The septum is the piece of cartilage that separates the nostrils, though it is often used as a blanket term to refer to the entirety of the space between them, including the skin and other tissues. A septum piercing is actually not a piercing of this piece of cartilage, but of the tissue directly underneath it on the underside of the nose, sometimes called “the sweet spot.”
Due to their historical cultural significance in branding hunters, medicine men, and leaders across various native tribes, septum piercing in the Western world has largely been a commonality amongst men only until very recently. The exception being in India, where things carried on much the opposite as only women would wear certain septum ring styles to signify their marital status. Today, many women around the world have septum piercings, generally in the smaller gauges of 14 or 16 so as to appear feminine and not overpower the features. For men, 14 gauge is usually the smallest size the septum will be pierced at, with 12 gauge being more common, and septum stretching gaining momentum since the 1990′s as well.
The piercing itself is done with a hollow piercing needle just like most other cartilage piercings, and takes anywhere from four to twelve weeks to heal. Stretching of septum piercings is not recommended until the six month mark however, and a wait time of an additional six months between each gauge size is strongly encouraged as well. Aftercare consists mainly of sea salt soaks and cue tip cleanings.
A variety of jewelry can be worn in the septum including straight tusks (usually made of organic material), circular barbells, ball captive rings, and pincers. For those who need to hide their piercing for work, retainers are also available, primarily in the shape of either a staple, or a modified horseshoe. The retainer is made to have its free ends easily pushed up inside the nostrils leaving no portion of the jewelry itself visible. In this way, the septum is one of few piercings that is truly entirely disguiseable one minute and unmistakably visible the next.
Some other common names for septum piercing are bull ring, nathori (Indian), and nose cartilage wall piercing.