The truth about septum piercings

If you thought you were seeing more and more people with septum rings, you'd be correct in that assessment. That's because, according to an article in The New York Times, it's true. Once only common among punk rockers and other subcultures, the septum piercing has become a commonplace, staple piercing for Millennials and Gen Zers alike. And, of course, there's no shortage of celebs who flaunt the piercing, such as Willow Smith and Jordin Sparks — and they look super cute while doing so.

If you're considering getting your septum pierced, you probably have a ton of questions, especially if you don't have any piercings already. For example, where exactly do piercers make the hole for the ring to slide into? Are there any risks that come with getting a septum piercing? How long will it take to heal? And most importantly, how much does the piercing hurt? Fear not: we got the intel, and have all of the answers you need. This is the truth about septum piercings.

A 4,000 year old practice

Just because septum rings weren't all that popular for a long time in western culture, that doesn't mean they haven't been common in other cultures before that. In fact, the practice of piercing the nose, including the septum, has its roots in the Middle East, where it started over 4,000 years ago, according to an article in JAMA Dermatology. It then spread into India in the 1500s CE before finally making its way to the west in the twentieth century. So the septum piercing is hardly new, y'all, and it's a longtime world traveler, many times over.

Piercing the septum in the west also has different connotations than it does/did in the east, according to Dr. Manny Alvarez. "In other cultures, nose piercings sometimes have cultural significance or are considered medicinal," he penned in an article in Fox News. "But in the US they're strictly ornamental for most people." Who knows what the future holds for the humble septum piercing, but it's certainly eye-opening when you acknowledge the rich history of the practice.

Do septum piercings hurt?

Arguably one of the most pressing questions that a piercing newbie would have about getting a septum ring is simply this: does it hurt? And if so, how much?

Well, there's bad news and good news. The bad news is that, yes, it's going to hurt, and there's just no avoiding that. But the good news is that it's not going to hurt for long, and it's also not a severely intense pain. "It's pretty much similar to a regular nose piercing," professional piercer Tiny Tatz explained in an interview with Bustle. "It feels like you have to sneeze or like when you get hit in the nose and your eyes water for a split second." So while that doesn't exactly sounds fun, it certainly sounds manageable — short term pain for the long term joy of a piercing you love. 

Tatz added that the experience might also be a little bit awkward because the piercer has to use certain tools to make sure they're doing the piercing properly, but that's not a huge deal either. That said, if you're afraid of needles, that might make it a difficult experience. Your mileage may vary.

Where exactly should you pierce your septum?

It can be tough to tell from the outside of your schnoz where exactly the needle goes when you get your septum pierced. Firstly, rest assured that it doesn't go through the bone, or that would be a much more difficult and invasive procedure. And, well, yikes at that idea.

But other than that, where exactly in your nose is the septum ring supposed to sit, according to the experts? "The correct placement for the septum is not the hard piece of tissue at the base of your nostrils, as many have done," professional piercer Sean Dowdell revealed in an interview with GQ. "It is instead a very thin membrane located just above that tissue, and underneath the septal cartilage." 

Aha, so the needle goes through that super slender layer of skin above the firm part at the bottom your nose. That sounds infinitely better than piercing through any cartilage or hard tissue. It sounds a heck of a lot less painful, too!

Make sure your septum piercing is done hygienically

It's always good to be an informed consumer, especially when it comes to body modifications, which can be a very intimate experience. After all, when piercings or tattoos are performed in unsanitary conditions, they can pose a serious threat to your health, according to the Mayo Clinic. So make sure that the person who is doing your septum piercing is doing so legally and professionally. And, of course, don't attempt to do it yourself. We had to say it, you guys. 

So what does a professional and safe piercing studio look like for the bod mod newbie? "Always make sure your piercer is using single serve needles that come out of sterile packaging and get tossed into a sharps container," professional piercer Cassi Lopez advised in an interview with Elite Daily. "Jewelry should be clean and sterile, and your piercer should change their gloves often during the piercing process to prevent cross contamination." 

Now you know what to look for. So if you see any of this not being done, you know it's a red flag, and you should get your septum piercing done elsewhere.

Septum piercing by gun or needle?

If you're a child of the 1990s, you may remember going to the mall and getting your ears pierced by an employee with a piercing gun at a place like Claire's or a generic piercing pagoda. You probably lived to tell the tale, too, but that doesn't mean you should try it again. "A piercing gun works like a stapler. It takes a dull earring and forces it through your skin, damaging your tissue," Lopez explained in an interview with Elite Daily. "It also doesn't leave proper space for swelling and the instrument itself cannot be sterilized. That alone should be enough to never get pierced with a gun." Talk about some seriously compelling reasons to never, ever get pierced in this manner!

That's why when you go to get your septum pierced, you should only go through with it if the piercer is using a needle. "Piercing needles are laser cut, so they're incredibly sharp, which allows us to guide them by hand with precision," she continued. Plus they are sterile, unlike the gun. It's a no-brainer, you guys. 

It takes this long for the area around the septum piercing to heal

Once you've made the decision to get your septum pierced and finally go through with the process, a whole new crop of questions pops up, and understandably so. That's especially going to be the case if it's your first piercing, which means you have more of a learning curve.

For one, you're probably curious as to how long it will take before your piercing is 100 percent healed. "For a truly healed piercing that you can swap out on the regular, you'll need to wait one and a half to two years," professional piercer Allison Minor shared in an interview with Hello Giggles. "But if you're not planning to regularly change jewelry, it's mostly sealed up by the fourth or fifth month."

Even if it feels healed before that, don't give into the temptation to mess around with your piercing any sooner than that. "Piercings heal from the outside in, so it may appear to look healed and may even feel healed," Lopez noted in an interview with Elite Daily. "But once you remove it, the inside will still be raw." Roger that!

This is the best way to clean your septum piercing

In terms of aftercare, the most important thing you need to do is follow the instructions for cleaning your piercing that your piercer gives you. And according to the Association of Piercing Professionals, that will look a lot like the following:

Once (or more) per day, you will need to soak your piercing in a sterile saline fluid or a sea salt solution. Before you do that, wash your hands with soap and water — never touch your piercing unless your hands are clean. Since it's not exactly easy to submerge your nose in liquid, you can soak some clean gauze or paper towels in the fluid, then apply it to your piercing for five to ten minutes. If your piercer tells you to also wash your piercing with soap, make sure it's not scented, dyed, harsh, and that it doesn't contain triclosan. After that, be sure to rinse thoroughly, and dab it dry with a clean, disposable paper towel. Voilà! You're good to go, until tomorrow.

Once your piercing is healed you don't have to do so much, but you always want to make sure it's clean and sanitary.

Can septum piercings get infected?

Of course, washing and soaking your septum piercing helps to both prevent infection and promote healing, which is fairly obvious. But one interesting thing about septum piercings specifically is that they're less prone to infection because of their unique location. "Because the piercing is in the mucous membrane, the wound is pretty much self cleaning," Minor revealed in an interview with Hello Giggles. "In my 10 years I've only seen problems with septum piercings when people put really low quality jewelry in the piercing." That's good news!

It's expected and totally normal to experience a little bit of itching, mild discoloration, and the secretion of a little bit of fluid during the healing process, according to the Association of Piercing Professionals. You also may notice some crusties here and there, and perhaps some tissue tightening, so don't freak out at any of these. But if things start to get notably painful, call your piercer ASAP.

You should wear septum rings made out of this material

Speaking of low quality jewelry, there are specific kinds of septum rings to look for, and more than a few to beware of once your septum piercing is fully healed and you're ready to switch things up from your original piercing.

Even though you might think surgical steel is safe, that's actually something you need to avoid for long-term wear. "Surgical steel is not something that should be left in the body for long periods of time," Minor cautioned in an interview with Hello Giggles. Instead, you want to look for implant-grade metals such as implant-grade stainless steel, biocompatible white gold, real gold, or titanium. You should avoid silver, brass, copper, and jewelry that's plated or coated.

You also should be careful where you purchase your jewelry. "Don't buy your jewelry for your septum on Etsy or any other online situation," Minor continued. "Septum piercings are very finicky about the metal." And remember, you get what you pay for, so don't be stingy when it comes to the quality of your septum ring. 

Can you fake a septum piercing?

Let's say you think you like the look of a septum ring, but you've decided that you're not ready for the commitment that getting your septum pierced requires. Or perhaps you're too afraid of the pain, or worry that something would go wrong with your piercing. Or maybe you just don't have the extra cash laying around to get it done. Fear not, as there's another option: you can buy a fake septum ring.

You can find a whole mess of fake septum rings on eBay, Amazon, and Etsy for very little money. In fact, sporting a fake septum ring before you go through with the real thing will give you a better idea of how it looks on you, and how the people around you react to it. It's a way to give it a test drive. Genius!

As for whether or not fake septum rings look convincing, one woman wrote about her experience wearing a fake one for an entire week, and she managed to fool everyone. Maybe you can too!

Yes, men can rock septum piercings too

According to an article in Science Daily, both men and women get piercings, although women are more likely to get pierced than their male counterparts. Still, plenty of men rock a piercing or two, and that includes septum piercings, which are not just for women.

In fact, this specific body modification definitely didn't historically steer towards the feminine. "The septum piercing has been around for thousands of years, originating with warrior cultures, most likely since a warrior with a large tusk dangling between his nostrils looks especially fierce," Dowdell shared in an interview with GQ. It doesn't get much more traditionally manly than that.

Additionally, plenty of men in western culture have septum piercings and look amazing with them. Whether it's at New York Fashion Week or just over on a humble Pintrest page, you can see all kinds of hotties sporting this look and totally pulling it off. We're here for this, y'all!

Do septum piercings close up if you take out the ring?

Once you've had your septum ring for a while and it's fully healed, chances are you will want to switch out jewelry once in a while. But what happens if you go for a long period of time without a ring in your piercing? Will it eventually close on its own, like regular nose piercings do?

According to professional piercer Brian Keith Thompson, the septum piercing is a little bit different from the others. "Nine times out of ten, I am able to get jewelry back in a septum hole that hasn't had a hoop in for a while without repiercing," he revealed in an interview with PopSugar. So chances are if you've had it out for a while, it will pop back in. But if you find yourself unable to get your septum ring back in with ease, you should head to your piercer's shop and see if they can help.

Not everyone should get their septum pierced

As cute as septum rings look on celebs like Lady Gaga and Bella Thorn, not everyone has the right facial structure to rock that piercing. That's something that Tatz has had first-hand experience with as a professional piercer. "A girl came in with a deviated septum and wanted to know if a septum piercing would look right," she explained in an interview with Bustle. "If your nose is not symmetrical enough, it might not look right. Ask your piercer about how they think it will look first." 

Or you can buy a fake and see how it looks on you in the mirror. It would be awful to go through with the piercing, only to see that you're not a fan or don't feel confident with the look on your unique features. Additionally, if you're prone to sinus infections, allergies, or any other condition that renders you blowing your nose a lot, you might want to ask your piercer if a septum ring is a good idea. 

Can you get scarred from a septum piercing?

Any piercing that you get is going to leave a mark, which is just a reality, according to Thompson. "You should go into all piercings knowing that you will have a scar," he revealed in an interview with Pop Sugar. "You have to think about the future before you get a piercing. If you're getting pierced at 18, you might not care about a scar, but consider how you're going to think about it at 30, or 40." Good to know!

Fortunately for people with septum rings, the scar it leaves isn't visible, according to Bustle. Well, that's unless people are looking directly at the piercing — and who really gets that close to the inside of your nose on a daily basis, if ever? So that's one of the nice advantages of this piercing: you can always take it out, and no one will be the wiser.