Nose Piercing

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on May 20, 2024
8 min read

Nose piercings are when a hole is made in your nose so you can wear jewelry in it. It's not a new fad. Nose piercing dates back more than 46,000 years. A piece of kangaroo bone from that time is believed to be an ornament worn through the nose of an Indigenous Australian.

There's evidence that thousands of years ago, nose piercing was done by Indigenous people in North and South America, as well as Africa and the Middle East. It became popular in India in the 1500s. By the 20th century, nose piercing became more well-known in Western culture.

Today, in the U.S., it's done for any number of reasons -- from cultural and spiritual to liking the way it looks.



Different parts of your nose can be pierced.

Septum nose piercing

The septum is what divides your nostrils. A piercing usually doesn't go right through all the tough cartilage, but the thin layer of soft tissue just above it.

Nostril piercing

A hole can be made on the outside of one of your nostrils, in the crease line.

Double nose piercing

You can opt to get both nostrils pierced. You could also get two piercings on one side. One hole might be lower down on your nostril in what's called a traditional piercing, and the other higher up.

Nose bridge piercing

This is a piecing at the bridge of your nose, in between your eyebrows. 


Nose piercing has two costs: one for the piercing procedure and one for the jewelry. Piercing your nose can often cost less than other body parts, like your nipples or genitals. Jewlery made of expensive metals will cost more.

The best metals for any body piercing are hypoallergenic, meaning that they're not likely to cause an allergic reaction. They include:

  • Surgical stainless steel
  • Solid gold
  • 14 or 18 karat gold
  • Titanium
  • Niobium

Nickel jewelry is more likely to cause an allergic reaction. 

No matter what metal you choose, nose jewelry shouldn’t be too large or heavy or it could cause pain or swelling.

It's also not safe to wear an earring with a straight-back post in your nose. The backing can collect bacteria that can lead to an infection. And if the post gets bumped, it could cause damage.

Ask your piercer to help you pick out the best type and size of jewelry for your nose.

Some options include:

Nose piercing hoop

If you're getting a higher nostril piercing, a larger ring will probably be a better fit. But if you're getting a septum piercing, you don't want the ring to be too big. That could make it hard for you to eat or drink.

Nose piercing stud

This style sits close to your skin.  Studs made to be worn in your nose have a special backing that points up your nose.

Nose piercing chain

A nose chain links your nose piercing and ear piercing. 

If you want to start off with one type of jewelry then change styles in the future, let your piercer know. That may change where they make the hole.

For your piercing, you'll either sit in a chair or lie on a table.  

The piercer will use a light to look closely inside your nose. They'll probably put a gloved finger inside each nostril to get a closer look. They may also make tiny dots with a marker so they know where to pierce your skin.

After cleaning your nose and skin thoroughly, they'll use a special hollow needle to carefully make a hole in your skin. It's not a good idea to have any body piercing done with a piercing gun. This tool can't be properly disinfected between uses, which raises your risk of infection. 

Afterwards, it's common to have some bleeding. You may also have the urge to sneeze. Be gentle when you blow your nose. Only use fresh, clean tissues. Keep your hands away from your nose and new piercing.

Good communication is key. If you aren't clear about any part of the procedure, ask your piercer.

Nose piercing pain

Many people don't find nose piercing painful. You may only feel some pressure. The procedure may feel more intense if you have issues with your nose, like a deviated septum.


Like all piercings, there are some risks to a nose piercing. 

Nose piercing infection

Your skin helps keep germs out of your body. Any time this protective barrier is broken, it's possible that bacteria can get inside and cause an infection. This is more likely to happen if the equipment used to make your piercing isn't well sterilized. A virus like HIV, hepatitis B or C, or tetanus could get into your bloodstream. 

Some signs of infection to watch out for include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Warmth at the site
  • Thick, yellow pus

Nose piercing infection treatment

To clear up an infected piercing, try to:

Keep the area clean. Wash it with soap and water at least twice a day. Gently pat it dry with a clean washcloth or paper towel. 

Apply ointment. Use a dab of over-the-counter antibiotic ointment. Ask your piercer or doctor which type to use.

Ice the area. A cool compress will help with swelling or redness.

Take NSAIDs for any pain. If you aren't sure an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) is safe for you to take, check with your doctor first.

If home care doesn't help, you may need antibiotics. Your doctor will choose a type that can attack the bacteria that's causing your infection.

Nose piercing bump

This can happen for a number of reasons. For instance, if you bump your new piercing, or sleep on it, you slow down the healing process. Twisting or playing with your piercing can also irritate the area and cause a tiny clump of tissue to form.

Nose piercing scar

Keloids are thick lumps of fibrous scar tissue. Sometimes they can form at the site of a piercing. If you have brown or black skin, this is more likely to happen. While harmless, a keloid can keep getting bigger over time. If you don't like how it looks, a dermatologist (skin doctor) can help treat it.

Other risks

While rare, a nose piercing can also cause:

Bleeding. Any piercing will bleed. A septum piercing may bleed more than a piercing on the side of your nose.

Tearing. Your jewelry could catch on something and tear the skin around it.

Loose jewelry. Nose rings or stud backs can loosen or shift. If that happens, you could inhale or swallow the little metal pieces. Loose studs or backs can also get stuck in your nose’s lining.

Allergic reaction. This is more likely to happen if you have dermatitis or eczema. If so, you could notice:

  • Itchy skin
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Blistering
  • Bumpy skin 

Always get your nose pierced by a licensed professional. Make sure they follow safety procedures like:

  • Asking if you have any health problems or could be pregnant
  • Using a sterile needle. Piercing guns can’t be properly sterilized.
  • Disinfecting tools with an autoclave, a machine that uses very high heat
  • Opening the sealed needle package in front of you
  • Using sterile gloves and washing their hands before and after the piercing
  • Cleaning and disinfecting your nose with alcohol or antiseptic liquid before it’s pierced
  • Giving you clear instructions on how to clean and care for your new nose piercing

Always put off your piercing if you have a sinus infection or respiratory infection, like the flu. 

After your piercing, you may have some bleeding, swelling, tenderness, or bruising at first. 

How quickly the site heals depends on where the piercing is. Generally speaking:

  • A pierced nose takes 2 to 4 months to completely heal. 
  • A pierced septum heals in about 1 1/2 to 2 months. 
  • A pierced bridge should heal in 2 to 2 1/2 months.

Nose piercing healing stages

Week 1: Expect swelling and redness.

Week 2-4: As the area starts to heal, your skin will form a protective layer of cells around your piercing. You'll notice a sticky discharge. This is normal, and it will likely form a crust around the area. 

Week 5: The piercing site should look less red and more healed. But it will still be fragile. A piercing site can take a year to completely toughen up.

If you have a septum piercing, you may notice a strong, foul smell during the healing process. This is common and doesn't necessarily mean that you have an infection.

Until it's fully healed, you'll need to care for your nose piercing. To do that:

  • Try not to touch or twist your piercing. This can slow down the healing process.
  • Avoid swimming pools, lakes, rivers, and hot tubs until your nose heals.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Don’t put alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on the site.
  • Don’t remove your nose jewelry until it’s fully healed. You even want to sleep with it in. (But try not to sleep on your piercing.)
  • Change your sheets and towels every week until your piercing is fully healed.

How to clean nose piercings

  • Always wash your hands before you touch the piercing or your nose jewelry.
  • Clean your nose gently with soap and water or a gauze pad soaked in saline solution. You can make your own by stirring 1/4 teaspoon salt into 1 cup of water. Gently remove any crust in the area. 
  • Pat the area dry with a fresh paper towel or clean towel.
  • Use saline spray to clean the inside of your nose.

When you get your nose piercing from a trained professional and follow their aftercare instructions, an infection is pretty unlikely. But call your doctor if you notice any signs of infection around the piercing like:

  • Swelling
  • Excess redness
  • Bleeding 
  • Red stripes
  • Tender skin that's painful to the touch
  • Yellow, green, or dark discharge

A fever is also a sign of infection that you shouldn't ignore.


As you get used to your new piercing:

  • Be cautious when putting on or taking off clothes. You don't want your jewelry to get caught. 
  • Check your jewelry every day to make sure it's tightly fastened. 
  • Try to keep your hands off your piercing site, even after it's healed. You don't want to transfer dirt or bacteria from your hands to your skin.
  • Keep the area clean. This is especially important if you have an ongoing health condition like diabetes or a weakened immune system.

When can I change my nose piercing?

Your initial jewelry should stay in for 8 to 12 weeks. 

If you want a nose piercing, get it done by a trusted licensed professional. To reduce your chances of getting an infection, follow their aftercare instructions. Nose piercings take longer to heal than you may think.

Will it close up?

Nose piercings can close quickly, even years after you had it done. Keep jewelry in your nose at all times so the hole stays open.

What is the correct side to pierce your nose?

There is no right or wrong side. But in some cultures, piercings on different sides hold different meanings. For instance, in Ayurveda (Indian medicine), the left side of your nose is linked to reproductive health in women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB.) Getting a piercing on your left nostril is believed to help make your periods and childbirth easier.