Everything you need to know about nose piercings: a complete guide

nose piercings
Nose piercing 101: a complete guideTaylor Hill - Getty Images

Thinking about getting a nose piercing? You're in the right place. Welcome to Nose Piercing 101: Cosmopolitan's handy guide to what to expect on your trip to the jewellery counter. Maybe you're trying to choose between a septum piercing or a cute nose ring, maybe you're wondering how much pain to expect, or maybe you've got questions about the healing process.

To answer all of these queries and more, we sent Cosmo UK’s resident social media queen, Mared Parry to add to her piercing collection and report back. Keep scrolling for her in-depth review so you'll know exaaactly what to expect should you decide to book your own piercing appointment.

And if you're weighing up other body metal, check out our guides to ear piercings – from helix piercings to conch piercings and everything in between. We've also got your nipple piercings FAQs covered, plus everything you should expect with your first piercing if you have yet to go under the needle.

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Types of nose piercings

You're probably already familiar with the nostril piercing, where people wear a small stud or a hoop ring. But there's also the septum piercing, which is done in the "sweet spot" of softer flesh below the cartilage separating your nostrils. Septum piercings, once considered more "punk", have been gaining mainstream popularity over the years, thanks in part to celeb fans like Rihanna, Bella Thorne, Willow Smith and of course, Florence Pugh.

You might have also seen the bridge piercing, where people wear a bar through the skin at the top of the nose, between the eyes. Not for the faint of heart!

Some people choose the Nassallang piercing, aka two symmetrical nostril studs worn on both sides of the nose. For more extreme looks, there's also the Austin Bar, the septril, and the rhino piercing, though these are trickier to achieve, and on the upper end of the pain and healing time scale.

For any body piercing, it's important to go to a licensed and well-reviewed professional for your own safety. But if you're opting for a more unusual nose piercing, like the latter mentioned ones, you definitely want to find a highly experienced piercer who can demonstrate examples of their work showing the kind of piercing you want.

Do nose piercings hurt?

Mared opted for a standard left nostril piercing, to mirror her existing right nostril piercing. Here's what she had to say about the experience:

"This isn’t my first rodeo, I’ve had my nose pierced before. Multiple times, actually. For the last decade, I’ve had either one or both sides of my nose pierced at any given time. The right side, a hoop, the left side, a stud. My last stud fell out on a girls' holiday in early 2022, and I never bothered replacing it. So, I volunteered to go to Astrid & Miyu and try out the affordable jewellery brand’s piercing service. Most people know they offer ear piercings, but select stores can also accommodate nose piercings, too."

"I was looked after by Jo who was super friendly and took me into one of the two small but stylish piercing rooms. She sat me down on a table and made me feel right at home. She marked my nose with a small pen dot so I was able to visualise exactly where the piercing would be and how it would look, and once I'd checked I liked the placement in the mirror, it was showtime. Jo told me to breathe out, and before I knew it there was a huge needle going through my nose."

mared getting her nose pierced at astrid and miyu
Mared getting her nose pierced at Astrid & MiyuCourtesy of Mared Parry

Nose piercings will likely sting a little more than when you got your first earlobe piercing at Claire's back in the day, but it shouldn't feel unbearable. "I’d rate the pain a 4 out of 10," Mared says. "I’ve had a lot of piercings and I’m covered in tattoos, so this is nothing in the grand scheme of things. It hurt for 3 seconds, my eyes watered a bit, and then it was over. I was very impressed at how swiftly Jo screwed in the new piercing, and I didn't bleed at all."

People typically report slightly more pain with septum piercings than they do with nostril piercings, and the more extreme or unusual piercings are sometimes reported as the most painful. It's worth noting that everyone's pain tolerance is different though, so what some people find uncomfortable, others may not mind at all.

"All in all, from the moment I walked into the store to the moment I walked out, the appointment must’ve been 15 minutes – 10 of which were spent deciding on the jewellery."

How much do nose piercings cost?

Some jewellery counters might offer free piercing, as long as you purchase your jewellery at their business. Others might charge up to about £40. For example, at Liberty's popular Maria Tash counter in London, a septum or nostril piercing will set you back £35, not including jewellery.

It's a similar set-up at Astrid & Miyu. It will cost you £20 for a 20 minute appointment, during which time you can get up to three piercings. The brand's piercing jewellery starts at £80 for a solid gold stud or gauge ring, while blingier designs go up to £195.

Jewellery for nose piercings

"Historically, the only options for nose piercing jewellery have been ugly, bulky, plain styles in an exclusively silver colour palette – not ideal for a gold lover, like me. I can never wait to change out my new piercing for something cute, sparkly and dainty. My impatience has seen many fallen soldiers (read: nose studs) over the years, but many of Astrid & Miyu's piercing studs typically used for ears are also available for your nostrils," Mared reports.

"There were endless options to choose from, and my eye was instantly drawn to the tiny diamond clusters. I loved both the Diamond Marquise Cluster Piercing and the Constellation Piercing, but ultimately decided on the Diamond and Emerald Pear Piercing Stud for a small pop of colour. All of the piercing jewellery on offer is flat-back screw studs which are way more secure than corkscrew or L-shape stud alternatives."

mared browsing the astrid and miyu nose piercing jewellery
Mared was spoilt for choice with Astrid & Miyu’s piercing jewellery collectionCourtesy of Mared Parry

Most piercing parlours will advise that a stud is worn in the nostril until it heals, and after that, it can be safely swapped out for a hoop. Septum piercings are often fitted with hoops or horseshoes, but sometimes people opt for a bar.

In terms of the metals used, surgical stainless steel is an affordable and commonly used material. Titanium is too, though that will set you back more £££. Sterling silver and gold can also be used, but it's best to seek the advice of a licensed piercer who can tell you what will work for your particular piercing and skin sensitivity level. Avoid gold-plated pieces – while more affordable than solid gold, the gold plate can rub off, revealing a cheaper metal that could cause irritation.

How to care for a nose piercing

For a happy nose piercing, the secret's all in the aftercare. (Well, that, and going to a legit piercing parlour, of course.)

"Following my appointment, Jo gave me a bottle of aftercare solution and instructed me to clean my new piercing twice a day until it is fully healed." This usually takes at least six weeks. "I was also told to avoid any swimming for four weeks – especially in any public pools or the sea – and to try my best not to touch it. I wouldn't be able to change my piercing until it had fully healed, something I’d never previously stuck to, but this time around I knew it would be no issue. The jewellery is gorgeous, something Jo said is a huge perk of the brand as people invest in the jewellery from the offset, so they never want to change it."

Your piercer should provide you with full instructions on how to care for your new piercing, and it's crucial you follow it to avoid infection or any discomfort. If you feel the need to remove and replace the jewellery because of irritation, it's best to go back to the piercing counter for help with this – especially if you're still in the initial healing window.

And what about your nighttime routine? Firstly, you should avoid touching the area as much as possible, but if you must, always do it with clean hands. Simple, fragrance-free skincare that skips the immediate area around your piercing is ideal. But if you're committed to your 12-step skincare routine, try not to bathe your new nose ring in a million different serums and potions – that's a recipe for major irritation. Try not to sleep on it, and be extra careful when taking any clothes off over your head so it doesn't snag. If you're experiencing swelling, gently applying an ice compress wrapped in a clean cloth should help.

How long do nose piercings take to heal?

Everyone's body and skin are different, so healing times vary. How fast it heals can also be correlated to how well, and how gently, you are caring for it. But pierced nostrils will often heal in 2-4 months, and septum piercings might take closer to 4-6 months. For some people, it can be longer.

Nose piercing side effects

Okay, this is the icky section – but it's stuff worth knowing. Head major irritation off at the pass by letting your piercer know if you're allergic to any metals, such as nickel, so that you can choose the safest jewellery for your bod. While it's healing, you might notice a little crust forming at the piercing site, but this can be taken care of by regularly using an aftercare solution.

If you're experiencing pain or swelling at the site that doesn't reduce with a cold compress, it's best to seek medical attention to combat any potential infections. You may notice a small "piercing bump" at the site, which is normal due to inflammation. But if the bump grows bigger, or starts to extend beyond the piercing site, this could be a sign of keloid scarring, and it's best to seek professional advice. Basically, if you're experiencing major discomfort, or something doesn't look or feel right, it's always best to show a doctor. If you can't get to the doctor straight away, your piercing professional should be able to help you with some advice in the meantime.

mared post nose piercing
Mared post-nose piercingCourtesy of Mared Parry

"It’s been a few weeks now and I’ve had zero issues or irritation with the piercing, which I put down to Jo’s expert touch and the quality of the stud," Mared tells us. "I’m already thinking of what piercing I can get done next there."

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