Like most piercings, nose piercing may be uncomfortable, if not painful, when done. Using a professional piercer can help ensure your nose piercing is a safe, healthy, and relatively pain-free experience.

Nose piercings have become increasingly popular in recent years, so much so that it’s often compared to simply getting your ears pierced.

But there are a few additional things to consider when getting your nose pierced. For one, it hurts. Not a ton, but most people find it’s a bit more painful than getting your ears pierced.

And what about jewelry? Finding a piercer? Hiding it for work, if needed?

We’ve got you covered.

Like any other piercing, there’s some discomfort and mild pain with a nose piercing. However, when a professional performs a nostril piercing, the pain is minimal.

1. How much does it hurt?

Jef Saunders, president of the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), says that piercers often compare the pain to having an eyebrow wax procedure done or a getting a shot.

“The pain itself is a combination of mild sharpness and pressure, but it is over extremely quickly,” he explains.

2. How long does the pain last?

When done by a professional piercer, Saunders says most piercings are less than one second for the actual piercing procedure.

In the days afterward, Saunders says you may have some mild soreness, but typically, it’s so mild that you won’t notice it unless you bump your nose doing day-to-day activities.

3. Do some nose piercings hurt more than others?

In general, says Saunders, there are three types of nose piercings:

  • traditional nostril piercing
  • center placement septum piercings
  • high nostril piercings

“The traditional nostril and septum piercings tend to be very easy piercings to receive and heal,” he explains.

High nostril piercings, on the other hand, can be a bit more uncomfortable and tend to swell for a week to a month. That’s why they’re typically only recommended for people who have experience with receiving and caring for body piercings.

4. Are there any tips for minimizing pain?

No matter how you slice it, piercings typically involve some pain. But there are things you can do to make sure your experience is as painless as possible.

For starters, Saunders advises against showing up on an empty stomach or after drinking a lot of caffeine. It’s also best to avoid drinking any alcohol beforehand.

His best advice? Be calm, breathe, and be attentive to the piercer’s instructions.

5. What about numbing agents?

The APP advises against using things like numbing gels, ointments, and sprays since they aren’t very effective.

In addition, Saunders says many shops have policies against piercing people who have used a numbing agent for fear of an allergic reaction to a chemical they didn’t apply.

“Nearly all reputable professional piercers advise against the use of topical anesthetics for piercing,” he adds.

6. What kind of metal should I choose?

For an initial piercing, the APP recommends jewelry made from any of the following metals:

  • implant-grade steel
  • implant-grade titanium
  • niobium
  • 14- or 18-karat gold
  • platinum

Beware of misleading terms like “surgical steel,” which isn’t the same as implant-grade steel. The lower price point might be tempting, but a fresh piercing is an investment. Take care to invest in high-quality, safe materials.

7. When can I change out the jewelry?

There’s no definitive answer when it comes to changing out your initial jewelry.

According to Saunders, piercers usually recommend their clients visit for a consultation appointment at a certain point in the healing process, generally at four to eight weeks.

Depending on how things look, you can usually swap out your jewelry at this time.

8. What if I need to hide my piercing for work?

The two most common options for hiding jewelry, Saunders says, are retainers and textured discs.

“Retainers are clear jewelry, typically made of glass, silicone, or biocompatible plastic,” he says. “The other option, textured discs, are usually made out of anodized titanium that has been sandblasted. This makes the jewelry look like a facial feature, like a freckle.”

While these two options can help, Saunders does point out they may not be sufficient to comply with work or school dress codes. That’s why it’s best to learn what types of jewelry will be compliant before getting pierced.

Consult with a professional piercer to determine how soon your fresh piercing can be changed to one of these styles.

9. What should I look for in a piercer?

When it comes to choosing a piercer you like, the APP guidelines emphasize that the piercer should be working out of a professional piercing facility, not a home or other setting.

Also choose someone who you feel comfortable coming to with questions or concerns.

Additionally, you might consider looking at online portfolios and social media posts to get an idea of the piercer’s skills as well as jewelry selection.

10. How do I know if it’s a good studio?

A good piercing facility should have the appropriate licenses and permits displayed. If licensing is required in your area, your piercer should also have a license.

Regarding the environment of the studio, Saunders recommends checking that they have an autoclave sterilizer and can provide the spore test results that are used to determine the efficacy of the sterilization cycle.

“The autoclave should be spore-tested at least monthly, and the jewelry, needle, and tools used in the piercing process should be sterilized fresh for use, or be sterilized ahead of time and kept in sealed pouches that are used at the point of service,” he adds.

11. How will the piercing be done?

Most body piercings are done using a needle, not a piercing gun. Piercing guns aren’t strong enough to properly pierce your nostril.

If your piercer wants to pierce your nostril using a piercing gun, consider looking for another piercer or facility.

12. How much does it cost?

Nose piercings vary in cost depending on the facility and type of jewelry used. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $90 at most facilities.

Still, it’s best to call the studio and ask about prices before making a decision.

13. How long will it take to heal?

Healing times vary based on the type of piercing:

  • Nostril piercings take 4 to 6 months.
  • Septum piercings take 2 to 3 months.
  • High nostril piercings take 6 to 12 months.

Keep in mind that these are general estimates. Your actual healing time may be shorter or longer.

14. How should I clean it?

If you have cleaning instructions from the piercing studio, follow those. If not, here are some general guidelines for cleaning a nose piercing from the APP:

  • Always wash your hands before touching your nose.
  • Use clean gauze or paper towels saturated with saline solution to clean the area at least two times per day.
  • Some directions will tell you to use soap. If you need to use soap, make sure you rinse the piercing site thoroughly and don’t leave any traces of soap.
  • Finally, pat the area dry with a clean, soft paper towel or gauze pad.

15. Can I swim with a fresh piercing?

While it’s fine to get the piercing wet in the shower, surgeon Stephen Warren, MD, says to avoid swimming in lakes, pools, or the ocean for six weeks while the piercing heals.

16. Anything else I should avoid?

Warren also recommends steering clear of any activities that might snag the ring or stud. This means fast-paced contact sports are probably out of the equation for at least a month or so.

17. How do I know if my piercing’s infected?

One of the biggest risks involved in getting a piercing is the potential for an infection. Proper care can minimize your risk.

Still, it’s important to know how to recognize the signs of infection just in case. Contact your piercer right away if you notice that your nose is:

  • red
  • hot to the touch
  • itching or burning

These can also be symptoms of the normal healing process. But according to Warren, these signs are more likely related to an infection if they don’t appear until 5 to 10 days after the piercing.

If you start to have other symptoms, such as fever or nausea, contact your healthcare provider right away.

18. I changed my mind — can I just remove the jewelry?

Had a change of heart? Technically, you can remove the jewelry. But if you’re still in the window of healing time, it’s best to go back to the studio that pierced your nose and ask them for assistance.