Nostril Piercing: Geometry of a Healthy Nostril Piercing

Nostril piercings may be far and away my favorite piercing to do.  They look beautiful on most clients, there is a tremendous history and cultural significance to pierced nostrils, and the amount of jewelry options is simply staggering.  I also think that nostril piercings are consistently challenging, which isn’t something you will hear from very many body piercers.

Those familiar with this blog know my affection for cognitive biases.   The Dunning–Kruger effect "is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.”

I think this is where the idea that nostril piercings are “easy” comes from.  Most people who think that nostril piercings aren’t hard simply don’t understand how they are piercing them incorrectly.  I am writing this series of blog entries to explain my philosophy toward nostril piercing technique.  I address several different jewelry styles, angles, and options for how a professional might perform such a piercing.  Make no mistake, there are several correct ways to do a nostril piercing and I am only covering a few.

One final note, this blog entry is geared toward professional piercers working in studios. Please feel free to read this if you are not a pro piercer, but do not attempt to perform piercing outside of a piercing studio or without appropriate training beforehand. Looking to become an apprentice? Read my blog entry about the subject here.

With that said, let’s begin:

Nostril Piercing Part One: Geometry

Perpendicular body piercings tend to heal better.  
This is an axiom that many piercers intuitively understand.  Perpendicular piercings, which is to say: piercings that enter the skin at a 90 degree angle and exit at exactly the same 90 degree angle, do in fact tend to heal better than piercings that are not perpendicular .  Few piercers, and even fewer of our clients, understand why this is the case.  Barring cases of very irregular anatomy, a piercing that enters and exits at a 90 degree angle goes through the least amount of tissue possible. 

FIGURE A: a perpendicular piercing. 

FIGURE B: Angled piercing

In contrast, angled piercings tend to go through significantly more tissue.  This is a simple fact of human anatomy.  The less tissue that is damaged, the less the body has to do to repair, and the results are faster healing piercings.  Simple, right?  In contrast, with angled piercings more tissue is damaged by the piercing, therefore there is more tissue the body has to repair, and the result is a longer healing process.  

FIGURE C: A comparison of the amount of tissue the perpendicular piercing in Figure A goes through, in contrast to the angled piercing in Figure B.

There is a problem, though.  Human beings have bodies that are not completely flat.  Nostril tissue presents a challenge in this regard.  The visible portion of the nose can be slightly concave or slightly convex, only seldom is it flat.  Also, the tips of our client’s noses can narrow or become bulb like.  Establishing what a 90 degree piercing is on tissue that curves so much can be challenging. It is common to place nostril piercings in the arch or trench of the nose.  When this tissue flares dramatically, the piercer has far less than a 180 degree flat plane to work in.  Can splitting the smaller angle in two rightly be called “perpendicular” for piercing purposes?

Let’s establish some vocabulary to discuss the nuance of perpendicular nose piercings.  Angles “east to west” across the nose will heretofore be referred to as the X-axis.  “North to south”, which will be referred to as the Y-axis.  

The inside of your clients nose may have tissue that runs relatively parallel to the outside of his or her nostril. This is very often the case, but not always.  They may have tissue inside their nose that runs at a very different angle than the outside of their nose, or worse, the inside of the nose may have “structures” of oddly shaped tissue complicating placement.  This makes us ask, which side do we choose to make  the piercing sit perpendicular to?  The inside or the outside?

FIGURE D: A flat outer nostril area with a curved inner nostril area. (X-axis)

FIGURE E: Nostril piercing from the front with 90 degree angles (Y-axis)

FIGURE F: A large flared nostril.  How does a piercer decide?  Our piercer has split the difference of the angle in the ridge into two equal parts, but this results in a steep angle on the inside.  The right side isn’t perpendicular to the outside of the nose at all, but goes through less tissue.  What is the appropriate y-axis angle in this case?

Judging from the above figure, we can see that performing the piercing exclusively based on splitting the angle available can result in a piercing that goes through extra tissue.  Extra tissue means a longer healing process. In this particular instance, the approach on the right side seems to be the better option for healing as this piercing goes through less tissue.

It is also important to note: perpendicular piercing is merely our beginning principle.  While this axiom holds true, it does not take into account aesthetics at all.  A perpendicular piercing that doesn’t look good on the client is not a successful body piercing.  

There is one final benefit to perpendicular piercing that we will discuss in further detail when we get into jewelry considerations.  Many body jewelry options have flat ends.  When these flat ends rest completely even on the tissue the piercing is made in, it tends to look aesthetically pleasing but also eliminates stress on the surrounding tissue caused by the jewelry.

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Nostril Piercing part one by Jef Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.