Updated: Oct 12, 2022
Septum stretching! After lobes, I would argue this is the next most common piercing to stretch! It's relatively easy to stretch, there’s a bevy of cool jewelry for stretched septums, and this discrete piercing is easy to hide, making it the perfect choice for folks who still need to keep corporate jobs. However, there’s a lot that goes into safely stretching your septum, so let’s look deeper!
Stretching a piercing is the process of slowly enlarging the channel of the piercing to accommodate larger jewelry. It’s important to pay attention to your body, as the stretching process is often unnecessarily traumatic for some. Septum’s in particular, since they are in cartilage, require extra care and patience when being stretched. You can check out my basic stretching guide here, which is a great read before this one. Something to consider is that septum’s are amazing at staying open and keeping size. While they can shrink, it’s also not uncommon for a septum to remain at a 10 or 8 g for years without ever wearing jewelry. As such, any stretching should be considered a permanent modification. Make sure you are positive you want this before you start!
Step 1: Placement is Priority
In order to safely stretch your septum, and have an enjoyable (or as enjoyable as it can be haha) stretching process, your septum piercing must be correctly placed. Trying to stretch a septum that is to high or to low is a nightmare, and on top of that can cause some serious issues. Proper placement for a septum is “high and tight”. There is a sweet spot of connective tissue, called the Alar cartilage, toward the tip of the nose. This cartilage is soft, flexible and thin, and the perfect place for a septum piercing. Everyones body is different, some people have huge sweet spots and choices for initial piercing. Some have next to none, and there’s pretty much one place and one choice for a piercing. Regardless of your anatomy, its key a piercer places things correctly anyway, but especially if you plan to stretch.
You can also consider being pierced at a larger gauge initially. Up to 10 or 8g is often possible on many noses, and rarely even larger. Getting pierced bigger initially lets you skip the sometimes challenging first small stretches, and gives you a great jumpstart on your stretching goals! If you are 100% positive stretching is in your future, I would strongly suggesting larger for your initial piercing. Also, large gauge septum’s are just cool!
The next thing is the jewelry you wear. Quality jewelry is very important for stretched piercings, and for allowing for a smoother and healthier stretching journey! Safe materials are as follows-
Titanium that is ASTM F67 compliant
Solid 14 karat or higher nickel-free white, rose, or yellow gold
Solid nickel-free platinum alloy
Fused quartz glass, lead-free borosilicate or lead-free soda-lime glass
Low Porosity Stones such as Amethyst, Agate, Quartz, Onyx, and properly finished Jade, Tigers Eye, and Howlite.
When I say fresh stretch we mean the first 1-3 months after going up a size. The reason being is that even with perfect stretching methods occasionally very very small microtears can still form, and you want to make sure we are wearing a non-porous material that won’t prevent the healing of these small wounds. Once a stretch is ‘healed’ you can start wearing a larger variety of stone, wood, bone, horn, and high quality silicone. Bone, quills, and horn all are very popular materials for stretched septums, but they all work best healed. Silicone is awesome for a discreet piece, and one you can stack a few ring through. Be aware trying to put some kaos silicone in your septum is an ordeal in and of its self. I wish anyone attempting it the best of luck, it ain’t easy at small sizes. Never acrylic, which is always harmful no matter what piercing you are wearing it in.
All jewelry for fresh stretches should be single flare, never stretch with double flare jewelry! For septums, there’s two categories of jewelry you’ll be stretching with. If you are stretching standard, single or no flare plugs, pinchers, and circular barbells are going to be the styles you use! Your need to hide the piercing, and your personal comfort will help you choose which is the best for you. If you are stretching via stacking, 18g-16g seam rings, clickers, or segment rings will be used. For more information about jewelry for stacking your septum, check out my stacking guide here!
Inbetween sizes are also key with septum stretching. Lobes are commonly done in millimeter increments, 1 mm each stretch. Septums, being cartilage, sometimes require smaller jumps. .5mm pieces are made in glass and delrin/ptfe and are great for stubborn stretches that just won’t take that full mm jump.
This goes without saying, but be careful putting things that aren’t jewelry through your piercing. I know it looks cool in the photo, that pencil/straw/qtip/etc through your nose. What isn’t cool is picking splinters out of someones stretched septum or small fibers that have caused irritation. I know people will never stop putting silly things in all their stretched piercings, but please be careful and be safe if you do!
Patience is a Virtue
Ear stretching follows a 6-12 week or longer timeframe between stretched. Septums, being cartliage, play by their own rules, or no rules at all. 3 months is the minimum time between septum stretches, but many find themselves needing to wait longer periods of time than that. Unlikes stretching soft tissue, you may not always have a noticeable gap when you stretch your septum. Listen to your body and pay attention to what loose jewelry feels like vs tight jewelry. Gently playing with and moving your pieces can give you a good feel if you are ready to size up or not. There may not be a visible gap, but pieces might rotate freely, feel “loose” in the piercing, and generally feel “ready”. When in doubt, wait it out. A few more weeks or months doesn’t hurt anything. The more you stretch, the more familiar you’ll become with your body and what being “ready” feels like!
Septum Stretching is Spicy
We get used to hearing time and time again that ear stretching should never hurt, and that still rings true. The same can not be said of septum stretching. Septum stretches are often uncomfortable, and that discomfort can persist for weeks or months. Sometimes a stretch is painless and easy, and the soreness doesn’t set in till a few days. That said, it shouldn’t be excruciating, and you shouldn’t be tearing or forcing a stretch. A little discomfort, a feeling of pressure or tenderness is fine. Blinding pain is a sign your body is not ready for a stretch and you should stop and wait.
Denting can also cause discomfort with septum stretching. Denting is a term given for what happens when you have stretched past your sweet spot, and your jewelry is pressing against the harder, more structural cartilage of the septum and nostrils. Particularly with larger plugs, the piece eventually wears a ‘dent’ in the harder cartilage and creates a space for itself. Denting is often very very uncomfortable for many people, and the exact sensation varies from person to person. Most describe being aware of the pressure on the harder cartilage, and a rubbing against the cartilage. If you dent, you’ll need to wait much longer between stretches, and move up in smaller increments.
While we are on the topic, Septum Droop is also worth mentioning. Drooping is a slang term for when you stretch large enough the bottom of your nose “droops” or bows outward to fit the plug. This can be caused simply be stretching very large, or stretching a piercing that was too low to begin with. Some people like the look of septum droop, as it makes large stretched septum that much more pronounced. Others do not, and try to avoid this happening at all costs.
Tools are a necessary evil
It’s no secret I firmly don’t believe tapers are needed to stretch lobes, even the most stubborn or scarred up ears I’ve had great success with time, patience, regular massage, and quality materials. The same does not hold true of septums. Because the area is cartilage, tools may be necessary to assist in stretching. Particularly when stacking, a taper helps not only stretch to the next size, but make it so the rings are installed correctly without criss-crossing. When stretching with plugs, circulars, etc, a taper can often be a helpful guide to get the jewelry in. That said, tapers used incorrectly can still force a stretch too soon and cause serious damage. Tapers should be used by professionals, or only when you feel confidant you understand your body well enough not to force a stretch. All tapers are not created equal: most of the ones you can buy online have a dramatic taper and will definitely cause serious trauma. Order tapers through a piercer that are designed for stretching- these are often 3-8 inches long or longer, with a very very gradual taper. They come threaded to attach to circular barbells, or concave to butt up against a plug for a smooth transfer. Work with your local piercer, or a piercer knowledgeable in stretching more unique piercings. Many clients don’t need a taper, particularly wearing plugs and using half sizes. If you can avoid using one, that’s great! Septums are unique however, and some clients may require one to size up. When stretching you want to use some form of lubrication, there’s lots of over the counter things people can access, but the best would be to ask your piercer for some single use sterile water based surgical lubricant. Not only does it come in sterile pushes for a fresh stretch, this stuff is the sleekest, slipperiest stuff you’ll find. It’s my personal favorite for stretching over any oils, balm, or personal lubricant you may have at home. I’ll hand out a few packs to each client I know will be stretching at home soon.
Be Realistic with your Journey, and your Goal
It’s easy to get tunnel vision of the goal size, your dream pieces, your desired aesthetic. But all stretching is a journey, septum stretching in particular. There will be setbacks, delays, and difficulties. Sometimes you nose takes 3 months to be ready for a stretch and sometimes it takes 9. Sometimes we think a stretch was fine, but we wake up the next day in blinding discomfort and need to downsize because something is not right. Don’t be afraid to downsize, to wait longer, to take it slow. If your body feels comfortable at a size smaller then what you originally envisioned, that’s totally ok! If you want to stop at a size for months or years before going larger, that’s fine too! Your journey is your own, and it looks totally different from everyone elses. Please be kind and gentle to your body through the journey of stretching.