By Kathryn Walsh

Barely there or impossible to miss? When it comes to nose rings, it's pretty much one or the other. Nose ring newbies have a huge selection of jewelry to choose from, which makes this a daunting choice. Whether your piercing is in a nostril or your septum, getting a few measurements right is the most important part of picking the perfect ring.

tattooed young woman with blue hair and nose ring
credit: alessandro-tomiello/iStock/GettyImages
How to Choose a Nose Ring

Get the Lingo Down

Understanding the difference between various gauges is an important first step in choosing a nose ring. Gauge refers to the thickness of the piercing needle and subsequently, the thickness of the part of the ring that fits through the piercing. That is, a person who is pierced with a 20-gauge needle should pick 20-gauge rings. The piercer should let you know what gauge ring is appropriate for your particular piercing; 18 or 20 gauge is standard.

Diameter is the other major factor when choosing a nose ring. It's the distance between the two widest points of the ring. It matters because, if the ring has a diameter that's too small, the ring won't fit comfortably around the edge of the nostril or around the septum (depending on where your piercing is). If the diameter is too large, the ring will protrude beyond the edge of the nose. The appropriate diameter for your nose ring depends on how high the piercing is on the nostril. Use trial and error to find the right diameter, or ask a piercer to measure your nostril.

Check the Metal Makeup

The nose is a highly unpleasant place to get an allergic reaction, so make sure that any ring you insert is made of a metal that's safe for this use. The Association of Professional Piercers suggests picking body jewelry that's made from one of seven safe materials: surgical steel, titanium, nobium, platinum, biocompatible polymers, glass and gold that is at least 14K and nickel-free.

Think About Scale

A delicate ring might look a bit undersized on a large nose. By contrast, a ring adorned with a large gem may look too large on a small nose. For some people, creating one of those effects might be the goal. But if you want the nose ring to be something that people notice but aren't distracted by, pick one that suits the size of the nose itself.

Take Daily Dress Into Account

Long-time nose ring wearers can swap out their rings quickly and can adjust their body jewelry to suit any occasion or outfit. That's not the case with a first nose ring, though. Everyone heals at a different pace, but it can take up to six months for a nostril piercing to completely heal. Septum piercings tend to heal within a few months. Because the first ring has to stay in that entire time, pick something understated. Expect to have to attend weddings, funerals and work meetings with that ring in – and choose accordingly.