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Nose piercing is the piercing of the skin or cartilage which forms any part of the nose, normally for the purpose of wearing jewelry; among the different varieties of nose piercings, the nostril piercing is the most common. Nose piercing is one of the most common varieties of piercing after earlobe piercing.

Nostril piercing[]

Nostril piercing is a body piercing practice often associated with India, Pakistan, Nepal and throughout South Asia. Nostril piercing is also part of traditional Australian Aboriginal culture (Stirn 2003). Nostril piercing has in recent decades become popular in the industrialized nations, as have other forms of body piercing, after punks and subsequent youth cultures in the '80s and '90s adopted this sort of piercing. Today, nostril piercing is popular in the United States of America, the UK, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia and Europe, with piercings being performed on either the left or right nostril.

Both men and women have nostril piercings, though they are much more common on women. There are several different types of nostril rings. Among the most popular are the loop, the stud with an L-bar closure, the stud with a ball closure, and the stud with a flat backing.

In India the outside of the left is the preferred position of the piercing as this is supposed to make childbirth easier. This is because Ayurvedic medicine associates this location with the female reproductive organs.[1] In India piercings were regarded as a mark of beauty and social standing as well as a Hindu's honor to Parvati, the goddess of marriage. Nose piercing is still popular in India. They are often part of Indian wedding jewellery. In Maharastra women wear very large nose pieces that often cover the mouth or the side of the face.

It is common for Pashtun and Pahari women to have both nostrils pierced. Many South Indian Tamil also follow this tradition. The tradition follows that the woman has her nose rings to pay for her funeral if she has all the gold taken from her. Nose rings or gold studs cannot be easily removed from the woman. Many women from the Asian subcontinent are cremated with just their nose studs as jewellery is removed before the funeral. Indian widows usually remove their nose studs as a sign of respect.

Nose piercing in society[]

Although occasionally seen earlier — the French actress Polaire arrived for her 1913 tour of America wearing a seed-pearl ring in her left nostril[2] — it's only been in the last two decades that nose piercing has gained a mainstream popularity in Western culture. Presently, it is the second most-popular body piercing desired by teens and young adults.

A 2007 study by career publisher Vault.com surveyed nearly 500 employees from across the United States and 87 percent believed having piercings or tattoos would not reduce their chance of being hired. Respondents explained, "Regardless of who the real person may be, the stereotypes associated with piercings and tattoos are changing. In general, individuals with tattoos and body piercings are not being looked down upon as did in previous generations;" "I see more and more people with piercings in business and everyday work settings. It's just a different generation," Says another employer.

Another study was held by a group of 20 sociology majors at Columbia University in 2001. They surveyed 100 New Yorkers looking for a job, 50 with nostril/cartilage piercings and 50 with eyebrow/tongue piercings. It was said that the 50 with nostril and cartilage piercings received jobs that those with eyebrow and tongue could not. "Many people are used to the nose piercings, it is seen as a cultural icon in the Indian and African communities," says student Jaleel Sanchez. "Many people with facial piercings are seen as 'rougher' or 'less educated' and these stereotypes are hurting many people looking for work," said professor F. Holloway.

Nose piercing are considered more acceptable than eyebrow or tongue. Eyebrow piercings were created during the 1980s during what most teens considered the punk-rock era and are since associated with emotional behavior and heavy metal music. When nose rings are more seen with Indians, and more professional people such as doctors, teachers, lawyers and many political figures. "I personally do not judge my students or colleagues depending on their facial piercings. I would say 25 percent of the faculty here have nose or cartilage piercings. But there are probably more at NYU or other liberal arts universities," says Holloway.

Septum piercing[]

Nasal septum piercings are less common than nostril piercings. The nasal septum is the cartilaginous dividing wall between the nostrils. Generally, the cartilage itself is not pierced, but rather the small gap between the cartilage and the bottom of the nose (sometimes called the "sweet spot"), typically at 14ga (1.6mm) although it is often stretched to a larger gauge (size). The nose has many nerves running through it and as a result, nose piercings can be painful, although it varies by individual. This piercing heals within a month and a half to three months also depending on the individual. It should only be stretched by 1mm at a time and it is advised to wait at least a month between stretches. If you go past a certain point, usually about 8mm, the cartilage gets forced towards the top of the nose, which can be uncomfortable.

There are many types of jewelry generally worn in a septum piercing including: Captive bead rings (CBRs), rings that close with a bead held in the center by the tension of the ring, circular barbells (as shown in the picture), a circular bar with a bead that screws on to either end, a "tusk" which is a straight or shaped piece of material which is generally tapered on either end, or pinchers. For large gauge septums many choose to wear plugs, as they do not weigh their noses down, which is helpful in the healing process. This allows for the piercing to not be damaged by the sudden movement of the jewelry.

Bengali women traditionally would wear the 'nathori' as a sign of being a married woman. The nathori would be gold with a tear drop that would move along the ring. Many lower class women in rural Bengal still keep this tradition. This is now declining as many women prefer the nose studs.

In southern Nepal the septum piercing is still common. Many older women still adorn their noses with both the septum and left nostril rings. Many women have gold nose piercings as this show their social, tribal and religious status in society.

Another option is a septum retainer, which is staple shaped. This type of nose piercing is particularly easy to hide when desired, for example to comply with a dress code. A septum retainer makes it possible to turn the jewelry up into the nose, thus concealing it. With black jewellery flipped up into the nostrils, this piercing can be made practically invisible. A circular barbell can also be hidden by pushing it to the back in to your nose, but it may be uncomfortable.

Septum piercing was a popular trend among South Indian dancers (Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam) and among certain Native American peoples in history; the Shawnee leaders Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, for example, had such piercings. The septum piercing is popular in rural areas of India, Nepal and Bangladesh. In India it is called the 'Nathori' and popular with the Banjara ethnic groups and Adivasi tribes. Lord Krishna and his consort Radharani are often depicted wearing the 'Nathori' style jewel nose pieces.[3]

Risks of Septum Piercings[]

The septum or nasal septum is the cartilaginous wall that divides the two nostrils. The cartilage is however, usually not pierced. It is the thin strip of very soft and flexible skin, just between the cartilage and the bottom of the nose, where septum piercing is mostly done. Piercing the skin instead of the cartilage can greatly minimize the pain, as well as other discomforts associated with this type of body piercing. This piercing should only be done with a needle. As far as jewellery is concerned, you can use captive bead rings, circular barbells, plugs, tusks, curls and septum retainer.

All types of body piercings, including septum piercing, are associated with the risk of contracting certain blood borne diseases like hepatitis, from the needles and piercing guns used in the procedure. The next common risk associated with almost all types of piercing is the risk of infection and pain. This can be minimized greatly, if piercing is done on the soft and flexible skin that lies between the cartilage and bottom of the nose. As far as infection risks are concerned, it can be managed with proper piercing aftercare.

This piercing can sometimes lead to 'septal hematoma'. An injury to the soft tissue within the septum can disrupt the blood vessels to cause the accumulation of blood and fluid under the lining. Nasal septum hematoma can eventually cause nasal congestion, and interfere with breathing along with causing pain and inflammation. If not treated immediately, the condition can ultimately cause formation of a hole in the septum, leading to nasal congestion. Sometimes, that part of the nose may collapse, resulting in a cosmetic deformity, known as 'saddle nose'.

Bridge piercing[]

Bridge piercings are inserted through the small flap of skin at the top of the nose, between the eyes, though never through the bone. Curved barbells and straight barbells are the most commonly used in this piercing, while seamless rings are less common. However, bridge piercings generally have a high rate of rejection and thus are less common than any other nose piercing.

Nose piercing in popular culture[]

A number of celebrities have helped to popularize the various forms of nose piercing, while it has also featured in a number of movies and TV shows.

  • For her role as Jennifer in the 2001 movie My First Mister, actress Leelee Sobieski agreed to have a number of temporary body piercings. These included several facial piercings including both nostrils, with a stud in one side and a ring in the other. Following the end of filming, she removed all of the facial piercings except for the nose stud, which she kept for a few more weeks before removing it.
  • In addition to sporting fake dreadlocks for her role in the 1999 movie Black and White, Brooke Shields also wore a nose ring, for which she had her nose temporarily pierced.
  • For her role as Geena in the short-lived TV sitcom Monty, actress China Kantner had her nose temporarily pierced.
  • When she appeared as singer Gigi in the 1999 movie Desperate But Not Serious, supermodel Claudia Schiffer had her nose, belly button and ear cartilage temporarily pierced.
  • Actress Scarlett Johansson has a septum piercing.
  • When she signed up to play the lead role of Lisbeth in the US remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, actress Rooney Mara (who didn't even have pierced ears) agreed to have multiple ear, body and facial piercings done, including rings in her left nostril and septum.
  • In July 2012, actress Evan Rachel Wood posted a video on the internet showing her having her nose pierced.
  • Singer Christina Aguilera formerly had a number of piercings including her nostril.
  • British TV presenter Fearne Cotton has her left nostril pierced.
  • In 2010, actress Phoebe Tonkin had her nose pierced especially for her recurring guest role as Adrian in the soap Home and Away.
  • Actress Anna Paquin had her nose pierced at the age of 14 for her role in the 1996 movie Fly Away Home.
  • Actress Cameron Diaz has her left nostril pierced.
  • As part of the preparation for her role in Apartment 1303 3D, actress Mischa Barton had her nose pierced with a small gold stud, but removed the piercing after just a few days when it was decided by the director that it didn't actually suit her character.


Stirn, A. (2003). Body Piercing: Medical Consequences and Psychological Motivations. The Lancet 361: 1205–1215.