What You Should Know Before Getting A Septum Piercing

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 existing piercings. 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 have all of the answers you need. This is the truth about septum piercings.

It's a 4,000-year-old practice

Just because septum rings weren't all that popular for a long time in western culture 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 20th century. So the septum piercing is hardly new — 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 U.S., they're strictly ornamental for most people." It's unclear what the future holds for the humble septum piercing, but it's certainly eye-opening to 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 sound 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 nose where exactly the needle goes when you get your septum pierced. First, 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 of 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 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 Piercing Pagoda. You probably lived to tell the tale, 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 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% healed. "For a truly healed piercing that you can swap out on the regular, you'll need to wait 1-½ 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 in to 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."

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 multiple times) 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 10 minutes. If your piercer tells you to also wash your piercing with soap, make sure it's not scented, dyed, or 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."

It's expected and totally normal to experience some 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

Once your septum piercing is fully healed and you're ready to switch things up from your original piercing, there are specific kinds of septum rings to look for, and more than a few to avoid.

Even though you might think surgical steel is safe, it's actually not recommended 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, 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 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.

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.

In fact, this specific body modification hasn't historically steered toward 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 Pinterest page, you can see all kinds of hotties sporting this look and totally pulling it off.

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 10, 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 Pop Sugar. 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 Thorne, not everyone has the right facial structure to rock that piercing. That's something that Tatz has had firsthand 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. Additionally, if you're prone to sinus infections, allergies, or any other condition that has 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 professional piercer Brian Keith 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."

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. 

How much does a septum piercing cost?

If you're wondering how much it costs to get your septum pierced, it's important to know that, like most piercings, the price can vary widely depending on a couple of factors. First, there's the location of the piercing or tattoo shop: A piercing shop in the middle of a big city will probably charge more than a small-town place, per Bustle. The piercer's experience level will also likely impact the price, as a seasoned pro will be able to charge higher prices than a newbie.

However, the factor that will most impact the cost of your piercing is the jewelry. A simple titanium horseshoe ring will run you about $20 to $40 (on top of the piercing charge), while a 14-karat gold septum ring can cost anywhere from $60 to $100. Even though it may be tempting to choose the cheapest option, it's always a good idea to go with high-quality materials for piercings. With all of that said, according to Byrdie, the average price range for a septum piercing is $40 to $100.

What is the process of getting a septum piercing?

So, you've decided you definitely want to get your septum pierced. Now what? According to Bustle, the first step is to do your research to make sure you choose a reputable shop. Then, on the day of your appointment, make sure you're feeling well, because having the sniffles can be problematic. Professional piercer Allison Minor told Hello Giggles, "Just make sure you're not sick, because blowing your nose with a fresh piercing is uncomfortable and will lengthen your heal times." She added that it's also a good idea to clean your nose before your appointment, but your piercer will also do that before performing the piercing.

At your appointment, you'll fill out some paperwork and your piercer will answer any questions you may have. Next, you'll get to pick out your jewelry from the shop's selection, and then it's time for the actual piercing. 

Your piercer will thoroughly clean your nose, then mark where they plan to make the piercing hole (after confirming that you're okay with the positioning). They will hold your nose in place with forceps or a receiving tube, according to Byrdie, and will then insert the needle through the thin membrane between your nostrils. The jewelry will be threaded through right after the needle, and once it's in place, you're done! Your piercer will discuss proper septum piercing aftercare with you and answer any additional questions you may have, and then you're all set.

What type of jewelry should you use for your septum piercing?

You may be eyeing a super intricate piece of jewelry for your upcoming septum piercing, but your piercer will likely recommend keeping things simple for an initial piercing. As professional piercer Sami Sue told Byrdie, "A septum piercing should always be completed using either a horseshoe-shaped hoop or a circular hoop, also known as a CBR." When it comes to the size of the jewelry, a 16- or 14-gauge is standard, and the proper diameter will vary from nose to nose, according to Sue.

Once your septum piercing heals, you're free to change out your jewelry to whatever you like. If you need a versatile option that you can hide at work, a circular barbell may be a great choice, as you can easily flip it up inside your nostrils. If you're looking for something a bit more dramatic, there are many different types of fancy septum rings, from intricate, bedazzled clickers to colorful hoops. If you prefer a minimalist look, a seamless hinged ring could be a good option. A bonus of hinged rings is that, according to Pierced, they can be a lot easier to work with than other types of septum jewelry. (R.I.P. to the one million little horseshoe barbells that have fallen down the sink or disappeared into the carpet during jewelry changes.)

What happens if your septum piercing smells?

The healing process for any piercing can be gnarly, and sometimes it involves things like discharge, scabs, and unpleasant odors. According to piercer Cassi Lopez, per Elite Daily, "Your body secretes lymph fluid, which can dry up and form a 'crust' around your piercing, which is completely normal."

Although a septum piercing that stinks can indicate infection, an odor can also be a normal part of the healing process, according to Healthline. Sebum (an oily substance the skin secretes), dead skin cells, and even old soap can get trapped in and around your septum piercing, leading to a distinctive odor known as "septum funk." It usually isn't anything to worry about and goes away as the piercing heals, and can be managed with regular cleanings (per Healthline). However, it's important to keep note of any other symptoms that may indicate an infection, like severe pain, swelling, redness, itching, and fever. If you experience symptoms of infection along with an odor, it's a good idea to get checked out by your doctor.

What to do if you change your mind after getting your septum pierced

Not feeling your septum piercing as much as you'd hoped? Don't worry, you can always take it out. However, if it's a recent piercing, you should wait until it's fully healed before removing the jewelry, which can take several months, per Healthline. Also, removing a septum piercing — especially a recent one — is best left up to the pros, so make an appointment with your piercer to have them remove the jewelry. Doing it by yourself could be painful if the piercing hasn't healed yet.

On the bright side, the scar left by the piercing won't be visible since it's inside your nose. And if you end up changing your mind again and wanting the piercing back, you may be able to put jewelry back in if the septum piercing was fully healed when you took the jewelry out. "If you let your piercing heal completely (keeping it in over a year), the hole will probably stay open for the rest of your life," celebrity piercer Brian Keith Thompson old TotalBeauty. "The opening will shrink, but you'll be able to put something back in should you ever decide you want it back," he explained.

Can you numb your septum before a piercing?

Even if someone really wants a septum piercing, sometimes the pain associated with getting the piercing holds people back from scheduling that appointment. According to Healthline, a septum piercing hurts initially, but because the septum is so thin, healing happens quickly. Like most piercings, the pain that comes with the needle going through the septum only lasts a few seconds and is then followed by a manageable soreness. If you're still worried about that initial pain, though, a numbing cream may be a good option.

According to Authority Tattoo, it's important to know your pain threshold: If you have a low pain tolerance, numbing cream can make the process smoother. Even with numbing cream, you will likely still feel the needle going in, but the amount of pain will decrease. You'll want to use a spray or cream containing lidocaine or prilocaine, per Authority Tattoo, and apply it to your septum area before your appointment. The numbing will only last 30 minutes to an hour, so be sure to plan accordingly. Another method to reduce pain is to take Tylenol prior to your piercing, according to PopSugar.

How to stretch your septum piercing

Though septum piercings are typically done with a 14- or 16-gauge needle, some people may want to stretch their septum once the piercing has healed. Stretching your septum piercing can allow you to wear larger jewelry or multiple rings at once, and some people find that larger jewelry just suits their faces better.

However, the septum stretching process is not easy, according to Rogue Piercing, and it should be done with the assistance of a trained professional. Whether you choose to get professional help or stretch your piercing on your own, Rogue Piercing says you should use a water-based lubricant and a taper to stretch the hole before putting in your new, larger-sized jewelry. However, it is recommended to stretch only every six to eight months and only move up 0.5 mm at a time, as stretching a septum is not as easy as stretching earlobes. Additionally, if you know before you get your septum pierced that you'd like to have a larger piercing, you may want to request that the initial piercing is done with a larger needle, according to Rogue Piercing.

Can you swim after a septum piercing?

According to the NHS, you should avoid swimming for at least 24 hours after getting your septum pierced. Authority Tattoo warns that you should avoid submerging your nose in any water after getting a septum piercing, as pools and hot tubs tend to have a lot of bacteria that could end up infecting your piercing. It's also important to gently pat the area dry after showering and cleaning to avoid excess moisture in and around the piercing.

It's okay if your septum gets wet while you're in the shower or bath — just be sure to not let soap or body wash get into the piercing. The only time you should submerge the piercing while it's healing is when you're doing saline soaks, which should happen daily, according to Byrdie. Saline (or sea salt) soaks will rid the area of any bacteria, soothe inflammation, remove build-up, and encourage healing.