The basics about nose jobs, including who is a good candidate and what you can expect.

Often referred to as a “nose job,” rhinoplasty is a way to surgically reshape your nose or correct breathing problems. With rhinoplasty, a plastic surgeon can alter the size and profile of your nose, correct nose asymmetry or deformities and change nostril size.

What Nose Surgery Is Like

Your surgeon will perform your nose job in a hospital or surgery center (possibly on an outpatient basis) under IV sedation or general anesthesia. Depending on what needs to be done, the surgeon will either hide the incisions inside the nose, or perform an open procedure by making an incision across the strip of tissue in between your nostrils. Your surgeon may use cartilage from your nose (or other parts of your body, like your ear) to change your nose structure.

Your surgeon will inject numbing medication during the surgery, which greatly reduces discomfort and makes the rhinoplasty healing process much smoother. You’ll also receive oral pain medications to help with any discomfort right after surgery (which will diminish over the next few days).

Most rhinoplasty incisions heal quickly, and your sutures will be removed after about a week. Some patients may experience bruising for a week or so. You’ll be able to get back to regular activity within approximately two weeks, and most likely back to work within a week. You’ll notice that by the time a month rolls around, most of the swelling is gone.

Who Is a Candidate for Rhinoplasty?

“Patients who are good candidates for rhinoplasty can succinctly and directly identify the physical features that they wish to have improved,” says Brannon Claytor, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon with Atlantic Plastic Surgery Center in Portland, Maine. “Vague descriptions of what they do not like make it difficult to create an operative plan.”

Patients seek nose jobs for various reasons — both medical and aesthetic. Women more commonly go in for rhinoplasty than men, and often, it’s younger women. On the aesthetic side, they may not like their profile or how they look in photos. They feel like their nose is out of proportion — it feels out of place, or not in harmony with their bone structure. It’s not uncommon for middle-aged women to inquire about nose surgery either, especially if it’s something that’s bothered them their entire life. “Having achieved their goals in life, they want to change that one little thing that they have not been able to control or improve through hard work and discipline,” Dr. Claytor says.

One of the most common reasons patients want nose surgery is the “dorsal hump.” A dorsal hump means the bridge of the nose has a humped shape (as opposed to a straight profile). For women, it can make the nose look large and out of proportion. Another common complaint is the “hanging tip” (sometimes called “poor-tip definition,” where the tip of the nose hangs low or is large). A plastic surgeon can raise or refine the nose tip, which changes the entire look of facial features.

On the medical side, rhinoplasty can also fix issues that contribute to breathing problems, such as a deviated septum. With a deviated septum, the cartilage separating your nostrils isn’t properly aligned, which can wind up obstructing your nasal airways. If you have breathing difficulties because of a deviated septum or other nose irregularities, you may be a good candidate for insurance coverage for nose surgery, Claytor says.

Rhinoplasty Risks

The biggest emotional risk for nose surgery is unrealistic expectations, Claytor says. While a new nose shape can certainly improve self confidence and make you feel different about your appearance in the world, it’s important to have a clear objective of what you want from your nose job. In terms of results, keep in mind that if you have very thick and oily skin, it’s going to be harder to achieve chiseled definition.

Physical risks of nose surgery include:

  • Standard risks from anesthesia, and standard surgery risks such as pain bleeding, poor wound healing, infection, blood clots, and cardiac complications
  • Rupture of the smaller surface vessels on your nose
  • Skin numbness, swelling, discoloration and/or irregularities
  • Trouble breathing because of nasal airway changes.
  • Rarely, a hole in the nasal septum can develop (nasal septal perforation). Additional surgery may or may not be able to repair this.
  • The possibility of revisional surgery

If you’re interested in rhinoplasty, the first step is to know exactly what you hope to accomplish and understand exactly what you want the surgeon to correct. Then, find a surgeon you trust (with the right credentials and experience) who answers all of your questions and helps you weigh the risks and benefits of nose surgery.