Septum 101: The Nose Knows- What to Look for from a Safe Septum Piercing
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
If you didn’t know, septum piercings are hands down one of my favorite piercings to do! I think they look phenomenal on every nose, the jewelry choices are fantastic, and the unique anatomy of every client keeps me on my toes doing these. Many piercers consider septums to be a more challenging piercing, going so far to discuss doing them as where skill meets luck (thanks Ryan Ouelette!) That said, a good piercer with a great foundation can provide you with an amazing experience getting a septum. But, as we all know, not all piercers are created equal, and many lack the correct training and education to pierce a septum correctly. Next to navels, I would say I see septum piercings done incorrectly the most often. So this write up is here to help you understand what to look for when getting your septum pierced!
To start, Septum Piercings are placed in the Alar Cartilage. This is what is commonly called the “Sweet Spot”. There is a misconception that the sweet spot is not cartilage, which is untrue. It is simply a softer, squishier cartilage at the tip of the nose. Imagine if you could wiggle your nose a la bewitched, this would be the cartilage that would allow you to do so. Because this is the anatomy where the septum needs to be pierced, it ends up high and tight to the front of the nose. This is the correct placement. You never want a septum piercing placed further back against the face, or in the tough lower cartilage of the middle of the nose. A septum done correctly should sit snug to the nose, and if you want to wear a larger or showier piece, you can simply purchase a larger diameter. Perhaps the way I see these done incorrectly the most often is too low, or too far back. You should always check portfolios to see a range of a piercers work. They should have both healed and fresh shots of septums, and at least a few that show angles. The piercings should be towards the front of the nose, and placed up at the nostrils. If a ring is oversized, it may have some hang, but there should be some that show a properly fitted placement. A red flag is all photos where the jewelry hangs down to the lip.
Septums come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of deviation. A deviated septum is when the cartilage comes off the face to one side or the other. In extreme cases, deviation can effect breathing and allergies, and sometimes be corrected through surgery. Severe deviation, uneven nostrils, or previous breaks may make your septum trickier to pierce. A good piercer will be honest that it may take more then one piercing attempt to be perfect, and also let you know there may some ways the jewelry may sit differently (one nostril being higher or further forward may mean more of the jewelry shows on that side.) That said a good reputable piercer will be able to achieve a great septum on you with some time and patience from both parties!
Jewelry for an initial septum is as varied as the noses we pierce. For clients who need to flip jewelry while healing, it will be more limited. A retainer (a staple shaped piece of jewelry) or a circular barbell, may be used so the piercing can still be hidden. And yes, you totally can heal your septum flipped up! Try not to fuss with it too much and constantly flip it up and down, and always clean your hands before handling. That said, healing flipped is totally possible and one of the awesome things about this piercing! If you don’t have to flip it, jewelry choices are almost unlimited! Clickers, Captives, Fixed Bead Rings, and Seam rings, all work! The only thing you should avoid being pierced with is a plain seam ring. The seam can rotate inside the piercing and cause damage while healing. A decorative seam is perfectly fine, or a fixed bead or captive ring. Plain seams should wait until the piercing is fully healed.
For clients who have had surgery on or around their nose, piercing should still be possible but isn’t always in all cases. A standard rhinoplasty or deviated septum repair should be safe to be pierced again about a year after surgery. Yes, a full year, even if your surgeon said you could be pierced sooner. That said, I have encountered noses where the surgeons have used hard grafted cartilage to reshape and restructure the tip of the nose. These had very limited blood flow and all the cartilage was very hard. Those I would advice against piercing. A reputable piercer can do an inperson consultation and determine if a septum piercing is right for you.
A note- septum piercings smell. Not strongly, and not badly, but they do have an odor. Technically all piercings have a very very subtle scent, but all piercings aren't up our noses. If you find that you can smell your septum piercing this is perfectly normal. It doesn't mean anything is wrong or anything, it's just a normal part of having your septum pierced! And I promise, no one else can smell it.
The septum is an adorable, versatile, easy to heal piercing that offered some of the broadest jewelry selection of any piercing. From tiny and hidden, to something moderate, to bold, flashy, and in-your-face, the septum offers something for everyone. If you are considering getting the piercing check out safepiercing.org to locate an APP member near you, and remember to check portfolios and ask good questions! You only have one body- you deserve a perfect piercing!