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"Will it make my nose look fat?" - My Secret Septum

I'm always nervous asking my mother for piercings. I pay for them myself and she normally doesn't even notice when I get them done, but still, I'm quite scared of her. When I did finally ask her about a septum, she said no because I can't have facial piercings for school. I told her I could flip it up for school, she still said no because bull rings are ugly. I asked dad about a septum at some point along the line. It didn't appeal to him, but he didn't let his opinion get in my way. I told him mom said I couldn't get it done because she didn't like it, and I told him I was getting it anyway. He was still fine with it.

The next few times I went to Tattoo Zoo I kept asking my piercer if he had anything for my septum and he never did. Once, he had one circular barbell left which may or may not fit in my nose. The balls on it were a bit big, but he said he could change them. After several minutes of the both of us staring intently at the barbell and my nose, wondering if I'd be able to flip it up, and even if I could flip it up, "will it make my nose look fat?". I decided I'd come back another time. While I was there though, Noel gave me plenty of advice about septums. I knew most of it already, but it's always good to reaffirm the fact that your piercer knows what he/she is talking about. He advised me not to flip the barbell or retainer up and down all the time because of how the jewellery's curved and moving it like that will prolong the healing and hurt too. I'll be keeping mine hidden from the mother all the time anyway, so no need to worry about that, but it's good to know these things.

Since Noel never seemed to have the right jewellery for my septum, I eventually ordered a LeRoi dark blue niobium retainer from Tribalectic. It took about 6 weeks to get to me. It's one of those ones that flicks out at the ends, if you know what I mean. I didn't like the shape of it, thinking it would be very painful to pull that through a fresh hole, but the only not-squiggly retainers Tribalectic had were made of surgical steel, and I wouldn't put that in a fresh piercing. The retainer arrived in a sterile packet, but it had only been Ethylene Oxide sterilised, not autoclaved.

The Big Day

On June the 12th I made sure my nose was clean (Don't want any bats in the cave when your poor piercer has to stick their fingers up your nose!), went to Cork and had some chickpea salad before going to Tattoo Zoo. I like spending time in the Zoo, it's homely and smells clean and there's always some cool metal music on which matches the buzzing of tattoo machines quite nicely. Noel has done all my piercings so far (except the lobes, which were gunned when I was 6, bad, I know).

There were a few people in the Zoo enquiring about tattoos. The new counter guy was talking to them. I haven't seen him since that day; I think he's been banished because he was slandering the staff. I sat on the new two-seater couch and read my book for a few minutes, then Noel spotted me and said hi. I asked if he wanted to autoclave the retainer or if chemical sterilisation was OK (I like to ask questions even if I know the answers, it's always worth testing your piercer's knowledge). He said he'd autoclave the retainer for me, I was to come back in about an hour and he'd "Put it in yer nose". He asked how it stays in (I think he must have had customers who lost retainers or something, maybe that's why he never has them) and I told him I have some 14g o-rings. I don't think I'll need to use them though, since the retainer would be pretty safe up my nose, especially when it's fresh and the jewellery doesn't want to move. Besides, if I did stick some o-rings up my nose, I'd
probably end up inhaling them.

I wandered around town for a little bit, but there's not much to do and it was far too sunny. About half an hour later I went back to the Zoo (no harm in being early) and it was packed with a gang of girls, one getting her nostril pierced and one thinking about an inverse navel, two more girls getting inner conch piercings and some guys asking about tattoos, so both the counter guy and Noel were busy as bees. They still took their time and looked after each person properly. Once the big crowd of girls left I sat down with my book and waited for the other girls' conches to be done. I think one of them must have fainted, she turned up about 20 minutes later and sat on the floor with some Fanta and Noel opened the door so she could have some fresh air. While the two girls were in the piercing room, the new counter guy started talking to me, asking if I needed anything and so on. I told him I had something in the autoclave, then he asked what I was reading. We had a short chat ab out quantum theory, the subject of my book. He said I must be smart, he read about string theory and couldn't get his head around it. Yes, quantum physics. He was very friendly, he especially enjoyed chatting to the girls, but I'm not talkative so he went back to the computer fairly fast. There was a new queue forming and I thought I might miss my bus home if this kept going, but just as I was thinking of leaving Noel showed up and gave me my aftercare sheet and release form to sign while he set everything up. I'd read loads of experiences on BME and still had no idea how long my septum would take to heal; some people say theirs healed in 3 weeks, not likely, and some say 3 to 12 months because "its a cartilidge pericing", which it isn't. The aftercare sheet said 8 to 12 weeks, which was a nice surprise.

I had to fight my way past a bunch of young men talking about tribal sleeves so I could get back to the piercing room. There's a door behind the counter that leads to the tattooists' space and Noel's office is off to the side.

Everything was laid out on the paper-lined tray: box of gloves; scissors and septum clamps both in autoclave packs; a blister-packed cannula needle with a grey hub; cotton swabs with iodine and alcohol; the marker; my retainer and a roll of kitchen paper. I was a bit put off by the clamps, as I'd heard mixed reviews of them, but I'd read on BME that they can help make the piercing turn out straight. I guess I was surprised because Noel's never used clamps on any of my other piercings (rook, scaffold, inner conch, daith) before. I hopped up on the bench, being very careful not to kick him; I always seem to kick him. While he got his gloves and opened the scissors and clamps, I asked about the needle, which had 16g written on the hub even though my retainer was 14g. He told me he'd been confused about that too, but the 16g needles have a green hub (I remembered that from my daith piercing), grey is 14g (1.6mm), despite what the top of it says. Maybe there was a decimal point th at I didn't see?

He cleaned both my nostrils with the iodine and then the alcohol, which smells really strong. He dotted each side of my septum, near the front, and drew a line around it. Then he put the clamps on my nose to try and find my sweet spot. In all the experiences I'd read the piercers had either used their fingernails to look for the sweet spot or just hammered the needle through cartilage, so this was unexpected. He asked if the clamps pinched, and kept adjusting them, trying to find somewhere they didn't hurt. It took a while. I'd been pinching my nose myself and thought my sweet spot was further back towards my face, where it's practically just skin, but I figured he knew better than I did. Eventually we found somewhere the clamps didn't hurt too much, but I definitely didn't expect this to be one of those painless septum piercings. He shone a torch against the spot to check for blood vessels, then got the needle.

This was my first non-ear piercing, and also the first one where I stayed sitting up. I wanted to keep my eyes open and watch the needle going through, but it didn't turn out that way. Deep breath in, breathe out, pierce. I closed my eyes as soon as the needle touched my skin because my eyes watered like crazy. I knew they'd water, but not that much! It was very different from my other piercings, I could feel the needle ripping through layers of flesh. It was a really sharp pain, only about 6/10 but the fact that my eyes were watering just made it horrible. I didn't jerk back like some people do, but I think I flinched a bit, which probably made it worse. Nevertheless, it came out nice and straight. I could see the plastic part of the needle if I crossed my eyes. Noel cut the hub off and then went to get my retainer and I caught a glimpse of myself in the big mirror with this 2 or 3cm piece of white plastic in my nose, like a tusk. I was pretty awesome. As I expected, getting the retainer in was agonising. Since it's such an awkward shape it was really tough to pull it through, and my eyes watered loads. No blood though, none of my piercings have bled. I checked in the mirror to make sure it was straight and then he flipped it up so it was horizontal, then handed me some kitchen paper to dry my eyes. The retainer I got is shaped sort of unevenly so at first glance it looks a bit crooked, but it's just because the bend on one end is wider than the bend on the other end.

Noel mentioned that he had stretched his septum to 3mm, I don't know if he still has it though. I've never seen it. He told me to clean mine with saline on a cotton bud, but not too often because that'll dry it out, and said "I know it sounds gross, but boogers. If they stick to it and move through the piercing it really hurts so be careful". Then I went and paid. I usually get a bit of money off because I'm a regular there, and since I brought my own jewellery too, he only charged me €20, half price! He doesn't take tips either, it's not customary in Ireland and whenever I try to give him extra money he won't take it. I was smiling away, which felt really weird because of the retainer.

The piercing hurt for about an hour afterwards. Before I got the bus home, I checked my nose in a handheld mirror to make sure my mother wouldn't see. The marks were still there! Straight purple lines all around my septum! I had to pop in to a public bathroom and clean my nose with a wet cotton bud. A girl there gave me really weird looks.

Initially it felt like I had boogers up my nose. Whenever I pulled a face that moved my nose it either tickled or hurt. A couple of times that evening I moved my nose the wrong way and it brought tears to my eyes. Other times it made me need to sneeze, and my nose started running once because of the tickly feeling. I had to clean the boogers off with a cotton bud before they dried, and they were bright purple from the ink that was left on the piercing! I'd won tickets to see Andrew Maxwell that night and kept laughing and then having to pull silly faces to readjust the retainer without anyone noticing.

The Aftercare

Day 2

I cleaned my piercing with saline on a cotton bud this morning, it was perfectly clean. Then I discovered that one of my new Roborovski dwarf hamsters had 4 pups, she must have been pregnant when we bought her. Some time during the craziness that followed, with me running around and pulling amazed faces, I made my septum bleed a bit, but didn't feel it. My little sister spotted something shiny up my nose, but I sniffed and wiped my nose with my sleeve, trying to pretend I had sniffles. She let it go. I went to see if I could flip the retainer further up, after carefully washing my hands of course, and I succeeded in getting it pretty much vertical against the front of my nose. It's nice and comfy, although I can still feel it if I twitch my nose. I'm glad I got the retainer and didn't just settle for a titanium horseshoe, I think a horseshoe would have been much harder to hide, and titanium is a lot shinier than niobium is. Come to think of it, bodyartforms.com do black niobi um retainers that aren't squiggly, they would be absolutely perfect. I can't really shop from BAF though, because I'd have to email them personally and pay by postal money order since they don't normally ship to Ireland. Sigh.

Day 3

I've been mainly using unsalted water on a q-tip to clean crust off my septum, don't want to overdose on salt. I reviewed some experiences for BME today about septum piercings. One was from a guy who has his septum pierced and stretched and he'd realised his should have been pierced further back, like where I thought mine should be. He got a second piercing there and it didn't hurt a bit. I kind of wish I'd read that experience a few days earlier, it would have saved me some amount of pain, but I'm happy anyway, and I think the one towards the front is easier to hide.

I've cleaned a bit of blood off the piercing, I think most of it is only there because I've been moving the retainer a bit, to keep it flipped up vertically. I think I got the last of the ink off today. I did a salt soak this evening, because my septum was feeling 'stiff' and another experience I'd just reviewed said that a warm salt soak is heaven for a stiff septum. I put some nice hot saline into a small glass, the same temperature I'd use on my ears, but when I dipped my nose in it my eyes watered and my nose stung, so I had to wait for it to cool down. Warm is good, hot isn't.

I never knew how much I abused my nose until I got it pierced. Every time I change clothes, my shirt catches on my nose and hurts it. Not cool. I'll adjust to it in time. Now I have to put on t-shirts without catching the neck on my ears or my nose, getting dressed has never been so time-consuming.

My sister spotted the retainer today when we were with her friend and a family friend and she blurted out "You got your septum pierced!" and then the other two kept asking what she meant. She told them I had a piercing up my nose. They say they won't tell anyone but I don't trust my sister.

Week 2

I've been taking care of my septum along with other piercings, sometimes I use saline and either dab at the piercing with a cotton bud or press on it with two pieces of cotton wool, sometimes I use piercing cleanser that I originally I bought from bodyjewelleryshop.com for my daith. I don't like using the soapy stuff on my septum though, the smell makes me a bit light-headed and I'm not sure how effective it is at cleaning the piercing.

I've been sneezing a bit lately, occasionally I get a weird tickle in my septum that makes me sneeze, and now there are boogers and crust on either side of the retainer. I didn't realise how bad it was until I checked it with a magnifying make-up mirror. I've been trying to clean them off with wet cotton buds but it's not working, I guess I'll have to soak them off, but it'll take ages.

I just flipped my retainer down to clean both sides of it, which dislodged some of the dried stuff on it. It's nice and clean now, and it didn't hurt to move it. The retainer had slipped to the side a bit so I straightened it up and once I was satisfied that it was straight I flipped it back up.

Yesterday I went to get the ring in my conch swapped out for a bar and Noel asked how my nose was doing and if my parents had seen it. He seemed surprised that he couldn't see the retainer when he looked up my nose, I told him I had to flip it sort of forwards because my little sister kept seeing it. Noel's retired his old anti-brow now, he has a new one nearer his eye. He took out his horizontal eyebrow piercings too.

Week 3

My septum gets stiff every 4 days or so, so it only needs one or two salt soaks a week. It does get a lot of crusties and boogers on it though, so the retainer needs to be flipped down and cleaned every 2 or 3 days. I clean the crusties from around the piercing once a day. Today my septum is feeling stiff and it's trying to flip down for some reason, which isn't good because we have visitors. It's making my eyes water a bit at the moment.

I've read that a septum piercing makes it impossible to eat apples. I wouldn't say it's impossible, I ate one today with no problems actually. I think maybe if you had big jewellery in your septum it would get in the way.

It's just about impossible to blow my nose now. Apparently you can develop a technique, but I'm not bothered with that, it would probably filthy up my retainer. I was never a fan of blowing my nose anyway, too messy and loud. I've started twisting toilet paper into a thin spike and using it to sort of pick my nose, it's effective and doesn't usually bother my piercing.

Week 6

My septum doesn't get stiff any more. I've been cleaning it every morning with wet cotton buds. I gave it a salt soak the other day because it was starting to smell, but it's a pretty low maintenance piercing really. It doesn't hurt to move it any more, but I don't flip it down very often. I sometimes flip it down to clean the top of it, and sometimes I have to flip it down to dislodge a bit of crust from the piercing.

3 days later, it's really started to stink, so I just cleaned it with that piercing cleanser. I made sure not to breathe through my nose but still felt a bit dizzy. Hey, at least the stink is gone. The retainer is feeling really loose now, and it keeps trying to flip itself halfway down.

A couple of days ago, I got the fright of my life, and so did the family friend who was there when my sister noticed I had this piercing. My mom spotted my daith piercing, which she'd forgotten I have, and said "You have a ring in there now!". We thought she was talking about my septum, but thankfully I figured out just in time that she meant my ear. It was hilarious afterwards! This piercing is hidden really well and all, but it's making me paranoid.

The funniest thing happened last night; I woke up feeling like there was something in my nose, but I was very drowsy and didn't really know what was going on. Then it dawned on me, 'Hey, I'm picking my nose...' and then, maybe ten seconds later, I realised that I was pulling out my septum retainer. Luckily it wasn't fully out, but two more seconds and I would have been in trouble! I've heard of sleep-talking and sleep-walking, but sleep nose-picking?!

Week 9

My septum healed in 8 weeks. I clean it every 3 or 4 days with piercing cleanser, because if I don't it starts to smell. I don't get woozy from the smell of the piercing soap any more. It's not crusting any more, but I still need to clean the boogers off the top of the retainer occasionally. It doesn't hurt to move the jewellery at all, and sometimes when I'm cleaning it I pull it sideways by accident and nearly pull it out. Also, since the piercing is loosened up, the retainer flops down horizontally sometimes. On a few occasions it's actually come close to poking out of my nose altogether, so I think it's time to change it to a horseshoe.

I think I could keep this piercing hidden indefinitely, but I don't want to. I think I'll ask if I can get a piercing with this month's pocket money and then come home some day wearing a horseshoe in my septum.

Week 12

I still haven't told my parents about my septum. I've tried on my 10mm horseshoe and it looks pretty good, but it doesn't flip up my nose because the ends are too close together. I'm going to look for an 8mm one with the ends a bit further apart. I think 8mm will look better than 10mm as well as being easier to hide up my nose. When I was shopping for horseshoes I noticed that some are more circular than the others. I prefer the look of the rounder ones, but I've realised now that the less circular ones are probably specially made for septums so you can flip them up. Dang.

I'm back at school now and I've showed a few friends my septum. Most of them don't like it, ha. Unfortunately one good friend of mine who said he would never speak to me again if I got my septum pierced seems to be following through with his threats. He lives in Dublin so I don't see him much anyway. He heard through my best friend/his girlfriend that I had it pierced, and she says he's not happy. Oh well, if he's prepared to ditch me over a little piece of metal, he wasn't worth it anyway, right?

Being back at school means being back with friends who hurt me. Today, one friend of mine smushed his hand into my face quite hard, no idea why. It really, really hurt my nose. The piercing's fine, but the tips of the retainer hurt the front of my nose.

I've noticed that when I move the retainer through the piercing I get a bit of septum stink. I hadn't noticed that before. The smell has changed now too; it's less cheesy and more sort of stale. Now when I clean it I move the retainer around to get the piercing cleanser right through the hole. It's annoying though, because now the retainer's really loose after being cleaned and I'm always afraid it'll fall out.

Yesterday I was working at the stables and I think some hay dust got up my nose, so my septum's been pretty itchy today. I'll just have to be more careful next time.

Week 13

I've caught swine flu. My septum's feeling a bit stiff again now, I've been sneezing and have a runny nose so the piercing's a little unhappy. It's only very minor, though. The main problem is cleaning my nose. Since it's runny I'm always afraid boogers will stick to the retainer. It doesn't seem to be happening, though.

I can't recommend Noel or Tattoo Zoo highly enough. The people there are all friendly and helpful and the tattoo artists are very talented. It's clean and welcoming and the rules about age are reasonable (You have to be 16 to get pierced there, 18 for oral piercings, nipple piercings, surface piercings and tattoos) and they remember their customers. I got my smiley pierced in a different studio in Dublin (since I'm under 18 so Noel wouldn't do it) and although I'd heard great things about the place and seen great work that they did, I didn't like it. The most noticeable thing was the attitude of the people there; they were a bit condescending and not that chatty or friendly. It's not the type of place you'd want to just hang out in, whereas I stop and have a chat with Noel whenever I pass Tattoo Zoo.

I'm really glad I got my septum pierced. I think it was a good idea for a first facial piercing since I can hide it or show it off depending on the occasion. That way I can get used to having a facial piercing without it being there all of the time. Since I got my septum pierced I've also got a smiley, and I think next up is a navel piercing. I've got a lot of facial/oral piercings planned, but they'll have to wait until I've left school/turned 18. In the meantime, I wouldn't mind a second septum.

"The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it"


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 20 Sept. 2009
in Nose Piercing

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Artist: Noel
Studio: Tattoo+Zoo
Location: Cork

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