Bridge piercings are notoriously edgy, but they come with some concerns. Namely: how much does it hurt and what's the aftercare like? Bridge piercings can be surprisingly subtle despite their unusual placement, but they're always eye-catching. If you're wondering whether or not you'd be a good candidate for a bridge piercing, or thinking about getting one and daunted by the prospect of taking care of it, you've come to the right place.
Meet the Expert
- Tess Dipple is a piercing artist at Ink'd Chronicles in Pomona, California.
- Dr. Paul B. Dean is a dermatologist with Skin Resource MD.
What Is a Bridge Piercing?
A bridge piercing—also called an Erl—is a horizontal bar that sits across the bridge of the nose. It's considered a surface piercing since most people don't have a lot of flesh for the jewelry to grab onto in this area, so the risk of migration and rejection is high.
Placement: Across the bridge of the nose
Pain Level: 7/10
Healing Time: Eight to 10 weeks
Aftercare: Clean twice a day with salt water rinse or a piercing-friendly cleanser recommended by your piercer. Avoid touching or twisting. Do not change jewelry until the piercing is completely healed.
Does a Bridge Piercing Hurt?
The short answer is: maybe. "Everyone’s pain tolerance is different so it’s not easy to narrow down pain level, but since the bridge piercing is pierced through tissue, and not cartilage or an area with a lot of nerves, people say it’s not that painful of a piercing," says piercing artist Tess Dipple. "More like you feel slight discomfort.
A representative from New York Adorned concurs, telling Byrdie: "Bridge piercings can be a little higher on the 'pinch and pressure' scale, but if you’ve gotten any cartilage piercings on your ear you should be able to handle a bridge piercing."
"A bridge piercing can take eight to 10 weeks, maybe even up to 12 weeks to allow the soft tissue to heal," says Dr. Paul B. Dean, a dermatologist. After this time, you can change to a shorter curved barbell if needed, but it will take an additional period of several weeks for the inner tissue to heal.
"The entire healing process could take up to eight months before there is no pain in replacing jewelry," adds Dean.
Cost of Bridge Piercings
"All piercings, including bridge piercings, are $40 at New York Adorned," says the salon's rep. Be wary of salons that charge significantly less, as they might not be reputable.
Dipple says she charges $50 for the bridge piercing and titanium jewelry, "which is sterilized in our hospital-grade autoclave and is included in the price."
Every shop is going to have different prices for piercings, but if you pay anywhere from $30-$50, you should be fairly safe if you've done your research. The jewelry will be the biggest price variable.
It's important to keep the piercing area free of exposure to harsh cleansers, makeup, and hair products during the initial healing time.
The most important way to care for a bridge piercing is to keep things clean. "A bridge piercing should be cleaned daily with a gentle cleanser and also using a warm salt water rinse two times a day to remove any bacteria," says Dean.
At New York Adorned, piercers recommend NeilMed Piercing Aftercare Fine Mist Wound Wash ($14) to their clients. "It’s a gentle spray we ask clients to apply morning and night."
Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn't poke and prod your new piercing too much—including rotating it. "Twisting and turning used to be standard for aftercare, but new protocol says to leave the jewelry in place for the duration of your healing process and avoiding fiddling with it—the only things we want touching that area are warm water and saline spray. Ultimately you want to prevent any trauma to that area while your body is healing," says the NY Adorned rep.
- Swelling and tenderness: You're likely to experience some discomfort after the initial piercing, which Dean says may "last a few months." If you take proper care, the swelling and pain should go away on its own.
- Allergic reaction: This is side effect can arise from using the wrong kind of metal. Sensitivities to nickel, gold, and silver are fairly common, so it's best to select jewelry made from a hypoallergenic material such as titanium or stainless steel.
How to Change Out a Bridge Piercing
The best way to change your bridge piercing is by soliciting the help of an expert.
"If you want to change out your jewelry, we recommend coming in to visit us (or a reputable piercer in your area) for help, as body jewelry can be tricky to maneuver—especially if you're not familiar with it," says the New York Adorned rep.
It's important that you wait long enough after the initial piercing before swapping your jewelry. "You shouldn't remove or replace jewelry until the area is completely healed," cautions Dean.
What Type of Jewelry Is Used for Bridge Piercing?
The starting gauge of your piercing needs to be determined by your piercer, based on how much tissue you have available in this area. The larger gauge you can comfortably wear, the better (to hopefully prevent rejection).
- Curved barbell: The best jewelry for a bridge piercing is a small curved barbell. A straight barbell will cause too much tension on the edges of the fistula and could increase the chance of migration.
What Jewelry Material Is Used for Bridge Piercing?
- Titanium: This nickel-free metal is a great option for most people, though it tends to be a pricier material. "We always recommend making sure your piercer uses implant grade titanium or solid gold jewelry, especially for an initial piercing," says the New York Adorned rep. Dipple agrees, saying, "I use titanium jewelry for all piercings because it is hypoallergenic. Titanium is a better quality metal compared to surgical steel, which contains nickel that most people tend to react to."
- Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is another reliable option for most individuals that is unlikely to cause allergic reaction.
- Gold: High-quality gold (generally 14k and up) is another solid option, as long as you don't have any known sensitivities. Do not skimp on the quality here, as cheap gold or gold plating can cause infection. "These metals are the best for piercings as they’re less likely to tarnish and plated jewelry can be dangerous for the healing process and long-term wear." Gold is more commonly an allergen than titanium and stainless steel, so always do a patch test first if you're unsure about your sensitivity level.
What to Expect From a Bridge Piercing
Contrary to the rumor that a bridge piercing will make you cross-eyed, no Erl piercees have reported any involuntary eye-crossing. Most forget it's even there. If you're noticing the jewelry out of the corner of your eye, the bar is probably too long. It shouldn't be any more visible to you than your nose itself.
Bridge piercings also don't interfere with the wearing of glasses or sunglasses. Just make sure it's pierced up high enough and you should be fine.