Septum Piercing

septum piercing

If you've been flipping through the pages of your favorite magazine and notice that a lot of the celebrities are sporting a septum piercing, you may be considering one (and not a fake one like Rhianna). If you're not exactly sure what the piercing entails, find out all the details behind it, including how the piercing is done, how much pain it involves, and some of the different style options to help you decide whether it's right for you.

History of Piercing the Septum

Contrary to what many people believe, septum piercing is nothing new. According to the book Faces Around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Human Face, septum piercing was practiced by many Native American tribes throughout history, including the Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa, and Shawnee tribes. These types of piercings were usually found on the leaders of the tribe. Additionally, septum type piercings have been found historically on animals, especially bulls, as a way of marking different animals for farm reasons.

Understanding What a Septum Piercing Is

Girl with septum piercing

One of the first aspects to understand about a septum piercing is exactly what the septum is. Just like the cartilage that makes up your ear, the body has a membranous, cartilaginous area that divides your nostrils, which is known as the nasal septum. When talking about piercing the septum, however, be aware that the jewelry doesn't actually pierce through the cartilage. Instead, there is a small space called the columella near the front of the nose. This little "sweet spot" is the fleshy bit that piercers search for.

Getting Pierced

Getting your nasal septum or septum pierced is a relatively easy process.

  • First, the piercer will probably lay you back in a chair and clean and prep the area.
  • He or she will then mark the columella, ensuring that the piercing will be straight.
  • The piercer will generally tell you to take a deep breath in, then breathe out, and he or she will quickly push the hollow needle through the columella.
  • The piercer will then put the jewelry through the end of the needle and pull the jewelry through the hole.

If the columella is too small or does not exist, then the piercer will be required to go through the cartilage. This will inevitably make it more painful.

Pain

Man with septum piercing

The septum area of the nose is filled with many nerve endings, so the initial pain of this piercing can be intense. Since the needle is passing through the skin in front of the cartilage, most people will describe it as a painful pinching feeling that instantly makes your eyes tear up. It's not typically a 'white-knuckle' experience, just more uncomfortable for a few seconds. The pain might intensify after the initial piercing as well with healing, but it will typically feel pretty good after a week or two.

Aftercare

After the jewelry is placed, the septum tends to heal easily and painlessly, if it is kept clean. Most people find that their septum piercings heal completely within six weeks to three months. Aftercare instructions can vary based on the piercer, but typically include:

  • Soaking your piercing in sea salt rinses twice a day for the first one to two weeks.
  • Using a saline wash several times a day to keep bacteria at bay.
  • Trying not to irritate the piercing with excess tugging, fiddling or nose blowing.
  • Avoiding standing water that might have bacteria present like pools or baths.
  • Washing your hands before touching the piercing.
  • While it can be difficult, piercers will typically instruct you not to touch or play with jewelry unless absolutely necessary.

Cost

The cost for a septum piercing varies and is dependant on several factors, including your region and the studio. Generally, you can find septum piercings for as low as $30 without jewelry and up to about $90. For example, Infinite Body Piercing, Inc. lists a total price of $50, which includes $30 for the piercing and $20 for the starting jewelry.

Types and Styles

A septum piercing can fit on all face shapes and nose sizes. However, there are some jewelry types that might look better on specific face shapes.

  • A circular barbell works on most faces and nose shapes. This rounded barbell is subtle and gains you attention when you want it, but not when you don't, since it offers you the ability to flip it up into the nostril.
    circular barbell
  • A standard captive bead ring (CBR) is a bold choice. It will draw more attention to the nose, but it does tend to look more like a bull's ring and cannot be hidden. If you are self-conscious of the length or width of your nose, this might not be the ring for you.
    woman with captive bead ring piercing
  • An infinity ring is another choice for septum piercings, but again, this can emulate a bull ring. However, if you have a wide face or wide nose shape, the circle can work to elongate the look of your nose, making it appear more narrow.
  • Fancy septum rings, like those with jewels or designs, can be worn by anyone. You will find that the rounded designs will work better on individuals with longer faces or smaller noses since they have a tendency to widen the appearance of the nose. However, fancy v-shaped designs and make the nose look more narrow and might be a choose for those with a wider nose.
    fancy septum piercing
  • If you are looking for a bold septum ring to work with other piercings, you might choose a tusk, or straight barbell. While this is seen more commonly on men than on women, the barbell or tusk is worn through the septum. While not as common as the other choices, it does emulate some tribal customs.

Larger Septum Jewelry

Woman with septum pierced

This piercing can also be performed with larger gauges or stretched up to a larger gauge with the use of tapers. Larger and heavier jewelry will take longer to heal and stretch out the skin of the nose, making it appear strange without jewelry. It is advisable to think about whether you want to have a large gauge hole in your septum before getting this done. As with any mucus membrane (nose or lip), septum holes will close quickly without jewelry in them, so make sure not to leave out your septum ring for long periods of time.

Potential Problems

As with piercing any area of your body, there are dangers when the needle pierces your skin; however, the septum has specific problems that you might want to consider.

Infections

All piercings are susceptible to infections; however, the nose has a higher risk of infection because of the bacteria that reside in the nose. Therefore, piercing of the nose carries with it a higher risk of complications from bacterial infections like Staphylococcus aureus. Symptoms of an infected septum can include soreness, pus, bleeding, swelling, and lumps on the piercing site.

Allergies

Seasonal allergies can be a problem at any time in life, but they can really complicate a septum piercing. The constant running of the nose and sneezing can make it very difficult for your septum piercing to heal. Additionally, if you have an established piercing, it can cause more irritation when allergies hit. You might find a buildup of mucous on your piercing that might require more cleaning than normal. Additionally, if you are prone to sinus infections, this might be a piercing you avoid.

Nasal Septal Hematoma

A nasal septal hematoma is when blood accumulates between the nasal septum and the perichondrium. This causes a lump on the inside of the nose that must be treated immediately by a physician. This is because the hematoma can cause a hole to form and lead to a collapse in part of the nose, causing deformity. The most obvious symptom of this is pain and inflammation.

An Individual Piercing

A septum piercing is a relatively trendy and easy piercing where the piercer quickly pushes a needle through the 'sweet spot' or the columella. This is an interesting piercing that has several different jewelry styles and fits on all different type of faces. While there are some complications to think about, like infection and hematoma, this is a relatively worry-free piercing as long as you follow the aftercare instructions and try to avoid touching your nose. However, if you have severe allergies or sinus issues, this might be a piercing you want to rethink. Weigh your options then find a reputable piercer in your area if you think it's right for you.

Septum Piercing