Nostril Piercing: Jewelry Considerations - the Nostril Screw

Nostril Jewelry in Rose, White and Yellow gold by Body Vision Los Angeles

(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.) There are several jewelry options to discuss for initial nostril piercing, and we will separate these into two general categories that our clients can relate to: hoops and studs.  Piercers tend to dislike the vagueness of these terms, but we can use them to effectively communicate with our clients and use them as umbrella terms for lots of different jewelry options.  Hoops can be captive bead rings, fixed bead rings, continuous (otherwise known as “seamless” rings), segment rings, “clickers”, circular barbells, etc.  Studs can be barbells, flatbacks, nostril screws, nose bones, etc.

Let’s focus first on studs, as they tend to be the more popular jewelry style for most of our clients.

Nostril screws

Nostril screws come in a variety of materials, but because of the need to bend them to fit, steel and gold are significantly easier to work with than titanium.  20 gauge and 18 gauge options work best, although thicker options are available.  Nostril screws are usually ¾ of an inch (19.05 mm) long but can be ordered from manufacturers longer or shorter. Nostril screws should be purchased straight, and then bent to fit each client individually.

Pre-bent nostril screws are available, but because of their “one-size-fits-all” nature, they should be avoided.  After all, your clients come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  Applying a one-size-fits-all piece to every piercing is bound for failure.  Also, the swoop or curve on the end of a pre-bent nostril screw tends to be very “tight”, which is to say curved far too much.  When the curved backing of a nostril screw is very tight, it is not at all comfortable for initial piercing and insertion.  Nostril screw bending is a skill that is not difficult to master and can be done without repolishing if a few precautions are taken.

Occasionally, you may encounter a “genuine Indian design” nostril screw that is made out of high karat gold and is very thin; these can be worn in healed piercings but are not advisable for initial piercing.  

Nostril screws get a bad reputation because the end can hang out of the nostril looking very aesthetically displeasing.  This is usually because of an issue with the angle of the piercing, but can also be due to improper jewelry bending.  The former can’t be fixed without re-piercing, the latter is usually fixed with a few subtle adjustments.

How to bend a nostril screw has been the subject of much debate.  While there are many correct and effective ways to bend a nostril screw, this is the technique I use to minimize damage to the wearing surface of the jewelry, and allow for a long end of the nostril screw to anchor at the back of the nostril.
If you are unfamiliar with bending nostril screws, I suggest a minimum wearing surface of about 5/16ths of an inch.  With time, and evaluating your client’s anatomy, shorter is possible while still allowing room for swelling.  Always make sure 5/16ths is long enough.  On thick noses I have bent nostril screws as deep as ½ an inch!
I wrap the nostril screw with a couple layers of non-woven gauze.  I then use a brass jaw pliers at approximately that 5/16ths depth at a 90 degree and to the dome.
Using my pointer finger, I brace the jewelry for a quick bend at exactly 90 degrees.  Slow movements can result in a “curvy” bend rather than a precise 90 degree bend.

The bend is made.
At this point we are half done.  This 90 degree bend would be very easy for our clients to accidentally pull out of their new piercing.  Our next step is to put a subtle curl right at the bend to hold the nostril screw in.
Again, I’m covering the jewelry with gauze to protect it from the tool.  I align the portion after the initial 90 degree bend so that I can push down slowly with my thumb, giving it a simple arching curve.
The curve has been made.  The more you curve at this point, the less likely the jewelry is to fall out by getting snagged.  Unfortunately, this makes it more uncomfortable to insert and remove, as well as less likely to catch on the back of the nose so that the end of the jewelry hangs out of your client’s nose.
The finished product.  

If you have performed this procedure correctly, the jewelry is free of damage in the wearing surface of the nostril screw.  

Nostril piercings are usually placed in such a way that angling the curve back towards the face is the most comfortable, but in rare cases, curving the nostril screw so it catches on the tip of the nose is possible.  The standard approach is shown below. In this figure, it is labeled “A” and will be where most nostril screws face.  Sometimes a very far forward placement is aesthetically pleasing, and there simply isn’t enough length on the nostril screw to catch the back of the nose.  In this instance, reversing the curve and facing the nostril screw forward is a suitable solution (in this figure, it is labeled B).  It should be noted that in most instances, angling the nostril screw back is the more comfortable for the client, and they may find a different style jewelry appropriate if a nostril screw facing forward causes discomfort.

In the next installment, I will address barbell and flatback jewelry considerations.