Archive for Nose Piercings

hill tribe woman with both nostrils and septum pierced

Most women who have their nose pierced probably know at least a little something about the cultural history of their piercing.  Nose piercing is believed to have begun amongst nomadic tribes from the Middle East, who then traveled through India, leaving it (amongst other things) behind to be adopted and become a part of the culture there.  The piercing of a woman’s left nostril in particular, is even incorporated into Indian Ayurvedic Medicine.

A popular style of piercing that’s now coming into western mainstream modification, is the collective piercing of both nostrils and the septum tissue in between.  What you might not know, is that this too is appropriated from Indian culture.  This set of three coordinated piercings has been popular amongst hill tribes throughout India and Nepal for centuries, and some of them continue the practice to this day, like sub-groups amongst the Khond and the Jat.

The main vehicle for this new-found love of multiple nose piercings seems to be yet another cultural trend that’s been reborn: tribal dance.  Belly dance in particular, now practiced amongst a growing collective of young women in the United States, Australia, and the UK, has been a huge factor in bolstering the trend of nose and septum piercings worn together.

tribal dance's appropriation of Indian piercing styles

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Watch as beautiful BodyCandy friend Tara gets her nostril pierced by veteran piercer James.

After cleaning her nose thoroughly and marking the exact point he wants to pierce, James gets the hollow needle receiving tube ready, and gently double checks the placement with his finger.  Tara is told to take a deep breath, and as she exhales, the needle goes through.  Corking the pointed end for safety and ease, the piercer then presses the needle the rest of the way through, chasing it with a beautiful new nose ring.  The area is cleaned once more, and Tara is ready to walk away with her new piercing.

 Getting a Nose Piercing

The nostril is one of the most common piercing sites on the planet, second only to the human ear.  Because this part of the nose is primarily composed of cartilaginous tissue, nostril piercings tend to heal fairly quickly.  They require the same type of aftercare as other cartilage piercings, usually consisting of gentle cleanses and/or sea salt soaks.

Tara’s piercing is a beautiful addition to her other preexisting mods, and completes a fun and youthful look.

 the final look

Did you know?

In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, the nostril of a woman is pierced for much more than fashion.  It’s believed that nose piercings performed in certain spots can lessen the pain of cramps, improve overall feminine health, and even aid in successful childbirth. 


Septum Rings

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sweet spot or septum piercings

Septum Ring- any of many pieces of body jewelry worn in piercings of the flesh located directly beneath the nasal septum, often called “the sweet spot.”

Septum Piercings:

 regular, double, and stretched septum piercings

Several variations of the septum piercing exist, including multiple piercings, stretched piercings, and rarer combination piercings such as the septril and nasallang.

 septril and nasallang combination piercings


Standard septum piercings are generally cared for in the same manner as most common piercings, with some combination of gentle cleansings and sea salt soaks.  In this more difficult to submerge area, the use of cotton pads or pre-mixed sprays is often employed as an alternative.  Avoidance of makeup, nasal spray usage, and heavy smoke inhalation are all encouraged along with getting adequate rest, and taking extra care when clearing the sinuses with tissue.  Most septum piercings will show initial healing within approximately four to eight weeks, but high amounts of movement and nasal runoff can make fully healing this type of piercing a little difficult, sometimes causing it to take several extra months.  Persons who have persistent nasal allergies or chronic sinus inflammation should avoid this type of piercing altogether.

Septum Ring Styles:

Several different types of jewelry can be worn in the septum piercing including circulars (BCRs, horseshoes, etc.), specially shaped jewelry (tusks, mustaches, pincers…), septum retainers which come in a variety of materials and shapes, and even small curved barbells if the anatomy allows.

 specialized septum rings

Those who stretch their septum will often wear plugs made of natural material, such as bone or animal horn, but regular steel eyelets are also common.  One of the more recent stars in septum adornment is a more ornate piece referred to as a “clicker,” which mimics the look of the traditional Indian nathori, a decorative circular item worn in many tribal septum piercings in the region.

rose gold plated body jewelry

First things first: there are five basic types of nose ring.  These are the nose bone, nose screw, l-shaped nose ring, nose hoop, and fishtail.  Of these five types, the first four are ready to be worn right out of the package.  The fifth, the fishtail, is made to be taken to a piercing professional and custom fit, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.  What we’ll do first is briefly discuss the three measurements that you’ll be interested in fit-wise when purchasing a nose ring: the gauge, length or diameter (depending on what style you choose), and gem or decoration size.

 the basic nose ring types

Gauge is the thickness of the item, and as you’re probably already aware, is extremely important to the fit of the item.  Most nose piercings will be performed in either a 20 gauge, or the slightly larger 18 gauge.  There are a few exceptions for those who were pierced in particular parts of the world (such as India, where tiny 22 gauge piercings are common), or have larger noses and chose to be pierced a size or two larger, but for the most part the common gauges are what you’ll be working with.

 standard nose ring gauges

The length of the item is measured from the base of the gem or decoration to the beginning of the curve, bend, or bulbous end; a portion of the item often referred to as the “wearable surface.”  This is the part that will actually be worn inside the piercing, and generally measures between 5 and 7 millimeters.  Unless the nose is either very dainty or larger than average, any of these sizes are likely to fit to a degree, but for a truly perfect and comfortable fit, getting your ideal length measured at your piercer is a good idea.

 measuring length or diameter for fit

Diameter is measured instead of length for nose hoops, and will always be the distance across the inside edges of the hoop at its largest point.  Here again knowing your best measurement is useful, as hoops that are two small may not fit and those that are too large might fit but look a little odd.

The gem or decoration size of a nose ring is often overlooked, but depending on the look you want and the size of your individual nose, this measurement can actually be rather important.  For persons with petite noses, standard 2mm sized gems can look a little bit oversized, and for those who have larger nostrils, a tiny micro nose ring may not garner the notice that you’d like.  The gems/settings on nose rings start as small as 1.2 to 1.6mm (called a micro nose ring) and go up to about 3mm in size.  Decorative shapes can be even larger, sometimes measuring up to 6 or 7mm (about 1/4″) wide.

 nose ring gems and decorations

Finally, for those that either want or require customized fitting, the fishtail is a wonderful option.  Fishtails are made with an extra long 19mm (3/4″) straight length so that an experienced piercer can insert and custom bend them for you, removing any excess.  Due to their length and shape, these items cannot be worn as is.

 how to use fishtail nose rings

For more about jewelry sizing, visit our Jewelry Sizing Category, and always buy smart.

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names and locations of nose piercings

Erl: the bridge piercing is also called an Erl (sometimes spelled as “Earl”), after the man who popularized it, character actor Erl Van Aiken.

Austin Bar: a horizontal piercing of the nose tip can be simply called “nose tip piercing,” but is often referred to by its other name, the Austin Bar.

Rhino: similar to its horizontal cousin, the vertical nose tip piercing has earned a popular name as well.  The moniker “rhino” is a clear reference to the appearance of the piercing itself, mimicking the look of a rhinoceros tusk.

Third Eye: the vertical version of the Erl piercing is a bit less popular, but with a name like “third eye piercing,” it’s bound to gain a few spiritualist fans.

Septum: although it’s called a septum piercing, this piercing generally doesn’t actually go through the nasal septum, but rather the tissue below it, known as “the sweet spot.”

Septril: for those who have stretched their septum piercing, the septril makes a unique new accessory.  This piercing goes from inside the stretched fistula of tissue around the septum and emerges on (or under) the tip of the nose.

Nostril: the nostril piercing has become so widespread that it’s often referred to simply as “nose piercing” instead.  The nostril is actually one of the most popular piercing locations worldwide, second only to piercings of the ear lobe.

Nasallang: a rare and interesting contemporary piercing, the nasallang actually combines multiple piercings into one by connecting them with a single barbell, much like the industrial ear piercing we know and love.  The jewelry in this case enters through one nostril, passes through the nasal septum, and exits through the other nostril.

High Nostril: a high nostril piercing is differentiated from a standard one because of the interesting look it provides being further up the nose, rather than resting in the indentation of the nostril.

piercings of the nasal septum

Septum piercings are a staple in both modern and traditional tribal piercing. They also look good on both men and women from many different style groups. The septum is the cartilage that divides your nostrils, but the tissue underneath is what really gets pierced. Jewelry type and allowable modifications are dependent upon individual anatomy. Initial healing time for a septum piercing is 4-8 weeks or more, with jewelry running the gamut from 16 to 10 gauge, and usually being a BCR or septum retainer.

Your piercer will find the “sweet spot”, a spot where tissue is minimal and very comfortable to get pierced.  After the tissue exam, the piercer will mark small dots where this spot is and then line up special septum forceps (sometimes with a special receiving tube on them) before piercing it with a hollow needle. Watery eyes and slight bleeding are the common after affects, but very little pain is felt.

 tears and septum piercings

Septum piercings are fantastic because you can do so much with them. There are many tribes around the world that wear bones or feathers in their septum piercings. Now there are so many styles of septum jewelry that it’s crazy: ball captive rings, horseshoes, spikes, clickers, plugs for stretched septums, and septum bones. The size of jewelry should always be in proportion to your nose and facial features. Septum retainers are a U shaped piece of metal or glass and are awesome for concealing your piercing. A small horseshoe can also be flipped up to be hidden, or if you want to join the mustache trend you can also get awesome mustache septum jewelry. It’s also very popular to stack your septum rings and have multiple piercing holes in your septum.

           stacked septum rings

Septum piercings are relatively easy to stretch. The septum can routinely be expanded by a full gauge as quickly as 3 months after the piercing. There is growing popularity in stretching your septum piercing. A septril (or jungle) is a piercing at the tip of the nose that exits through a stretched septum fistula. Septril piercings require the septum to be stretched to a relatively large size, normally at least a 0 gauge, in order to accommodate the back portion of the jewelry. The jewelry worn in them looks like a stud with a ball or disc backing, or a small curved barbell.

Septum piercings look amazing with multiple facial piercings or on their own! Try the look out on yourself with a faux nose hoop. It is a great addition to your style that you won’t regret. Are you thinking of getting your septum pierced? Do you have it pierced already? Share your story in the comments below.


Behind Alternative Beauty: the Nose Chain

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behind the fashion of nose jewelry

In the past couple years, nose and septum piercing chains have become popular amongst recording artists, young celebs, and all of us “regular” folk, but the nose chain actually has cultural significance to some tribal groups that have been rocking this look for way longer than a fashion minute.  Just look to India.

In many parts of India and the Middle East, nose piercings have existed for thousands of years.  From medicinal uses outlined in the Vedic texts, to indicators of marital status, modifications of the nose and septum have a rich and lengthy history.  Traditionally, the nostril of a woman would be pierced to improve her feminine health, and a chain connected from the nose to the ear or hair would be worn on the wedding day, and later removed symbolically by the new husband.  These, along with many other ancient Indian traditions, are still practiced by Indian women today.

 traditional Indian bridal nose chain

Over time, many variations of the nose piercing have been introduced and popularized, but the nose chain as an adornment has remained a constant in alternative culture.  Through the growth of primitivism and the expansion of global awareness, this cute and feminine style has come to be commonplace in the modern fashion world, gracing the runways of many a designer.  Less traditional, more westernized styles have grown to be widely available, and several of our noted celebrity icons are known to incorporate them into their styling.

modern nose chains on the runway(source: WGSN)

The nose chain is more than a youth street fashion staple, it’s a means of cultural connection to our own ancestors, as well as the traditions of our brethren around the world.  Like any true fashion icon, it has a personality all its own, and can sometimes be a little bit “complicated.”

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Piercisms: Who Knows What the Nose Knows

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nose piercing and jewelry lingo

Nose piercings are one of the most common piercings worldwide, so it’s no wonder that so much different terminology is thrown around to describe the piercings themselves, and especially the jewelry that goes inside them.  Here’s a little refresher to help demystify the lingo:

When someone says the phrase “nose piercing,” they’re usually talking about the familiar piercing that rests in the curve of one of our nostrils.  Depending on where you are though, “nose piercing” may cast a wider net, and can be used to refer to any piercing of the nose, including modifications of the septum or nose bridge.  Here it’s best to put things in the proper context; it should be relatively easy to tell when someone is referring to a septum piercing as opposed to a nostril piercing.

Equally, the phrase “nose ring” can be a broad term meant to reference any piece of jewelry worn in the nose, but is used interchangeably in many countries to indicate the most common style of nose jewelry, the nose screw.

 twister style nose jewelry

This type of jewelry can be called a nose screw, nose stud, nose twister, or nose hook, while the names for most other types of nose ring are generally far more concise.  The nose bone, for example, is almost always referred to using the term “nose bone” to differentiate style.  The terms L-shaped nose ring, and fishtail nose ring are similarly succinct.

 types of nose jewelry

Nose hoops on the other hand, may be called by a variety of names depending on region or on the actual type of jewelry.  For some, hoops made specifically for the nostril piercing will be worn and can be called a nose hoop, nose ring, or nose circular.  For others however, a horseshoe ring or ball captive ring may be worn in the nose piercing, and in that case is usually called by the name of that particular style of jewelry.

 circular barbell nose jewelry

With nostril piercings being so prevalent around the globe, there’s bound to be confusion at one time or another, but stick to these facts, and you should be able to decipher almost any nose ring conversation.

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customizing nose jewelry

Having a hard time finding standard nose rings that fit comfortably?  Then you might just have a unique sizing need, which can be accomplished by having a piercer custom fit your nose jewelry.  Here’s how it works:

First, you’ll want to purchase what’s called a fishtail nose ring.  This is an extra long, straight piece of nose jewelry that’s specifically made to be custom fit.  Because the fishtail is about 19mm, or 3/4″ long, and it has no shaping or bulb to hold it in place, it can’t be worn as is.

Fishtail Nose RingsThen you’ll take the fishtail to your piercer and have them do the fitting.  First, the piercer will use a special device to measure your nose, and then they’ll custom bend the long end.  The two most common types of bends will be either a nose screw (the standard type of nose ring that looks like a corkscrew), or an l-shape, which literally leaves the item in the shape of an upper case L.

Handmade Fishtail Nose Jewelry

At BodyCandy, an artisan jeweler will make your fishtail nose ring, and gems are offered in 1.5mm and 2mm sizes.  This means that from beginning to end, your nose ring will truly be customized for your nose.  From gem size and metal type (white gold, yellow gold, platinum…), to the piercer’s custom bend, you’ll end up with nose jewelry that fits your own unique nose perfectly.

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According to historic record and compiled modern statistics, piercing of the nostril is the second most prevalent piercing practiced globally, falling short only to piercing of the ear lobe.  But did you know that there’s one area of the world where nose piercing has been mentioned even in sacred texts dating back over 3,000 years ago?  That place is Asia, or more specifically, India.

 Indian poster showing nose piercingIndian poster depicting nose jewelry (source: WGSN)

Nose piercing, it is said, was brought to India by way of the Middle East, and is made mention of in the Vedas (vey-duhs), sacred texts adhered to by the Orthodox Hindus of the Indian subcontinent.  The Vedas consist of four Samhitas (suhm-hi-tahs), or collections, and the oldest, the Rigveda (rig-vey-duh), contains the knowledge associated with the practice of traditional Indian medicine called Ayurveda (ah-yer-vey-duh).  In Ayurveda, the piercing of a woman’s nose is commonly performed to help lessen the pains associated with childbirth.

In certain groups, this piercing may be performed on the eve of a woman’s wedding, having symbolic significance in accordance with the act of marriage and the associated onset of bearing children.  Traditionally, large ornate nose jewelry will be worn, with a chain connecting the nose hoop to the ear or hair.  The chain will then be removed by the woman’s husband on the night of the honeymoon.

 nose piercing with bridal chain

Some Indian tribal cultures also dictate the piercing of both nostrils, as in the Tamil, Pashtun, and Pahari, and other cultural groups common to Southern India.  Yet others, like the Apa Tani and those in Northeastern India may pierce one or both sides and subsequently stretch their nostril piercings, some to an inch or more in diameter.  Septum piercing is common to particular ethnic groups throughout India as well, and also to the surrounding areas such as Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, and even Pakistan.

 women with septum piercings

Nose piercing has become extremely popular in Western culture since the 1970s, and some may be interested to know that the return of American and European youth who had ventured abroad to exotic lands like India, is largely responsible for this cultural anomaly.