What to Know About Bridge Piercing

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 22, 2022
5 min read

Piercings are a popular form of body modification. While earrings are the most common, other body piercings, like the bridge piercing, have become trendy in recent years. A bridge piercing is a safe procedure if it’s done right, but there are a few things to know. 

A bridge piercing is a hole in the soft tissue on the bridge of your nose through which you insert jewelry. It’s usually a short barbell and sits horizontally across the bridge of your nose, between your eyebrows. A bridge piercing is commonly called an Earl or Erl piercing. It’s a type of body modification often done for cultural, spiritual, or decorative reasons. 

A bridge piercing is done with a sterile needle. Your piercer will start by assessing your skin and nose and going over the risks and what to expect. They’ll mark the area and then show you what it will look like to make sure you want to go ahead. 

Then, your piercer will clean the area with an antiseptic wipe or solution. Once the skin is clean, they’ll pass a hollow, sterile needle through the skin on your nasal bridge. A sterile barbell is then threaded through your skin and secured in place. 

For best results, your piercing should only be done with a hollow needle. When you pierce your skin, the hole slowly heals with a layer of skin cells called epithelial cells. These cells create a tube of skin along the inside of the piercing. You’ll need to leave your barbell in for 8 to 10 weeks to allow the skin to heal. 

Some piercers use a piercing gun for body piercings, but it’s dangerous. A piercing gun crushes your skin tissues and can cause problems. The skin doesn’t heal properly, and you can end up with significant scarring. These guns are also hard to sterilize and lead to a high risk of exposure to bacteria or blood-borne diseases.

Every piercing causes some discomfort because you’re inserting a needle through your body. Some people don’t feel pain from piercings, while others are more sensitive. A bridge piercing isn’t extremely painful for most people, though. 

The needle passes through a thin layer of flesh on top of your nose, not any cartilage. So you’ll feel some pressure and discomfort, but it likely won’t be intense. 

It’s normal to have some swelling, bruising, and tenderness for a few days after the piercing. Your nose might feel a bit sore for a few days, but you can manage this with over-the-counter pain relievers.

A bridge piercing can be safe when it’s done in a clean and reputable studio with the right tools and by a trained and licensed piercing professional. With proper piercings and aftercare, you can avoid most problems, especially if you’re healthy. There are potential risks, though. 

Infection. The surface of your skin is covered with friendly bacteria, but these bacteria can get into your new piercing and cause an infection. The risk is highest if the area isn’t cleaned before the piercing or if you don’t have good hygiene during recovery. 

Dirty tools and surfaces and improper piercing practices can also lead to infection. Touching or playing with your piercing or skin can introduce bacteria to the area and also cause an infection

Allergic reaction. Your body sees a piercing as a foreign object, so your skin will naturally form a layer of tissue to protect itself from the jewelry. Sometimes you can have an allergic reaction to the metal, though.

Nickel is often the culprit and causes symptoms like a red, itchy rash. Piercers often use surgical stainless steel, but these barbells aren't always nickel-free and could still cause a reaction. A medical-grade titanium or niobium barbell with a plastic shaft is likely the best option.  

Tearing. The skin tightens around your piercing as the skin heals. Twisting or turning a dry barbell can cause the new skin to tear. It might also start to close up as soon as you take the jewelry out, so you might rip your skin if you try to put it back in. Contact sports, accidental pulling on your jewelry, or being hit can also cause painful tearing that might lead to stitches. 

Keloid. A keloid is a skin overgrowth that appears after a minor wound. It's usually itchy and tender and can affect your appearance. Some people are more likely to get a keloid scar.  

Migration. A common risk of bridge piercings is migration, where the barbell moves and becomes misaligned once it heals. It usually happens because the barbell is the wrong size, which causes movement and irritation inside the piercing. The new skin shifts and causes the barbell to tilt. An experienced piercer can avoid this problem with the right barbell shaft.

Good hygiene practices can help you avoid a lot of problems after a bridge piercing. The best way to keep it clean is with a sterile saline solution labeled specifically for wounds or gentle, fragrance-free soap. If you can’t find a saline solution, you can make one. Dissolve ⅛ teaspoon to ¼ teaspoon of iodine-free sea salt in 8 ounces of warm water. 

To clean your piercing:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water. 
  2. Rinse the piercing with 0.09 percent sodium chloride solution, salt water, or gentle soap. Be careful not to twist the piercing. If you use soap, rinse with clean water to remove all the residue.
  3. Gently pat your skin dry with disposable paper towels. Don't dry the area with dirty or used towels.

Avoid alcohol and strong salt water because these can irritate the piercing and slow healing. You also don’t need ointments, antibacterial washes or gels, or hydrogen peroxide. Follow your aftercare instructions, and don’t take your piercing out. 

Keep your bridge piercing free of beauty products, like lotions, sprays, creams, and makeup. Avoid swimming in lakes, hot tubs, and pools where you might get bacteria in your piercing. If swimming is unavoidable, cover the piercing with a waterproof bandage.

If your piercing suddenly becomes painful, oozes blood or pus, swells up, feels hot, or has red streaks on the skin, you might have an infection. Talk to your doctor about treatment.