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Quick and painless: Nose studs pierce South student body

By Nathan Yeo
Published: December 2008

Instead of begging her parents for money, an iPhone, or a car for her seventeenth birthday, Newton South junior Annie Orenstein got a needle stuck through her nose.

A few months ago, Orenstein and her mother walked into Almoda Jewelry and Body Piercing at the Arsenal Mall in Watertown and paid for a nose piercing. Orenstein followed a body piercer into a back room where he cleaned her nose and drew a dot on her nostril. She nodded her approval and the piercer quickly jabbed a stainless steel needle into the left side of her nose. The wound hurt, but only briefly.

When Orenstein walked out of the store, she wore a silver stud in the new hole in her nose.

“I think it’s really classy, she said. Several of her friends and family had already gotten nose piercings and she had really liked the look.

“You get something that’s unique, but reserved, she said of her piercing. “It’s not out there.

Orenstein’s birthday gift is not particularly unusual. An increasing number of young women, including girls at Newton South High School, are getting nose piercings, the latest trend in body art.

Long associated with India, where they are seen as a sign of beauty and social standing, nose piercings gained popularity in the United States with the hippie culture of the 1970s.

Since that time, nose piercing has been strongly associated with the punk subculture. Over the past several years, however, nose piercing has taken off amongst teen girls and young women. This rise has correlated with a growing popular acceptance of all piercings.

Junior Becca Goldstein got a clear crystal nose stud on the right side of her nose for her 16th birthday. For her, the appeal of a nose piercing was its distinctiveness.

“When I saw someone with a nose piercing, she said. “I always thought, they’re so artsy, they’re so different.

Senior Maddie Sharton had thought about getting a nose piercing for several years, before they rose in popularity. Last December, she went to the Chameleon Tattoo & Body Piercing store in Harvard Square and got a silver nose stud.

While other girls have demurred from getting nose piercings so far, some express interest or are planning to get them soon. As soon as senior Ally Bernstein gets into college, she says she is going to get a nose ring.

“They are so cool, she said.

At Stingray Body Art, a tattoo and body piercing shop in Allston, roughly half of Kristina Kelly’s piercing jobs are nose piercings. Most of her customers are young women at college in the Boston area, but some are as young as 14, legally the youngest age to get a piercing with parental consent.

Kelly, who has dyed red hair and a piercing in both nostrils, has noticed that body piercing, and nose piercing in particular, has exploded in popularity over the past several years.

“It’s not the same as it was five years ago, she said. “Piercing is becoming a lot more socially acceptable, and nose piercing may soon be as acceptable as ear piercing.

When someone comes in for a piercing, Kelly helps them pick out a ring or a stud and sits them down in a black leather chair in a back room plastered with posters on lime-green wall paint. She swabs their nose with disinfectant and marks the spot of the piercing with dye. She then sticks a hollow metal half-tube into the nostril to prevent her needle, steam-sterilized at 275° F, from piercing the customer’s nasal septum as well. Then, with a count of three, she stabs the needle through the customer’s nose.

“It’s like a shot, only through your nose, one girl with a piercing said.

Goldstein and Orenstein both did not experience any pain during their piercings, but their noses did hurt a lot afterwards.

According to Kelly, if people do not take proper care of their piercings, they could face an infection and a lot more pain. She recommends soaking the area around the piercing with sea salt to prevent any infections.

A woman opened the door of Stingray Body Art and showed Kelly her ear, which had recently been pierced and was very red. She said she thought the piercing was infected and complained that it looked “gross.

“No it’s not, Kelly said. “It’s fine. Just put some sea salt on it.

A silver or crystal stud is the visible part of a piercing, but there is another part of the piercing inside the nose called the screw, which prevents the stud from falling out. After piercing the nose, Kelly inserts the stud, screw end first, into the needle’s hollow backing, and when she pulls the needle through the hole, she twists it to get the screw through.

The screw does not always work. After Sharton got her nose stud, it fell out as she washed her face. The piercing hole closed, and she had to get her nose re-pierced several weeks later.

Girls with piercings say the pieces of metal inside their noses cause little irritation. Goldstein says she cannot feel it, even when she blows her nose.

Soon, some girls with piercings say, nose studs will become as common as ear piercings.

“Everyone has their ears pierced, Goldstein said. “Now, everyone has their nose pierced.

Nose piercing has not reached the same level of cultural acceptance as ear piercings, Kelly believes, but things are “heading in that direction.

One indication that mainstream culture has not quite accepted nose piercings yet is the strong sale of retainers at Stingray Body Art. Retainers are clear plastic studs designed to hide piercings during formal occasions such as job interviews, where a nose piercing might count against the applicant.

Workplaces often have dress codes that forbid any piercing beyond the ears. Lauren Mixon, an employee at the Pasco County Tax Collecter’s Office in Land O’Lakes, Florida, had to quit her job because her supervisors ordered her to remove a nose stud. They claimed it was against company policy barring “extreme jewelry.

Kelly also thinks that many more traditional parents are not as responsive to cultural trends. One common refrain from Stingray’s customers: “My mom is going to kill me!

While the stud is the most common type of nose piercing, rings have also become more popular. Actress Scarlett Johansson has a ring through her septum, for example. In contrast to the stud, however, nose rings are more visible and have a bit of a different connotation.

Orenstein said she did not want to get a ring because she thought it would be too “punkish.

“That’s really not what I am going for, she said.

Kelly said that rings are not necessarily associated with punk culture, but she could understand the distinction.

“A lot of people like studs because they are small and subtle, she said. “[Rings] aren’t edgier, they are just more obvious.

Sharton said she would consider getting a ring at some point. While changing between different nose studs and rings is not as common as switching earrings, it is very easy to do after a six-week healing period.

At Stingray Body Art, there is a price disparity between rings, which cost $35, and studs, which cost $45.

Despite the growing popularity of piercings, there is one aspect of the process that does not change with time: the pain.

Stingray customers consistently ask Kelly, “Does it hurt? To avoid repeating herself, she taped a sign on the wall of the piercing room that reads, “YES, IT F@$#!&G HURTS!!

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