Ask Angel

Nostril Piercing: Rings, Studs, & Angles

Ask Angel

Elayne Angel with Images by Jef Saunders

Dear Ms. Angel,

Do you think that rings are OK for fresh nostril piercings? If so, do you have any suggestions about the angles, depending on whether they’re wearing a ring or stud (nostril screw or flatback) for the initial jewelry? What if the client wants to go back and forth between jewelry styles—after healing, of course?

Many thanks, C.

Dear C.

I think both styles can be safe, though I’ve found that regardless of angle and jewelry size, very thick nostrils often don’t do well with rings. But above-the-neck piercings are no longer my area of expertise, so to better respond to your inquiry, I brought in Jef Saunders. He is an esteemed colleague who has written a few previous articles for this column, and he’s also produced several incredibly informative blog posts that specifically address your questions[i]. I highly suggest you read them and review the excellent graphics, which help to clarify many of the principles.

Additionally, I’m proud and delighted to say that Jef and I are working closely together on a thoroughly updated second edition of The Piercing Bible, which is due for release in June 2021!

Jef says:

Nostril piercings with rings are different than nostril piercings with studs. Using rings as initial jewelry can be safe and appropriate, but the main downside is that their curvature naturally causes irritation, and on some individuals that triggers bumps to form. If a client requests a hoop for their new nostril piercing, I think having a consultation and discussion with them about the pros and cons of different initial jewelry styles is worthwhile.

The client should be informed about several important points:

· Ring and stud piercings are (often) performed at different angles.

· The client may not be able to change from one jewelry style to the other and have both look equally nice.

· A curved hoop resting in the straight channel made by the needle can cause irritation resulting in bumps.

· A slightly longer healing process is to be expected when starting with a ring.

Piercers do such consultations all the time: we warn our clients about the potential issues tongue piercings can have on their teeth and gums. We caution them about the temporary nature of surface anchors. We explain that scarring is possible on every piercing. Following our explanation, we let our clients make an informed decision to get pierced or not. Getting a nostril pierced with hoop-style jewelry is no different.

I find that most clients want a snug, thin seam ring for their nostril piercings; but, the jewelry they must wear for healing would be larger, thicker, and have a captive or fixed bead on it. If they are willing to wait for the gratification of wearing a ring without a bead, and follow my suggestions, I will proceed. That said, I have found that most of my customers decide to start with straight “stud” style pieces, and then segue into snug, thin seam rings after the healing process.


Optimal placement for a nostril piercing with a ring is essential. Ideally, it would be placed more toward the tip of the nose, at the front end of the pierceable crest of the nostril. This tissue both flattens and thins out. It also tends to be the best place on the nose to achieve a snug, “cuffed” look for the ring. Sometimes the ridge of a nostril can accommodate several hoops of the same diameter, but in most cases, as you place the ring further back, the diameter must be larger to fit.

One suggestion is the use of a handy tool called a size placement ring, or SPR for short. I was introduced to them by the Fakir Intensives.[ii] SPRs are just niobium captives without the beads, in a variety of sizes. You can distinguish the SPRs from your inventory by anodizing each hoop in two different colors.

When piercing with a ring, I will make a dot on the cleaned nostril with a disposable gentian violet marker, and then place an SPR on the mark. In

some cases, I will need to open the SPR larger than the size of the bead. Take this into account, as you may need to go with a larger diameter for the jewelry selection. The SPR helps me to determine the appropriate diameter, and also helps my client to visualize the size and angle of the piercing beforehand.

I find that many clients want a hoop that is impossibly tight. But the jewelry needs to accommodate some swelling and provide a small amount of space, so it doesn’t rub on the skin of the nostril. Therefore, they must be willing to heal with a ring that is larger than what they envisioned.


On a few clients with very narrow noses, the angles for snug hoop piercings and appropriately placed stud piercings are virtually the same. Both are perpendicular to the tissue, and both result in aesthetically pleasing piercings on this type of anatomy. But on a nose that is broader with a more pronounced flare to the nostril, the angle is significantly different for a ring and a stud. Piercing perpendicular to the tissue would cause the hoop to stick out too far. For the best results with a ring, the angle of the piercing for the average nostril tends to be almost parallel with the floor or tilted very slightly downward.

Ring-style Jewelry Options

Captive bead rings: “CBRs” are the old standby and I still like them for nostrils with hoops. l strongly suggest stocking several “half” sizes (9/32” and 11/32”). I prefer 18 gauge for nostrils with rings, as the curvature of the jewelry through the fistula tends to be even more irritating at 20 gauge. For some, jewelry as thick as 16 gauge will look appropriate, though the majority of piercees prefer thinner. Most of my clients opt to wear the bead on the inside of their nostril, so it isn’t visible.

Fixed bead rings: Obviously, these are very similar to CBRs, but they are available with slightly smaller beads than the ones commonly used in captives. This can make it easier to conceal the closure inside the nose. And, of course, there’s no possibility of losing a bead when it is attached.

Seam rings: I advise against starting a piercing with this style, as the small seam can be irritating and is a great place for bacteria to gather. Some colleagues will use a seam ring as initial jewelry with a small sterilized O-ring over the seam. This seems like an elegant solution to the problem,

although an O-ring seems as visible as a captive or fixed bead (if not more obvious).

Nostril nails: After healing, the nostril nail is an excellent option for clients who like to change jewelry regularly. It can also be modified without the use of tools to be slightly snugger than a traditional ring.

When we elect to use a hoop initially we need to acknowledge that the piercing will be more prone to irritation if the angle is not perpendicular to the tissue. That doesn’t mean we need to completely avoid it. If the client is informed and agreeable, and will wear appropriate jewelry throughout healing, then piercing with a ring can be safe and successful.