Nose piercings are a super popular choice for those looking to change up their look or ease into body modification. Their commonality doesn’t make them cheesy, though; instead, the ubiquitous piercing type is a delicate adornment for the face that can easily be swapped in or out depending on your style or mood. If you’re considering getting your nose pierced, the most important thing is to be sure that you’re seeing an experienced and licensed body piercer. It’s also a necessity to closely follow aftercare procedures so your piercing stays safe from infection. To help ease your mind, we reached out to the experts for tips on how to clean a nose piercing.
Meet the Expert
- Rachel Nazarian, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York.
- Maria Tash is a fine jewelry and luxury piercing designer.
Keep reading to learn what else you need to know to be sure you’re properly caring for your new nose piercing.
Common Types of Nose Piercings
According to Tash, the most common kinds of nose piercings are nostril and septum piercings. "We also come across a lot of double piercings, or matching left and right nostrils," she adds.
Nose Piercing Aftercare
Just like a tattoo, a nose piercing is an open wound that requires routine and safe aftercare. The risks for nose piercings are even greater thanks to their location in the area between your upper lip and your eyebrows. Because the veins in this area are connected to your sinus cavity, any problem in this area could be serious. The most likely issues stemming from improper aftercare are bleeding, loose jewelry, scarring, or an infection.
"The greatest concern following a nose piercing is to minimize any chance of infection. Infection can lead to scarring, and even jeopardize your overall health—and many infections prevent continued use of your piercing," says Nazarian.
To make sure the healing process goes as smoothly as possible, wash your hands before you touch your piercing or jewelry. Don’t soak your piercing in any water (other than saline solution) until it’s fully healed. This means you should stay away from swimming pools, hot tubs, saunas, and baths during the healing period.
The time it will take for your nose piercing to fully heal depends on the location just as much as it does on your aftercare. A nostril piercing takes roughly three to six months to heal, depending on the thickness and type of jewelry. A septum piercing (placed in the soft connective tissue that lies between the nostrils), however, will heal in closer to two to four months, as there is less tissue between your nostrils for your body to reconstruct.
If you're wondering whether the aftercare is different for a hoop versus a stud piercing, Tash says it's the same. "A ring takes a bit longer to heal because it is more likely to get hit or moved by outside factors (towels, clothing, rolling over while sleeping, etc.)."
How to Safely Clean a Nose Piercing
Ahead, find step-by-step instructions for cleaning your nose piercing safely and hygienically.
- Always use clean hands whenever touching your piercing. "The nose is filled with a high volume of bacteria, and infections are common in this area, so don’t manipulate the piercing within the first two to three weeks," notes Nazarian.
- Use saline or salt water solutions. "Clean the area of the piercing twice a day with saline, or salt-water, which prevents infection by preventing the growth of bacteria, and is a gentle way to clean a new piercing," advises Nazarian.
- Avoid using a cotton swab or round as the fibers can get caught in the piercing. "Apply a saline wipe to both the inside and outside of the piercing. After five minutes, gently wipe away any visual discharge or softened crusting with the edge of the saline wipe or a piece of gauze," Tash adds.
- Clean your nose piercing twice a day, every day, until the full healing process is complete. (Again, this can take several months.) During this time, it is important to clean both inside and outside the nostril. "Try not to blow your nose during the healing time unless after cleaning said piercing or in the shower," says Tash.
- Keep the jewelry just as clean as the actual piercing. Wash the metal lightly with mild or gentle soap each day (the best time is during a shower) to remove any bacteria or crust around the jewelry.
To make your own salt soak, mix a teaspoon of non-iodized sea salt with a quart of distilled water.
Nose Piercing Bumps
Bumps around your nose piercing are fairly common and are usually the result of poor cleaning habits. In most cases, these bumps are the result of mild infections around the piercing site, which only emphasizes the importance of effective cleansing. These small infections can come from inappropriate aftercare products, dirty piercing tools, allergic reactions to jewelry, and more. However, bumps around your piercing can also be keloids, or thicker, raised scars that tend to develop near the puncture area.
The best way to avoid bumps is to follow the steps above and cleanse the piercing site thoroughly.
How Long Does It Take a Nose Piercing to Heal?
According to Nazarian, nasal piercings take about 90 days on average to heal, but the first few weeks are when the greatest risk of infection happens. No matter how long you wait, just be sure to replace any removed jewelry in a fairly quick amount of time, because all piercings can close up without jewelry, even if they’re fully healed.
It’s imperative that you don’t touch, move, or replace a nose piercing until it’s fully healed. It’s recommended to wait at least six months, no matter the piercing, but the longer you give a piercing to heal, the more you can be sure it’s safe. A good marker to see if your jewelry is ready to be changed is if you no longer have any pain, tenderness, discomfort, or discharge. Any of these symptoms means you’re not yet ready for new jewelry.
The nose piercing site goes through a few different stages of healing, though it’s important that you keep the wound clean to be sure everything goes smoothly. Make sure you take diligent care of your piercing during the first few days, as the tissue around the piercing site is regrowing and most sensitive then. Expect to experience some pain, warmth, or bleeding during this period, too, so don’t automatically assume these are symptoms of infection. This behavior can occur for up to three weeks (and experience tenderness for up to six weeks), but the lack of symptoms does not mean your nose piercing is fully healed.
Avoid direct contact with make-up, ointments, face creams, and/or harsh soaps or skin products after a new piercing.
When to See a Doctor
It’s normal for new nose piercings to have pain, bleeding, or discharge while they’re healing, but anything more than minor irritation or annoyance is cause for concern. If the site looks bright red or otherwise unusually colored, is oozing thick yellow or green discharge, or forms blisters, you should seek medical attention. There are also a number of non-visible symptoms of an infected nose piercing, like feeling extremely tender to the touch, smelling foul, being disruptively itchy, feeling overly painful, and having a fever. Any and all of these symptoms are signs that you should call a doctor as soon as possible.
"Make sure to contact your physician if the area has increasing or worsening redness, tenderness, crusting, or draining. The area of surrounding skin might be slightly pink following the piercing, but not exquisitely painful or tender," says Nazarian.
Should you use alcohol to clean a nose piercing?
Our experts recommend saline and salt-water as a gentle and effective way to clean a nose piercing.
Is crusting around my nose piercing normal?
"During healing, crusting develops around the entry, which if pulled into the piercing, can damage the delicate, fresh tissue trying to heal," says Tash.
What products can help my nose piercing heal?
Tash finds that sterile saline wipes are most effective when it comes to helping a nose piercing heal.
How long are you supposed to clean a nose piercing for?
You should clean your nose piercing until the area is fully healed. According to Nazarian, nasal piercings take about 90 days on average to heal but can vary from person to person.