Rhinoplasty and Soft or Hard Cartilage - How Can You Tell?

In the context of rhinoplasty, do you need to be examined by a surgeon in order to determine if you have soft or hard cartilage? Since it seems that this is a big factor in what sort of results one can get with a nose job, I was wondering if there's a way for people at home to gauge the type of cartilage they have? Thank you!

Doctor Answers 9

Hard or soft cartilage for rhinoplasty

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The plasticity of the cartilages themselves has little relation to the results of the rhinoplasty procedure that is performed. Cartilage in the nose is composed of hyalin cartilage. The ear cartilage is elastin cartilage and is quite stiff and friable. We prefer to always use nasal cartilage for reconstructive purposes when needed. The upper lateral cartilages and the lower lateral cartilages are all adjusted during the rhinoplasty procedure individually, so it really is of no consequence if the cartilages are either hard or soft.  

Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 158 reviews

Firmness of Nasal Cartilage

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The firmness and quality of nasal cartilage will not impact the result, but will influence the techniques used. Firm cartilages are easier to change but an experienced surgeon achieve the desired results.

Richard W. Fleming, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Determining your tip cartilage strength

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While an skilled surgeon who examines many noses over many years will have a better context for making this determination, you can also get a sense of your cartilage strength with a simple test.

  • lightly push on the tip of your nose at its exact highpoint. Make sure to push it towards your face.
  • Look at your columella (the skin separating the nostrils) and see if it bends or simply shifts.
  • Also, try to appreciate if the nasal tip resists this retrodisplacement.

If your tip feels stiff to the tough and the columella bends significantly, then your cartilage is likely strong.

If your tip feels sot and the columella just slides back towards the face, then it is probably soft.

Best of luck

Richard W. Westreich, MD
Manhattan Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 55 reviews

Rhinoplasty expections

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Firmness of cartilage is important, but, as a patient, your most critical analysis is which doctor to choose.  Rhinoplasty is one of the most frequently revised procedures.  Do not worry as much about the technical considerations as the final outcome.  In LA, you can visit dozens of good plastic surgeons at no cost.  So, I would do so and gather as much info as possible.  This will all contribute to your decision making.  I know of no home test to guage the hardness of cartilage and its contribution to your outcome.  Each surgeon is different.  Some use ear cartilage, some septal cartilage, some rib cartilage, and some, none.  You real concern is the final outcome, which is technician dependent.  Good luck in your decisions.

Jason Hess, MD

Jason Hess, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon


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The answer is YES, if you are interest in cosmetic surgery on your nose, you MUST see a surgeon with experience in Rhinoplasty Surgery. Cosmetic nasal surgery involves both aesthetic as well as functional concerns and requirements. I don't think it is in your best interest to "analyze" your soft or hard cartilage at home to determine on your own whether you can have surgery. See a Board Certified Surgeon, I would recommend either a Plastic Surgeon or an ENT surgeon with a specific interest in Rhinoplasty.

Hope this helps!

Dr. C


John Philip Connors III, MD, FACS
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon

Soft or hard cartilage in rhinoplasty.

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This should be of no importance to you the patient. It is the job of an experienced rhinoplasty surgeon to get good results from all different types of noses. Spend time picking the surgeon and the kind of noses he does than the type of cartilage you have,

Toby Mayer, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Nasal analysis is very difficult

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Ask any plastic surgeon and they will tell you that aesthetic rhinoplasty is one of the most difficult procedures performed.  It takes years to master the procedure if it is possible to do this at all.  It takes years to be able to predict what can and cannot be accomplished surgically,  who is a good candidate from a poor one and especially what will be a straightforward surgery as opposed to a difficult one.  Simply put, there is no way to determine at home candidacy for rhinoplasty.

Joseph Campanelli, MD
Portland Facial Plastic Surgeon

The signficance of hard or soft cartilage in rhinoplasty (nose job)

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Generally speaking hardness versus softness is not a factor. The pliability and structural integrity and resistance to deformation are more important considerations when using cartilage for the nose. Cartilage may have different consistency related to its thickness within the nose. Thinner cartilage such as the alar is more pliable than the septum. Outside of the nose, donor sites are typically the rib or ear. Ear cartilage is typically thicker than the nasal cartilage and not as easily shaped. Rib cartilage will tend to calcify with age. Rib cartilage when young is more supple than aged cartilage which tends to be less flexible. Occasionally this is ad advantage because the thicker more rigid cartilage ( and less likely to bend ) can be used for the bridge of the nose where bending is not desireable

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Rhinoplasty is a Highly Complex Surgical Procedure

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There are many factors which make a patient a good or bad candidate for Rhinoplasty; there are numerous structural, aesthetic, and functional aspects to consider in planning this procedure.  Because of these factors, you need to be fully evaluate by an experienced Rhinoplasty Surgeon and discuss your concerns.  Suitability for Rhinoplasty starts with the patient's desire for change, followed by a Surgeon's analysis if such changes are reasonable and/or possible.

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 104 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.