in your nose are stimulated. You won’t have to worry about excessive amounts of pain, thankfully.
The lower down on your nose the piercing is, the more painful it will be, and the longer it takes for the piercing to heal. It’s also far less discreet than is required for your work.
On the downside, the healing process may be a bit longer than you’d like…
How Long Does it Take for a Nose Piercing to Heal?
Unlike earlobe piercings, septum piercings aren’t as quick to heal. You can expect anywhere from six to eight months before the pain is completely gone and you no longer have to worry about infections (a common problem with nose piercings, as bacteria from the nose and snot can get into the piercing).
As with all piercings, the first week is going to be the most painful. The flesh of the septum will heal faster than cartilage, so the pain will diminish after 7 to 10 days. However, the high number of nerve endings in the tip of the nose means that there will be a lot more sensation (good, bad, and irritating) than with other body piercings.
Note: It’s recommended that you change your septum jewelry after a month or two. This will give the piercing time to heal, but will allow you to switch out the jewelry to reduce the risk of infections.
Are There Downsides to Septum Piercings?
There are a few things that may make you want to reconsider:
A lack of columella – Interestingly enough, not everyone has that «sweet spot» of flesh in the bottom of their nose, which means the piercing would go through cartilage. If that is the case, the piercing will be more painful and it will take a longer time to heal.
High risk of infections – If you have a compromised immune system or are often fighting colds and flus, infections in your upper respiratory system may lead to infected piercings.
How can you tell if you have an infection? A little bit of swelling is to be expected, but excessive swelling of the nose or face can be a sign that something’s wrong. Redness, tenderness, excessive pain, and fever (high temperature) are also pretty clear indicators of an infection.
Low tolerance for pain – Some people just can’t handle pain as well as others. While septum piercings aren’t the most painful, they can be bad enough that those with low tolerance to pain should consider piercing the side of their nose rather than the septum.
Appearance – Not everyone has a «face» or nose for septum piercings, and it may look odd if your nose isn’t the right type. (Thankfully, there is fake septum jewelry available to test it out to see how your face looks before making a decision.)
For others, it’s not about the way they look, but the way they’re permitted to look for their job, school, or home life. Many professional offices, restaurants, and other establishments have a code of dress that doesn’t include septum piercings for either men or women.
Septal hematoma – This is as scary as it sounds! This is a build-up of blood within your septum, as the piercing disrupts the blood vessels. When this happens, the build-up can get so bad you may no longer be able to breathe properly and may require surgery.
As you can see, there are downsides to getting septum piercings! It’s important you understand this before walking into the piercing parlor and getting your nose pierced.
Where to Find Septum Jewelry
Jewelry can be found at just about any jewelry store, piercing parlor, or tattoo shop. The fact that septum piercings have become so popular means that there are more and more locations stocking the jewelry.
Your best bet is always to go with one of the safer piercing materials initially: implant-grade titanium or surgical stainless steel. Once your nose is fully healed (after 6-8 months), you can use gold, which is fairly safe.
However, avoid sterling silver, as silver tarnishes when in contact with bodily fluids (snot, in this case) and can harbor bacteria, thereby increasing the risk of infection. Poor quality stainless steel, plastic, plated metals, «costume» metals, and «mystery» metals are also best avoided.
Note: Rhodium-plated silver is the only plated metal considered «safe» for body piercings.