Nostril Piercing: Jewelry Considerations - Barbells and Flatbacks

Threaded ends for nostril piercings (and other assorted placements) by BVLA available at Rockstar Body Piercing

Barbells and flatbacks are available in several materials, although the most popular for the nostril is titanium threadless options from Neometal.  18 gauge is the most common, but thicker is available. Threaded options are available in gold, steel, and titanium from a variety of excellent jewelry manufacturers (Anatometal and Industrial Strength, for instance).  For nostril piercings, I prefer a fixed ball or small disk on the inside of the nose.  This is so the client doesn’t have to tighten a threaded end inside their nose, and reduces the risk of inhaling the jewelry.

Flatbacks can be worn on nostrils that are very even planes, inside to outside.  If the disk hits the inside of the nose at an angle, it can become very uncomfortable for the client.  In those instances, a barbell will be more comfortable and will heal better.  For this reason, starting with barbells rather than flatbacks tends to be the best choice while you gain experience piercing nostrils with barbell style jewelry.

Figure A: The nostril piercing on the left is angled such that a flatback rests comfortably and will heal well.  The nostril piercing on the right is angled in such a way that the flatback will cause irritation.  If the placement on the right is the aesthetically better choice, a barbell with a ball on the inside will be the more comfortable choice.

When performing a piercing with a barbell or flatback, care should be taken to allow room for swelling.  While the nostril isn’t particularly prone to swelling, it does in fact happen.  If you were to measure a ¼ thick nostril with a pair of autoclave safe calipers, a 5/16 length barbell is the safest bet.  I tend to avoid starting less than 9/32 in length, though healed nostrils can often accommodate ¼ and even 3/16 length barbells and flatbacks.

The ball and disk size on barbells and flatbacks inside the nostril should be very small.  2.5mm disks and 3/32 inch balls.  I have used larger disks when there are no structures inside the nostril that would be irritated by a 3mm or 5/32 disk.  That said, in most nostrils bigger jewelry is simply unnecessary and can take away from the aesthetic of a well placed and fitted nostril piercing with a barbell.

Another type of “barbell style” nostril jewelry is an older design called a nose bone.  A nose bone has a gem or ball or regular sized ornament on one side, and a tiny ball at the other end.  The idea behind a nose bone is simple: the tiny ball can go in easily and be removed easily, but provides just enough friction that it doesn’t fall out of the nose.  This style of jewelry should not be dismissed for healed piercings.  It can be made by reputable body jewelry companies and out of appropriate materials.  That said, the nose bone has become synonymous with bad jewelry quality and the design has been abandoned by most piercers.  Nose bones should never be used for initial piercing, and should only be tried by clients with exceptionally well healed piercings.  I’d suggest that someone trying a nose bone should regularly change their jewelry to avoid the fistula of the nostril piercing from shrinking around the thin post making removal uncomfortable, and potentially damaging to the piercing.

Adam Block, one of my favorite piercers (and favorite people), wears nose bones by BVLA.
Adam pierces at The End is Near in Brooklyn, New York.  These are 16g with ~14g beads at the end. 

Flatback and barbell nostril jewelry is especially effective in multiple nostril piercing projects.  I’ve worn two nostril screws at once in the same nostril, and while I found it comfortable, many clients will find all that metal to be quite a nuisance.  A little extra room should be given for swelling when doing multiple nostril piercings in the same sitting, so accommodate with at least an extra 1/32 of an inch.  

Whether using threadless or threaded barbells, many clients actually prefer a little extra length on their barbells so the can actually grab the inside without tools to remove or change their jewelry.  (Techniques for threading ends in fresh piercings will be discussed in subsequent blog posts).

Finally, one advantage barbell styles have over nostril screws is that they do not need modification by the piercer.  My colleagues Rob Hill and Brian Skellie were quick to point out after my last blog entry that a nostril screw does dull and lose surface finish even when using brass lined tools and gauze.  Repolishing a nostril screw is possible to do in house, and I encourage piercers using nostril screws to consider this extra step.

Next entry: Jewelry Considerations - Rings.

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