wellness·6 min read

Why it Takes So Long for Nose Piercings to Heal — And Other Questions, Answered

Person Smiling with Nose Ring
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Jul 25, 2022

You selected a piece of jewelry and got the pinch of the needle in your nose out of the way. Next up: healing, cleaning, and aftercare. Which can come with a lot of questions. So we asked Annie Nasta, a piercer at Shaman Modifications, a piercing studio in Dallas, and Christina Blossey, owner of — and piercer at — the Piercing Experience, a piercing studio in Atlanta, what you need to know.

Design: theSkimm

What types of nose piercings can I get? 

When it comes to adorning your nose, you’ve got options. Including: 

  • Nostril: This is your starter pack nose piercing. And probably the first thing you picture when someone says “nose ring.” It goes straight through the outside of one nostril. The hardest part might be deciding which side to pierce. Or maybe you want to pierce both nostrils. Or get two rings on one side. So many options.

  • Bridge: A horizontal bar that goes across the bridge of the nose. It doesn’t puncture bone or cartilage, so it’s considered a “surface piercing” according to Piercing Mania, a piercing publication. But the risk of migration is higher with this type of piercing. That’s when the body “rejects” the piercing and pushes it towards the skin's surface. This is more likely to happen because there’s less skin in the area to keep the piercing secure. 

  • Austin bar: Like the bridge piercing’s twin. But further down the nose. Picture a studded bar that goes through the nose tip and has two studs at the end of each nostril.

  • Nasallang: A bar placed through the right nostril, septum, and left nostril. It gives the illusion that you’re pierced in three different areas. A nasallang piercing can be especially painful, more so than the other types of nose piercings, according to Byrdie, a beauty publication. That’s why experts suggest piercing a different part of your nose when piercing this body part for the first time, so you can gauge your pain tolerance. An important note: It is “almost impossible” for nasallang and Austin bar piercings to heal “without a crazy amount of scar tissue,” said Blossey. 

  • Septum: This piercing goes through the thin membrane (known as the septum) in the center of your nose. Big Taurus energy. This might be more painful than your standard nose piercing, according to Byrdie

  • Septril: This requires a multistep piercing process. First, you’ll get your septum pierced and let it heal (more on that below). Then you’ll stretch your septum out by slowly increasing the size of your septum piercing (which can take at least 18 months). Then you can get a septril piercing, which goes through the inside of your septum to a point at the tip of your nose. 

  • The Rhino: If you ever wanted to do a rhinoceros cosplay, this is your chance. The piercing moves vertically through the tip of your nose. So you get to rock a little horn. 

How long does it take a nose piercing to heal?

The new piercing should stop bleeding and stop feeling sore after a few days. Multiple factors can influence how long it takes your piercing to heal, said Blossey. These include overall health, sleeping habits and activities you participate in (a healthy body can help maintain a healthy piercing). The nasallang, rhino or septril piercings (compared to piercings like the nostril) take longer to heal. This is because they’re anatomy-specific piercings (how the piercing works with your specific body) and are more complicated piercings.

Aftercare methods, the quality of the piercings, and the fit of the jewelry on your body play the biggest roles in how quickly your piercing will heal, according to Blossey.

When your piercing heals, new tissue forms at the piercing site. Typically, you can expect a healing time of… 

  • Nostril: Six months to a year (Note: it takes longer if pierced with a ring as opposed to a stud, said Blossey) 

  • Bridge: Two to three months

  • Austin bar: Two to three months 

  • Nasallang: Four to six months 

  • Septum: Three to four months 

  • Septril: Four to six months 

  • Rhino: Six to nine months 

How do I clean my nose piercing? 

Cleaning your piercing is an essential part of the recovery process to help avoid infections. To clean your nose ring properly: 

  • First wash your hands to avoid introducing bacteria. 

  • Spray a saline solution (think: a 0.9% sodium chloride solution) directly on the piercing. Or spray the solution onto a cotton ball or gauze, then use it to clean the jewelry. Dry your piercing by gently patting it with a paper towel. Avoid using a cloth towel since this can pull on the piercing.  

Other aftercare tips:

  • Don’t play with your jewelry. It can introduce bacteria and can put you at risk for infection. Which can prolong your healing time. So hands off.

  • Avoid getting the piercing wet for at least one to two weeks. So, when you shower, try to avoid putting your face directly under the shower head. You might want to consider taking a bath instead. And avoid any type of swimming since pools can expose your piercing to chemicals like chlorine, which can increase risk of infection. And the ocean can expose your piercing to varying types of bacteria. 

  • Don’t use makeup or moisturizer on the piercing site until it's healed to prevent irritation or infection. (Yes, that could mean waiting months). 

  • Don’t apply alcohol or peroxide to the piercing site. It can cause irritation or infection. Stick to saline solution instead.

  • Don’t remove the piercing too early or the hole could close up. Your piercer will tell you how long to wait before changing your jewelry. 

  • Self-care is essential. A healthy body is less likely to experience symptoms like infections. So, stay hydrated, rest up and eat well, said Nasta.

How do I know if I have an infected nose piercing? 

If you suspect that your piercing is infected, call your doctor who may prescribe antibiotics

But signs of infection include:

  • Colored (think: blue or green) and/or smelly discharge  

  • Redness around the piercing site

  • The area feeling hot to the touch

  • Extreme swelling

  • An unusual smell emitting from the piercing (think: a scent similar to cheese)

  • Throbbing pain

  • Fever

  • Intense pain

Placing a warm and clean paper towel and applying a saline solution can help.

When can I change my nose piercing? 

Most piercers can change the ends or downsize the post during healing process, said Nasta. But you shouldn’t insert a new piece of jewelry until the site is completely healed. When you’re ready, visit your piercer to get help with the changeout.

theSkimm

Just like you would with any piercing, always follow the necessary aftercare instructions when you get a new nose piercing. And choose a piercing that you feel is the best for you. 

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