Nostril Piercing: Jewelry Considerations - Rings and Circular Jewelry

I began piercing in the 1990’s.  Piercing with a ring was the rule, not the exception, and we put them everywhere.  Why?  First, many of us used aftercare that involved rotating harsh chemicals into the wound.  Of course, it turns out that was a bad idea.  Secondly, rings looked really cool... to the customers of the 1990’s captive bead rings and circular barbells were what body jewelry was. Times have certainly changed.

We discovered that our aftercare needed improvement and leaving the jewelry alone was actually a much better plan than constantly rotating jewelry through the piercing channel.  We also discovered that many piercings healed better with straight jewelry. Straight jewelry didn’t add the stress of curved jewelry through a straight piercing channel.   Eventually, over the course of the past 15 years, starting a  piercing with a ring became “wrong” amongst a large majority of piercers.  While I would agree that the switch away from rings has sped up healing in some cases, using straight jewelry exclusively has not been all good.  A great many piercers have lost the ability to pierce appropriately for ring-style jewelry, and this is unfortunate because a nostril piercing with a ring is both safe and aesthetically pleasing.

One of the reasons this series of blog entries began was an exchange I witnessed between a few piercers.  A newer piercer asked his more experienced colleagues, “How do you get snug fitting captive bead rings for nostrils”? I was astonished to hear my experienced colleagues respond “Have a lot of different sizes of captive bead rings”.  Sure, an appropriate selection of jewelry is critical, but they completely neglected that nostrils pierced with a ring have to be angled appropriately for that style of jewelry.

Nostril piercings with rings are different than nostril piercings with studs.

I’ll say that another way: on a few clients, the angles for snug hoop piercings and appropriately placed stud piercings is the exact same, perpendicular angle.  On the vast majority of clients, the angles for hoops and studs should be different.

Let’s look at a client with a very narrow nose.

You will notice that a “ring” piercing and a “stud” piercing are at virtually the same angle, both are about perpendicular to the tissue, and both result in aesthetically pleasing piercings.  For this type of nostril, ring and stud placement is virtually interchangeable.  This person gets their cake and gets to eat it too.

But that isn’t true for all clients.  Let’s look at a nose that is broader, with a more pronounced flare to the nostril. 
Lo and behold, this type of nostril is pierced significantly different for a hoop and a stud.  Having different sized rings won’t help the client at all.  Why?  If you start their nostril perpendicular (and appropriate) for a stud, look at how the smallest ring possible looks:

In this figure, you can see how the appropriate sized ring is huge and doesn’t look correct at all (in grey).  See what happens when an inappropriately small ring (in red) is put in? It cuts into the nose, but it also bows out… you can’t make a piercing snug by putting a smaller ring in it anymore than you can make baggy jeans into skinny jeans by getting a smaller waist size.  The issue in the jeans is the tailoring, and the issue with a nostril with a hoop is the piercing angle, plain and simple.

At this point, you may be saying "I read your blog about perpendicular piercing Jef, and piercing with a hoop breaks those rules.". Yes. Yes indeed it does. When we elect to pierce for a ring we need to acknowledge that the piercing will be more prone to irritation because we are not piercing perpendicular. That doesn't mean we need to completely avoid it.

Starting a nostril piercing with a ring can be done safely, with a consultation beforehand.  The client should be informed that ring and stud piercings are performed at different angles, and that they may not be able to change from one to the other and have both look nice.  The client should be informed that the curvature of the ring through the straight channel that the piercing needle makes can cause irritation.  The client should expect a slightly longer healing process.  

I know some of my colleagues will disagree, saying that starting with hoops is an unnecessary burden on our client.   I suggest that we look at a nostril piercing with a hoop the same way we look at orbital piercings. Sure you could try starting the piercing with straight jewelry, hope the piercing heals at the correct angle, and then force the piercing to re-heal with the correct jewelry later on… but why? The piercer needs to understand that a pre-piercing consultation about the relatively small risk presented by starting with a ring is enough.   Piercers do these consultations all the time: we caution our clients about the potential issues tongue piercings can have on their teeth and gums.  We caution them about the temporary nature of surface anchor piercings.  We explain scarring is possible on each and every piercing.  Following our explanation, we let our clients make the informed decision to get pierced or not.  Getting a nostril pierced with a hoop style piece of jewelry is no different.

Now that we’ve established that ring piercings are both safe and different from stud piercings, what are some of the things a piercer will want to consider?  Smaller rings are usually more aesthetically pleasing, but how do we make that happen?  How do we decide what size is safe an appropriate?

My first suggestion is the use of a piercing tool called a size placement ring, or SPR for short.  I was introduced to this tool by the Fakir Intensives.  SPRs are just niobium captive bead rings with no captive balls in a variety of sizes.  The Fakir school anodizes theirs blue to keep them separate from regular captive bead rings, and to distinguish them from jewelry for piercings.  When Billy Wood worked for me, he came up with the idea of further distinguishing the SPRs from previously anodized jewelry by anodizing them two different colors.  Rockstar has used these ever since:

When piercing with a ring, I will make a dot on the cleaned nostril with a disposable gentian violet marker, and then place an SPR on the mark.  In some cases, I will need to open the SPR larger than the size of the bead. Taking this into account, you may need to go larger with the jewelry selection.  This helps me find the appropriate size but also helps my client visualize the size and angle of the piercing beforehand.  

Typically, marking toward the front of the ridge gives me the smallest ring possible.  Sometimes the ridge of the nostril can accommodate several rings the same diameter, but in most cases as you place the ring further back the diameter grows.

I find that when working with clients, many want something impossibly tight.  The angle of the piercing for the average nostril tends to be almost parallel with the floor, or very slightly downward tilted.  Still, for the piercing to heal we need to accommodate for some swelling and allow a small amount of space so the ring doesn’t rub on the skin of the nostril.  

Above: the nose ring on our left is appropriately angled, the one on the right is angled too hard.  Angling the piercing too hard gives the client a piercing that is exceptionally tight, but exceptionally challenging to heal.  I have found that the piercing on the right is prone to irritation bumps, while the one on the left is far easier to heal.

Above: the same nostril on our left is looking good, but now the piercer has gone too angled down on the right.  This isn’t aesthetically pleasing.

Jewelry Options:

Captive bead rings: “CBR’s” are the old standby and I still like them for nostrils with hoops. l strongly suggest having several “half” sizes (9/32, 11/32) handy.    I prefer 18 gauge for nostrils with rings, as the curvature of the ring through the fistula tends to be even more irritating at 20 gauge. For some, as thick as 16 gauge will look appropriate, though most clients prefer thinner. Most of my clients prefer to wear the bead on the inside of their nostril, so it isn’t visible.   

Fixed bead rings in steel by Anatometal
Fixed Bead rings : One advantage fixed bead rings have over captive bead rings is the ball tends to be smaller.  Either way, the client can wear the ball on the inside of the nostril as to hide it from view.  Again, I like 18 gauge for initial piercing.  

Seam rings: I suggest against starting a piercing with a seam ring, the small seam in them can be irritating and is a great place for bacteria to gather.  I know of some colleagues who will start with a seam ring with a sterilized small o-ring over the seam.  This seems like an elegant solution to the problem, although an o-ring seems as obvious (if not moreso) than a captive or fixed bead on a ring.

Nostril nails: A nostril nail is a sort of hybrid nostril screw / fixed bead ring.  It can look quite nice and can also be modified without the use of tools to be slightly snugger than traditional rings.  Nostril nails are a favorite of clients who like to change jewelry regularly.

Above: Laura Jane has pierced her client using these techniques.  She has opted to give a small amount of room for swelling on this fresh piercing, but the jewelry still looks appropriate.  This piercing will look great while healing and can be even tighter when healed.
With that, I have completed the jewelry considerations I wanted to discuss.  It is possible that I will want to revisit jewelry considerations, but the time has come for techniques.  My next few blog entries will feature a variety of nostril piercing techniques.  

I am also excited to announce that many of these principles and discussions will be turned into a 2 hour techniques class at the 2014 Association Of Professional Piercers Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.  My co-instructor is the brilliant Alicia Cardenas of Sol Tribe in Denver Colorado.