Much to my father's chagrin (I believe his exact words were "Why do you want a hole in the middle of your face?"), I decided to get my nose pierced last week. Again. This was actually the third time I've pierced my nose, and I thought it would be fun to bring you all along to debunk any myths about nose piercings (or any piercings, for that matter) being scary or painful. The truth is, if you know what to expect, it really can be a fun and enjoyable experience.
I've broken down the process so you can get a feel for what it's like to get your nose pierced, and I've included pictures from the actual piercing to help ease any fears you may have (Spoiler alert: you will not look like Carrie, covered in blood!).
Find a reputable and professional piercing studio and piercer
It's so important to find a good, clean piercing studio for your piercing. If the piercer is inexperienced or the studio seems dirty or outdated, you may have a higher risk of contracting an infection or of your body rejecting the jewelry. After scouring the annals of Yelp, I finally settled on Ancient Arts Body Piercing and Adornment, which happens to be right down the street from the Her Campus offices.
Keep in mind that many piercing studios double as tattoo parlors, so don't let that deter you from choosing an otherwise excellent piercing studio. I got my first nose piercing when I was 17 at a tattoo parlor in Rhode Island; I think my dad almost had a heart attack when he saw all of the tattoo artwork hanging on the walls, but he relaxed when he realized how professional my piercer was. By the way, like any other piercing, in almost every state you have to be 18 years old or have a parent present in order to get a piercing.
The main reason I was drawn to Ancient Arts is because the senior piercer, Matt Ronin, had received such amazing reviews. A licensed paramedic with over 25 years of body piercing experience, Matt seemed like the perfect choice.
Fill out paperwork
Any good piercing studio will scan your identification and have you fill out paperwork prior to your piercing. This paperwork will outline any risks associated with your piercing and acknowledge your consent (and your guardian's, if you're a minor). The form I filled out at Ancient Arts also asked what medications, if any, I take on a regular basis. Matt explained to me that certain medications lower your immune system and he would customize my aftercare instructions based on any medications I might be taking. No one had ever asked me that at my previous piercing experiences, and I was definitely impressed. If your piercer doesn't ask you this, offer up that information and explain why it may be important!
Pick out your jewelry
Once the paperwork is out of the way, you get to pick out your jewelry. Ancient Arts had all sorts of handmade jewelry for every part of the body, and it was fun to be able to pick what I wanted. I ended up going with a plain titanium halfdome, but Matt explained that there are tons of different options for nose piercing jewelry: "It's all titanium, so you can choose gems or a titanium halfdome or opals and all kinds of other stuff."
Prepare the piercing site
Once you've filled out paperwork and picked out your jewelry, your piercer will take you into the piercing room and get you set up. You will most likely be sitting in a reclining chair (the kind they have at the dentist) while your piercer goes in and disinfects the area to be pierced and makes sure everything is clean and sterile. Before coming anywhere near your nose, your piercer should obviously be putting on new gloves; don't be afraid to speak up if he or she doesn't!
In this photo, Matt is disinfecting my nose and feeling for any scar tissue buildup from my previous piercings. Once everything is clean, your piercer will take a surgical marker and make a dot where he or she wants the piercing to go. In my case, Matt placed the dot right over the scar from my last piercing. Your piercer should show you the placement and check that you're happy with it before proceeding.
Expect a little pain
Now let's get into the good stuff: the actual piercing. Your piercing will most likely be done with a sterilized needle with the jewelry attached to the end so that once the needle has gone through the side of your nose and out the bottom, the jewelry will slide right into place. Matt asked me if I was ready and then told me to close my eyes while he counted down. I'm not going to lie: it hurts. I have four piercings on my earlobes and four on my cartilage, and those were nothing compared to a nose piercing: I would give it a 3.5 or 4 out of 5 on a piercing pain scale. My eyes immediately started watering (I was NOT crying...), and it definitely stings for a second, especially when your piercer twists the actual jewelry into place.
Once the jewelry was in place, Matt cleaned up some blood around the site of the piercing and asked me how I felt (some people get woozy!). I then sat up and Matt handed me a mirror to check out my new piercing and the placement. I loved it! It's totally normal for the area around your nose to be a bit red and tender for the first few days after a piercing while your body adjusts to the jewelry, so don't worry if that happens to you.
Discuss aftercare, infection and changing your piercing
Matt sat down with me after the piercing to talk aftercare; he was very thorough and knowledgeable in his guidance. He asked me which facial cleanser I used (Aveeno Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser, $6.39 at Ulta) and said that was okay; he then told me to gently clean around the piercing when washing my face with warm water. Past piercers have recommended Bactine Original First Aid Liquid ($5.99 at Walgreens), a first aid liquid or spray, to keep the piercing sterile and prevent infection. I spray a little Bactine on a Q-tip and go inside my nose and around the piercing to keep it clean about two to three times a day for the first two weeks, and then switch to once a day. As Matt points out, "It's easy to take care of because it's on the center of your face and you're not going to let it fail." Another tip to keep in mind is to try to avoid covering your piercing in foundation or concealer while it's healing. Otherwise, it may become infected!
If you do notice some excessive irritation or redness around your nose ring, don't immediately assume you have an infection. "A lot of people think that just because there's a reaction going on, there's an infection going on," says Matt. "Infections are hard to come by... [irritation] is often just part and parcel of the person's own body reacting to what's going on."
Matt recommended leaving my nose jewelry in for at least six weeks before changing it to make sure the piercing is fully healed. The jewelry Matt put in my nose is a J-shaped hook, so it won't come out unless I deliberately choose to remove it (the word "hook" sounds painful, but I honestly can't even feel the piercing in my nose!). I've tried to replace my nose ring myself in the past and it was a huge mistake - that's the reason my first piercing closed up. If you do want to change your piercing, definitely go to a professional. Try to go back to the piercer who pierced your nose originally, and he or she will usually switch it out for free.
Admire the finished product
This photograph was taken about two hours after my piercing and, as you can see, the redness was almost entirely gone and it was no longer painful. The entire process only took about 30 minutes and cost $52 for the piercing and the actual jewelry, plus an additional $10 for a tip. I love the placement of the ring and I'm happy I went for the titanium halfdome rather than a gem because I think it makes the piercing a bit more subtle.
I am so happy with my nose piercing and with my experience at Ancient Arts. I felt comfortable and informed during the entire process and my piercing has healed beautifully - I feel like I've had it for ages! If you're considering getting a piercing, whether on your nose or elsewhere, keep in mind what Matt told my friend Marissa after she remarked that she didn't have any interesting piercings: "You're not boring; it's just about making whatever part of your body you choose more lively."
If you're in the Boston area and you're looking for a piercing, check out Ancient Arts Body Piercing and Adornment's website or Facebook to give them a call and find out where to stop in for a consultation or walk-in piercing. Wherever you are, and wherever you go for your piercing, keep these questions in mind to make it the best (and healthiest) experience possible!