Like many others, one thing about my body that always brought about feelings of insecurity was my nose. I could tell you lots of stories about the kid in elementary school who nicknamed me “pelican," or the way my grandma so lovingly yet annoyingly referred to the shape of my nose as “Roman.”
Everyone else’s comments aside, I've always wanted my nose to look different. What’s more, for as long as I can remember, I’ve also had a weird psychological and physical disconnect about my nose. In my head, my nose looked fine; but whenever I saw it in photos, I was legitimately surprised—and not in a good way—to see how it really looked.
All of this is to say that rhinoplasty—specifically, getting rid of the hump on the bridge of my nose—has been in the back of my mind since my early teen years. For a while, something held me back from changing my nose permanently. But after becoming engaged to my long-time partner, the timing finally felt right to pursue a more permanent solution. I also finally had a reason to justify it: wedding photos that would, as I so dramatically said to my partner on numerous occasions, last for generations.
I’m not going to argue that to feel your very best on your wedding day, you should get a nose job. Or get Botox. Or even wear makeup. Everyone is different and this just happens to be my story.
Here's everything you need to know about getting a nose job, before and after—and what happened when I underwent rhinoplasty.
Meet the Expert
Adam Kolker, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City specializing in cosmetic surgery of the face, body, and breasts.
What Is a Nose Job?
What Is a Nose Job?
A nose job, aka rhinoplasty, involves surgically changing the shape, size, and/or appearance of the nose.
One of the most popular plastic surgery procedures in the world, nose jobs can be performed for purely cosmetic reasons, as in my case, or to correct structural issues that impede breathing.
The Benefits of a Nose Job
People get nose jobs for myriad reasons, including:
- Altering the appearance of nose to patient specifications, including smoothing bumps along the bridge or narrowing the tip
- Restoring the appearance of the nose after injury
- Correcting an obstructed airway, aka deviated septum, to improve breathing ability
Whether the benefits are cosmetic, medical, or both, the overall goal of rhinoplasty should be to correct each patient's specific issues in a way that keeps the nose in proportion to the rest of the face.
"This is important for any rhinoplasty," Kolker advised. "The nose needs to be internally balanced, meaning that the upper third needs to match the middle third, which needs to match the lower third, which needs to be balanced with the entire face."
How to Prepare for a Nose Job
As a beauty writer, I’ll admit that I had a leg up on prepping for rhinoplasty. After talking with everyone I knew in New York City who knew anything about nose jobs, plus diving down many an Internet rabbit hole, I ended up consulting with a few rhinoplasty experts until I found the right fit in Kolker.
Not only is Kolker the kindest, most genuine, and most professional doctor I have ever met with, he also said things like, “It’s always best when refinements are subtle and natural-looking,” and “people will say you look amazing, but it will be so subtle that they won’t even know what changed.” That was exactly what I wanted in a nose job: subtle and natural-looking.
Kolker also took the time to answer all my many questions and explain in detail how he would personally perform the procedure. He also took photos of my nose and used modeling software to show me what the final result of my nose would look like. He hit everything on the nose—pun intended. I knew in my gut that he was the right doctor for me.
To get ready for the surgery, Kolker gave me a physical exam, conducted a thorough medical history, and did some routine bloodwork. Also, he and I had a few pre-op meetings to finalize the plan for my new nose. Then, my surgery was scheduled.
The week before the surgery, I followed an oral supplement routine—including hefty daily doses of vitamins B and C, zinc, and arnica montana—that Kolker prescribed to make my post-op healing go as smoothly as possible. He also told me to avoid over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil and Tylenol. Other than that, I didn't have to change my routine.
What to Expect During a Nose Job
In rhinoplasty, there are two types of procedures: closed and open. As per Kolker’s advice, I opted for the latter.
“An open rhinoplasty approach offers a tremendous amount of exposure to the architecture of the nose, including all of the cartilage and bone elements,” Kolker advised. As opposed to a closed rhinoplasty, an open surgery would give him “almost limitless control over the fine-tuning and sculptural modification of those elements.”
"It's not as if there is one absolutely uniform, ideal way to do a rhinoplasty for every individual," Kolker continued. "There are some surgeons who only perform closed rhinoplasties, and there are some who only do open ones."
The downside of open rhinoplasty, I was told, is that I'd have a small incision underneath the nose along the tiny bridge of tissue that runs in between either nostril known as the columella. But the many upsides of an open procedure, plus my complete faith in Kolker’s expertise, made that baby scar seem worth it to me.
Although some rhinoplasties are done under local anesthesia only, mine was performed under general anesthesia in an operating room. I was told the procedure would take a few hours total. I showed up for surgery early that morning, slightly anxious but hoping for the best.
Rhinoplasty vs. Nonsurgical Nose Job
When I decided I wanted to change my nose, I first considered the nonsurgical nose job. This involves using injectable hyaluronic acid filler to correct cosmetic issues such as smoothing out a dorsal hump, making the nose look more proportional to the face, and even lifting the tip. The nonsurgical version is temporary, as all fillers are, and typically lasts six to 12 months, depending largely on the patient's metabolism.
Because I was ultimately looking to decrease volume from my nose rather than add it and wanted a permanent solution, I opted for the surgical route instead.
Potential Side Effects
Nose jobs aren't without risks, of course. Some rhinoplasty patients may deal with long-lasting pain and inflammation around their noses or even have trouble breathing for the long term. They may also experience scarring—in my case, a scar was a given—and infection, as well as numbness in certain areas of the nose. Going under anesthesia is itself a risk since patients can have a bad reaction to it. And there's always a chance of hating your new nose—whether or not your surgery goes as planned.
The cost of rhinoplasty, as with all plastic surgery, depends on a few different factors, including where you live, which surgeon you use, and the extent of surgery you need. In general, rhinoplasties can range anywhere from approximately $5,000 to over $15,000. This is a huge price range, which is why it's important to do your research.
When I woke up in the surgical recovery room, dark bruising already began to form underneath my eyes. But overall, I felt pretty good—very out of it, definitely, but not in any pain. The car ride back to Brooklyn was slightly uncomfortable, but as soon as I got home and propped up in bed, I felt fine. My fiancé helped set me up with a bowl of mashed potatoes and some Bravo reality shows to binge, and I was comfortable until I passed out a few hours later.
One slightly difficult lifestyle adjustment: I had to sleep on my back with my head propped up on a few pillows—for at least two weeks, as per the paperwork I initialed—which was uncomfortable at first, but I adjusted. Turning to sleep on either side, as I normally do, would have put pressure on my splint and also increased swelling.
The other post-op rules were pretty standard: no alcohol, aspirin (which thins the blood), smoking, or spicy foods. I had to make sure to drink plenty of fluids. I also couldn't shower for the first 48 hours after surgery or do strenuous activity for at least two weeks. Kolker sent me home with a twice-daily antibiotic to stave off potential infection and some prescription Percocet, although I personally only needed to take the heavy-duty stuff once or twice. After that, I switched to over-the-counter Tylenol a few times a day.
More apparent than any pain was swelling, which peaked about three or four days post-surgery. Over the first two weeks after surgery, my bruising changed color and shape so frequently that I actually found it fascinating to watch how quickly and efficiently my body healed itself.
“Everybody bruises differently, and everybody swells differently,” Kolker explained, noting that I was fortunate to experience very mild bruising. I think this mildness was likely due, at least in part, to the pre-op supplement routine Kolker had me follow. After the surgery, my supplement routine stayed the same for two weeks, plus the addition of bromelain.
Over those first few weeks post-surgery, I was able to work from home. I even answered emails the morning after surgery, although my tone was a little loopier than normal. I showered gently, taking care to keep my face out of the water, and used a washcloth or a makeup wipe to keep the rest of my complexion clean. My splint stayed on for almost a full week, after which I was told I could take it off myself.
I went into Kolker’s office eight days post-op to have the stitches in between my nostrils removed, which was slightly uncomfortable but not unbearable. The other stitches, all of them inside of my nose, dissolved or fell out naturally. The tiny scar from said incision faded over time and, as I found out, was also easily covered by concealer.
I was told that the ultimate shape of my nose would not reveal itself fully until about one year post-surgery. That seemed like a long time, but it’s true: Features of my nose have continued to change about 10 months afterward, though these slight changes haven’t really been noticeable to anyone other than myself.
“The nose continues to mature over time, but most of the changes from a rhinoplasty are evident and settled by about 12 months afterward,” Kolker explained. “When you imagine that the nerves are re-connecting in that area, that also means that the veins and the lymphatics in the area, which drain the skin and the soft tissue, are also readjusting."
The swelling on the tip of my nose took the longest to subside and it still hasn't regained all feeling. “There are certain areas of the nose that heal more quickly,” Kolker said. “The tip area is the one that takes the longest, and the bridge area usually settles down a bit more rapidly.”
The Final Takeaway
Even while I wait for the final shape of my nose to come into place, I couldn’t be happier with the results. Before the procedure, I never would’ve felt comfortable posing for—let alone publishing—a profile shot of my face. But now, the image of myself that I always had in my mind matches the one I see in the mirror.
My innate sense of self-confidence will forever be boosted—and I mean that genuinely, as superficially as that may come across in writing. One recent comment from a childhood friend was the cherry on top: "You look amazing, and so happy! But I can’t tell what’s changed."