Nose reshaping (rhinoplasty)

Your health expert: Mr Paolo Matteucci, Plastic Surgeon
Content editor review by Victoria Goldman, February 2023
Next review due February 2026

Nose reshaping (rhinoplasty) is an operation to change the size or shape of your nose. It’s often called a nose job. You may have nose surgery because you don’t like how your nose looks or want to fix its shape after an injury.

About nose reshaping

You may want to have rhinoplasty surgery to:

  • change the size of your nose
  • change the shape of your nose, including your nostrils
  • change the angle between your nose and top lip
  • open up your nasal airways to help you breathe more easily
  • fix your nose after it’s been bent or broken by an injury or accident

Nose surgery to make your nose smaller is called reduction rhinoplasty. Nose surgery to make your nose bigger is called an augmentation rhinoplasty.

If you want an operation for cosmetic reasons (to change how your nose looks), it’s best to hold off until you’re at least 17 years old. This is when your nose should have stopped growing and developing. Everyone’s nose grows differently, so it’s important to discuss this with your GP.

You may be able to have surgery on the NHS to fix your nose after an injury or if you have problems breathing through your nose. But nose shaping for cosmetic reasons isn’t available on the NHS. You’ll need to have this procedure done privately. See the Getting advice about nose reshaping section below for information on the costs of nose surgery.

This information explains nose reshaping surgery in general. Speak to your surgeon for specific advice and information about any procedure you’re considering.

Getting advice about nose reshaping

It’s important not to rush into the decision to have any cosmetic surgery. Make sure you choose a surgeon who’s registered as a specialist with the General Medical Council. They should have specific training in rhinoplasty techniques.

They may be an ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon, a plastic surgeon or a maxillofacial (jaw and face) surgeon. Check if they’re registered with the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, The British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, The British Society of Rhinoplasty Surgeons or the Facial Plastic Surgery division of ENTUK. Most but not all rhinoplasty surgeons are involved in one or more of these societies.

Research your surgeon

Take time to find out about your surgeon’s experience – ask how many operations they’ve done and how often they perform the surgery. They may be able to show you some photo examples. You may also be able to talk to people they’ve treated.

Know what to expect

Before your operation, it’s vital to discuss what you’re hoping to achieve and what you can realistically expect. Meet the surgeon who’ll be doing your operation, rather than a clinic manager or nurse, so you can discuss all of the pros and cons. Before you go to your appointment, write down what you want from your operation and anything you’re worried about.

Your surgeon will check that a nose reshaping operation is right for you. They’ll take your age, medical history, and current physical and emotional health into account. A good surgeon will ask you to book at least two consultation appointments before you commit to having the operation. And the appointments will be at least a week or two apart.

At your first appointment, explain what you think is wrong with your nose as well as anything you like about it. Tell your surgeon how you want it to look after the operation – photos can help you do this. The surgeon will be clear about what’s achievable for you and the importance of trying to match your expectations to what can be done.

Understand the costs involved

If your surgery isn’t covered by the NHS, you’ll have to pay for it.

The cost can vary from about £3,400 to £6,225. This may depend on where it’s done, what your surgery involves and your surgeon’s expertise. In some cases, especially in revision rhinoplasty or post-traumatic rhinoplasty, the cost may be even higher as the surgery may be more complicated.

The package fee for a cosmetic operation usually covers all costs of your treatment, including:

  • hospital charges
  • surgeon and anaesthetist fees
  • follow-up consultations

The costs will vary from surgeon to surgeon and from clinic to clinic. Your surgeon will explain all the costs involved.

It may be cheaper for you to go abroad for your surgery. But there’s no guarantee that it’s safe or that your surgeon is able to do the job properly. You may end up having to pay again to fix anything you’re unhappy with.

Take your time

Take as much time as you need after your first appointment. You may find it helpful to discuss everything with family or friends. Only go ahead with the operation if you’re happy that your surgeon fully understands what you want and you understand how your nose is likely to look afterwards. Your surgeon may suggest you speak to a clinical psychologist to discuss how the operation may affect you emotionally and socially.

Preparing for nose reshaping

Your surgeon will examine your nose and measure its shape and size before your operation. They’ll take photos and show you how your nose may change after surgery. Some surgeons use computer imaging technology to give you an idea of what your nose will look like after the operation. But your nose afterwards won’t look exactly the same as these computer-generated images. This is because plastic surgery isn’t always easy to predict.

Your surgeon will explain how to get ready for your operation. If you smoke, it’s important to try to stop at least six weeks before your surgery. Smoking increases your risk of getting infections, which can slow down your recovery. It’s best to delay your operation if you have a cough, cold or sore throat. These may also make you more likely to get an infection. If you’re unsure about anything, ask your surgeon for advice.

It’s important to be fully informed so you’re happy to go ahead with your operation. You’ll be asked to sign a consent form.

A nose reshaping operation is usually done under general anaesthesia so you’ll be asleep during the surgery. Your hospital will give you instructions on when to stop eating and drinking before your surgery.

You may be asked to wear elastic compression stockings. These will help prevent blood clots forming in the veins in your leg (DVT). You may need to have an injection of an anti-clotting medicine as well as or instead of wearing compression stockings.

What happens during nose reshaping?

A rhinoplasty operation can take between 90 minutes and three hours.

  • If you’re having a reduction rhinoplasty, your surgeon will be making your nose smaller. They’ll remove or rearrange some of the bone and cartilage to change the shape of your nose.
  • If you’re having augmentation rhinoplasty, your surgeon will make your nose bigger. They may need to use extra bone or cartilage to build up your nose. This is called a graft. The bone and cartilage may be taken from your nose, rib or ear.

During surgery, your doctor may use:

  • a closed rhinoplasty technique
  • an open rhinoplasty technique

The exact operation you have will depend on which part of your nose is being changed.

Closed rhinoplasty

If you have a closed rhinoplasty, your surgeon will carry out the surgery through the inside of your nostrils. You shouldn’t be able to see any scars after your surgery. Your surgeon will usually close the cuts inside your nose with dissolving stitches. You won’t need to have these stitches removed.

A closed rhinoplasty takes less time and generally leads to less swelling than an open rhinoplasty. So, you should recover more quickly. Not everyone can have a closed rhinoplasty – your surgeon will explain if it’s an option for you.

Open rhinoplasty

If you have open rhinoplasty, your surgeon will cut across the strip of skin between your nostrils from the outside. This strip of skin is called the columella. They will then lift up your skin to do the operation.

After the surgery, you may be able to see a small scar on the skin between your nostrils. But this is usually barely noticeable. If you have stitches outside your nose, your surgeon or a nurse will take these out about a week after your operation. Any swelling can take months to settle down completely, especially if it’s affecting the tip of your nose.

Open rhinoplasty is particularly useful if the surgery needs to reshape the tip of your nose.

What to expect afterwards

You’ll need to rest until the effects of the general anaesthetic have worn off.

You may have some discomfort. You'll be offered pain relief if you need it. Your nose will feel blocked (as if you have a cold). You’ll have to breathe through your mouth for the first week or two.

You may have dressings (packs) in each nostril for a day. You may also have splints inside your nostrils and over your nose for around a week to keep the bones in place.

You may be able to go home on the same day or you may need to stay in hospital for a night or two. When you’re ready to go home, ask someone to drive you there and then stay with you for a day or so.

Your nurse will give you some advice about caring for your nose when you go home and may also give you a date for a follow-up appointment.

Recovering from nose reshaping

Your nose may feel a bit tight and sore after your operation and you may have some bruising (especially around your eyes). If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. If you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

Having a general anaesthetic may really take it out of you. You may find you’re not as coordinated as usual or that it’s difficult to think clearly. This should pass within 24 hours. In the meantime, don’t drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign anything important. Always follow your surgeon’s and anaesthetist’s advice.

Speeding up your recovery

There are some things you can do to help speed up your recovery.

  • Keep your head up as much as possible – use an extra pillow or two when you sleep.
  • Try not to do anything that will increase the blood flow in your face – don’t have a hot bath or lift heavy things.
  • Don’t blow your nose in the first week after your operation – only wipe it gently.
  • Try not to sneeze through your mouth – try to sneeze through an open mouth or cough it out instead.
  • Don’t remove any crusts in your nostrils until you see your surgeon to have the splints removed.
  • Stay away from dusty or smoky places until you’ve recovered.

Ask your surgeon when you can wear your glasses after nose surgery. You may need to tape them to your forehead for a while, rather than resting them on the bridge of your nose.

Contact your GP or surgeon if any swelling, redness or pain in your nose gets worse or if you have a high temperature.

Resuming your activities

Everyone recovers from surgery differently. Ask your surgeon about when you can get back to your usual activities.

  • Don’t do any strenuous exercise or contact sports, such as rugby or football for four to six weeks.
  • You’ll probably be able to go for a good walk after three to five days, and go swimming after around three weeks.
  • Don’t have sex for at least two weeks.
  • You may need to take a couple of weeks off work. But some people go back to work sooner than this.
  • It’s best to wait at least two weeks before you fly, but check with your surgeon and your airline.
  • Don’t drive until it feels safe – check with your surgeon and your car insurance.

Side-effects of nose reshaping

Side-effects are the unwanted but mainly temporary effects many people get after having a procedure. Side-effects of nose reshaping surgery include:

  • soreness, swelling and bruising (especially around your eyes) for a week or two
  • difficulty breathing through your nose – this should get better as the swelling goes down
  • light nose bleeds for a day or two
  • sensitivity to the sun – wear strong sunscreen, especially on your nose, and a hat for at least six months after your operation

Complications of nose reshaping

Complications are problems that occur during or after the operation. Every procedure has some risks. The risks are different for every person. Your surgeon will give you specific advice and information.

Possible complications of nose reshaping surgery include:

  • difficulty breathing – this can last for up to three months, but could be permanent
  • stiffness and numbness – this can last a few months but can sometimes be permanent
  • an infection
  • nose bleeds – these may happen shortly after your operation or later, after a week or so
  • damage to the cartilage wall between your nostrils (the septum)
  • a change in your sense of smell or taste
  • scars – these will be red, then purple and then gradually fade, but sometimes your surgeon may recommend an operation to make them less noticeable

It may take several months before your nose completely settles into its new shape. You may not be completely happy with your appearance after the operation. If this happens to you, speak to your surgeon.

If you want to have your nose reshaped purely for cosmetic reasons, you’ll have to pay for it. The cost can vary from about £3,400 to £6,225 but may be more expensive if the surgery is more complicated.

Your surgeon may be able to make your nose straighter. But they won’t be able to guarantee that your nose will be completely straight after surgery.

You may be able to have a rhinoplasty on the NHS if you’ve injured your nose or can’t breathe properly through your nose. If it’s just for cosmetic reasons, you’ll have to pay for it.

Your nose may feel a bit sore after your surgery. But painkillers can help to ease any discomfort.

Everyone recovers differently. It may take several months before your nose completely settles into its new shape. See our Recovering from nose reshaping section for more information.

Your nose may feel blocked at first. So, you’ll have to breathe through your mouth for the first week or two. You also need to treat your nose gently. See our Recovering from nose reshaping section for more information.

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