Ask Angel

Nostril Piercing Placement

Dear Elayne,

We have met many times at APP Conferences, and I really value your professionalism and knowledge.

The reason I’m writing is that soooo many people keep coming into my shop with nostril piercings in odd positions, and not where I was taught to put them. From reading your book, I think that I pretty much do them the same way that you do.

A lot of these people are not happy with their piercings and are coming to me to ask if they should get them redone. I don’t want them to think I want to redo the piercing just to take their money. Since there really isn’t anything dangerous about where the piercings are, I’m not exactly sure about the right thing to do. I don’t know if it is best to redo a piercing just for aesthetics. Especially if they have a totally healed piercing that has no problems or complications or anything like that.

What is your perspective? And how soon after taking out a nostril piercing would you say it safe to redo it? Also would that be different depending on whether it was healed or not? As a side note, I am curious as to your opinion on using rings for healing nostril piercings. In my area, some piercers use them and some refuse, saying they are more risky and make it too hard to heal.

Thank you for everything!

Dear A.,

I’ve had more piercees than ever coming to me with this same problem as well. The most frequent error I’ve been seeing is piercings that are placed too close to the face, but I’ve also seen them too high, too low, and too close to the tip of the nose as well.

In any case, if an individual is unhappy with their piercing and comes to you for advice, I think it is entirely appropriate to offer your honest professional opinion. Since nostril piercings are done for aesthetics rather than function, if the wearer is displeased with the way it looks, that can be a perfectly valid reason to redo it. However, I do not advise approaching anyone and inquiring, “Hey, are you okay with that horribly placed nostril piercing?” If your opinion is not solicited, it is best to hold your tongue—unless you spot a safety concern.

Before a patron makes the final decision to be repierced, it is fair to explain that an existing piercing is apt to leave some form of visible mark if abandoned. Should the piercing be retired while still in the healing stages, it is likely to seal up fully—but may still leave a divot or other imperfection. If the channel is well healed, then it often ends up looking like an enlarged pore. Of course if healing was troubled and excess or discolored scar tissue is present, then removing the jewelry will display more obvious residuals.

If a customer is fully healed, it may be helpful to offer a “trial removal” so they can see what the area looks like without jewelry to facilitate an informed decision about repiercing. Do let them know that the hole will likely shrink (somewhat) over time. You can just pop their jewelry right back in if they decide against new placement.

Alternatively, depending on individual anatomy and the location of the initial hole, if you believe it could look aesthetically pleasing to simply add a second piercing, bring up the option for discussion. Sometimes this is an excellent resolution, and it avoids the display of any visible scarring that might be left by abandoning a piercing. You may want to mark a dot for the prospective placement of the new ornament so the client can visualize how this would look.

How quickly a nostril can safely be repierced does depend on whether the channel was completely healed or not. If it was, then you may be able to redo the piercing immediately. Though an additional safety factor relates to the distance separating the first piercing and the new one. If there will be only a millimeter or two between them, then it is best to allow the tissue to settle and normalize before repiercing. You should also delay repiercing if the original site was still healing. I’d advise postponing any work in the area for four weeks or longer in both cases.

Below is a brief excerpt from my book, The Piercing Bible—The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing, with bold emphasis added to highlight a principle that is key for the aesthetic placement of most nostril piercings.

Nostril Piercing: Placement

The traditional placement for a nostril piercing is at the crease line on the side of the nose. A big smile accentuates this feature to help pinpoint the spot. This area is often thinner than the rest of the nose, so it may heal faster and feel less tender when pierced. The jewelry will rest in a natural niche, where it nestles most gracefully. I find it aesthetically pleasing when the placement of the piercing forms a relatively equilateral triangular shape with the opening of your nostril, from end to end.

Over the course of my career I have performed countless nostril piercings that healed perfectly with rings as initial jewelry. Long ago, they were actually the most common style we put into nostril piercings! I have found that thick nostrils do tend to have trouble healing with rings, as they suffer the same issues that occur from inserting too-small rings in nipple piercings. There’s excessive pressure against the entry and exit holes, which causes trauma, irritation, and other complications. Therefore, I recommend an alternate style such as a nostril screw or a Neometal threadless (press-fit) mini bar for that type of anatomy. See the April 2016 issue for my article all about Neometal jewelry.

Another important factor regarding initial jewelry selection is that it impacts the angle of the piercing itself. This should be clarified to clients who express the wish to alternate between ring and stud styles so they can make educated decisions.

In general, stud-style jewelry looks best—and the piercings heal optimally—when placed perpendicular to the nose. However, rings usually frame the tissue better and heal more easily when situated more aligned to the face and parallel to the floor. Rings worn in perpendicular piercings tend to hang further away from the nostril and may swing forward as well.

These are important topics worthy of their own articles. For fabulous in-depth discussions on the subjects of nostril piercing angles, techniques, and jewelry options, I highly suggest you read the incredibly informative series of related posts by Jef Saunders on his “Confessions of a Piercing Nerd” blog , , , .

Ultimately, both stud and ring style jewelry can be used successfully in fresh nostril piercings, depending on anatomy, piercing placement and angle, and the fit of the ornament.

When it comes to advising patrons about potentially repiercing a nostril or any location on the body, there are a number of considerations to be raised and weighed. By being an knowledgeable and informative sounding board, you will serve as a valuable resource to support clients who seek your counsel, and help them to achieve the best outcomes.

Elayne Angel