Thinking of getting a lip piercing? Go for it! But before you step into the piercing shop, you’ll need to do a little soul-searching. Ask yourself the following questions: What type of lip piercing do you want? Are you ready to commit to the aftercare process? And how exactly will you handle looking so good? Our Ultimate Guide to Lip Piercings is here to help you find the answers to all your lip piercing questions.
The 16 Types of Lip Piercings
Yep, 16… and counting. Piercing enthusiasts are always coming up with new piercings sites or configurations. So, it’s only a matter of time before another one becomes popular enough to get its own name. But for now, these are the 16 types of lip piercings you can ask for at your piercing shop.
TYPES OF UPPER LIP PIERCINGS
Marilyn Monroe’s iconic beauty mark is the inspiration for the name and placement of one of the most popular types of lip piercings: the Monroe. This is a horizontal piercing (i.e., the needle is parallel to the ground) and is placed on the left side of the face, just like Marilyn’s beauty mark. Labret studs are usually the jewelry of choice for Monroe piercings.
Prefer for your “Monroe” to be on the right side of your face? Ask for a Madonna instead. Unlike Marilyn’s, Madonna’s famous beauty mark sat on the right side of her upper lip – hence the inspo for the piercing name.
Medusa piercings sit in the vertical groove in the center of the middle of the upper lip, or, more scientifically, the philtrum. As with Monroes and Madonnas, Medusa piercings are made horizontally and are most commonly adorned with a labret stud.
A Medusa, but make it vertical. The Jestrum piercing starts where a typical Medusa piercing would, right above the center of the upper lip. But instead of exiting horizontally through the back of the upper lip, the needle exits vertically through the actual lip. The top ball of the barbell will sit in the philtrum, and the lower ball will sit on the upper lip itself.
TYPES OF LOWER LIP PIERCINGS
The classic labret piercing is a horizontal piercing that sits just below the center of the lower lip. Unsurprisingly, labret studs are the most popular jewelry for labret piercings, but captive rings, circular barbells, and lip loop labrets can be worn too.
A labret… but to the side. You get it. Side labrets sit on the right or left side of the lower lip and are common on their own or as part of a “bites” configuration.
Unlike classic labrets, which are pierced horizontally, vertical labrets are pierced, well… vertically. Not for the faint of heart, vertical labrets actually go through the lower lip itself, meaning they can be somewhat more painful than other lip piercings. But the result is worth it for those after a bold, noticeable piercing. The top ball of the jewelry will sit front and center on the lower lip itself, and the bottom ball will sit just below the lower lip.
The Ashley is similar to the vertical labret with one major difference – the needle exits through the back of the lower lip and into the mouth instead of exiting beneath the lower lip. The result is striking – a single ball sitting centrally on the lower lip itself.
Lowbrets (i.e., low labrets) are a type of labret piercing that are placed farther beneath the lower lip than most lip piercings. Instead of sitting just beneath the lower lip, they often appear to sit right above the chin.
TYPES OF LIP PIERCING CONFIGURATIONS
Can’t choose between a Monroe and a Madonna? Get both. Angel bites are a pair of upper lip piercings sitting on the left and right sides of the philtrum.
Combine a Medusa with a classic labret piercing, and you have cyber bites. This vertical configuration is great for drawing attention to the center of your face.
Snake bites are a pair of side labrets, one on the right and one on the left side of the lower lip. This is one of the most popular lip piercing configurations, probably thanks to its versatility. You can wear labret studs, captive rings, circular barbells, or lip loop labrets in snake bites piercings, giving you a wide range of looks to choose from.
Spider bites are also a pair of side labrets, but unlike snake bites, both piercings sit close together on one side of the lower lip. As you can probably guess, spider bites get their name because they mimic a spider’s small, narrow bite.
Named for the narrow mouth of a dolphin; dolphin bites are a pair of labrets that sit close together under the center of the lower lip.
Canine bites get their name from their placement – four piercings, each in the approximate location of your canine teeth. In other words, a Monroe and Madonna on top and two side labrets on the bottom. You can either wear labret studs in all four piercings or use labret studs in the upper two and hoops or circular barbells in the lower two.
Like canine bites, shark bites are another 4-piercing configuration, but this time, they’re all on the bottom. Two side labrets are placed close together on both sides of the lower lip for a total of four piercings. They get their name from the layered look that mimics a shark’s layered rows of teeth.
Unlike most lip piercings, dahlia piercings (sometimes called dahlia bites or joker bites) can’t be categorized as upper or lower lip piercings. Instead, these piercings sit right next to each corner of the mouth, mimicking the Joker’s famous scars or the slash marks of the infamous Black Dahlia murder.
Get more details on each type of lip piercing in our guide to Lip Piercing Options.
Large Gauge Lip Piercing
Most lip piercings are done at 16g-14g. If you want to go bigger, you’ve got a few options. Once your initial piercing has healed (and we mean fully healed), you can start stretching it. The gentlest way to go is the wrapping method. Instead of sizing up a full gauge at a time, you’ll remove your stud, wrap it in a layer of stretching tape, reinsert it, and let it heal for a week. Rinse and repeat until you’ve reached your desired gauge.
Your next option is to simply move up a full gauge size at a time. For best results, stay patient and take the healing and stretching process slow. Each time you move up a gauge, allow the piercing to heal for one and a half times the amount of time it took for your initial piercing to heal before moving up to your next size.
Lip Piercing vs. Punching
If patience isn’t your thing; you can start out at a larger gauge… but you might not want to in the long run. You can ask your piercering to use a larger gauge needle for the initial piercing. Just be sure to go to someone with experience using larger gauge needles, and be prepared for the healing process to take a bit longer.
Your most extreme option? Go for a very large gauge from the start by opting for a dermal punch instead of a needle. Instant gratification does come with drawbacks, though. Getting pierced with a large gauge needle is always a superior option to punching because needles part the skin, whereas punches permanently remove a circle of flesh. If you decide you don’t like the look of such large gauge jewelry in your lip piercing, it will be easier for you to scale down to a smaller size if you had your lip pierced with a large gauge needle instead of having it punched. Those who opt for the dermal punch method are also more likely to end up with significant scarring if they retire a lip piercing.
Which lip ring is right for me?
Though styles of lip rings are endless, there are really only three main categories of lip piercing jewelry. There’s no “right” style of lip ring for everyone, but there are some things to consider when choosing your jewelry. First is your piercing type and whether your jewelry could affect your talking and chewing. For some piercings, labret studs are the only choice, while others are more versatile and can accommodate different types of jewelry.
Labret studs are the most common type of lip ring jewelry since they work with most types of lip piercing and are usually more comfortable than larger jewelry. But common doesn’t have to mean basic. Our selection of labret studs has a ton of unique pieces so you can match your jewelry to your personal aesthetic.
Captive Bead Rings
CBRs are a great option for most lower lip piercings.
Circular barbells are the way to go for vertical labret piercing and Jestrum piercings. They’re also popular in lower lip piercings. Segment clickers, a variation of circular barbells that clicks closed to form a complete circle, are a popular choice for lower lip piercings.
Do lip piercings hurt?
Well…sure. Getting pierced with a needle will always involve some level of pain, especially near a sensitive area like the lips. But overall, most people with lip piercings say it wasn’t so bad. Your experience will depend on your own pain tolerance and what type of lip piercing you’re getting. Piercings that go through the lip itself, like Jetsrums and vertical labrets, will be more painful.
How long does it take a lip piercing to heal?
Most lip piercings take between 6 and 8 weeks to fully heal, but Dahlia bites, Monroe piercings, and Medusa piercings can take 3 months or more to heal. Healing times vary by person, depending on how diligent you are with your lip piercing care and whether or not you experience any lip piercing problems.
Signs of a healing lip piercing
Some pain, swelling, and small amounts of bleeding are all normal in the early days. As time goes on, a reduction in all of these symptoms is a good sign that your piercing is healing well. Small amounts of clear fluid that sometimes dries to a crust is also normal. This is lymph fluid, and it’s your body’s way of delivering extra white blood cells to the area to speed healing. Unlike pus, it’s not a sign of infection.
Lip piercing problems
Stick with your aftercare, and most lip piercings will heal just fine. Problems can and do come up, though, and these are some of the most common:
Embedded Lip Piercing
Embedding occurs when your skin begins to grow around your jewelry, and if left unchecked, it can lead to infection and jewelry that is difficult and painful to remove. Stopping lip rings from embedding is usually fairly simple. If you notice that your lip ring appears to “sink” into the surrounding skin more than it should, attempt to wiggle it slightly and contact your piercer. You may need to swap out your jewelry for a larger barbell as embedding is sometimes caused by jewelry that is too small.
When your body rejects a piercing, the surrounding tissues will begin slowly migrating the jewelry toward the surface of the skin, sometimes pushing it out altogether. If you notice that your lip ring appears “pushed out” or that you can see more of it than you could before, your body might be rejecting the piercing. Get in touch with your piercer for advice. In most cases, it’s best to take it out before it rejects completely and causes scarring.
Speaking of scarring, scar tissue is always a risk with any piercing. To minimize your risk, use a reputable piercer, avoid playing with your jewelry before it’s healed, and keep up with aftercare to avoid infection.
Some swelling is normal, especially in the first few days after getting pierced. But if your swelling continues beyond this point without improving, you should get in touch with your piercer or doctor. Persistent swelling or swelling that extends far beyond the piercing site can be signs of infection or irritation. If you have a metal sensitivity, you may need to swap your jewelry for a biocompatible metal like titanium or niobium to avoid swelling.
Piercing bumps are common with any type of piercing and aren’t cause for alarm. These small bumps are the result of inflammation as your body heals the new piercing. Thankfully, they usually aren’t painful and go away on their own as healing progresses.
How to clean a lip piercing
Ask any piercer: aftercare is everything. Here’s what you should do to speed healing and keep your piercing clean:
- Spray the external side of your lip piercing 3-6 times a day with a saline-based rinse like Recovery Saline Wash.
- If your lip piercing has an oral side, rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free sea salt mouthwash 3-6 times per day, particularly after eating.
- Do two 5-minute sea salt solution soaks every day while your lip piercing is healing. (Soak a cotton ball with sea salt solution, hold it against your piercing for 30 seconds or so, throw it away, and apply a freshly-soaked cotton ball. Repeat until you’ve saturated the external side of your piercing for a full 5 minutes. Next, swish a mouthful of sea salt mouthwash for aboutaround for 30-60 seconds, spit, and repeat until you’ve rinsed your mouth for around 5 minutes total.)
- Protect your lip piercing from trauma. Brush your teeth and floss gently to avoid banging or snagging your lip ring, and don’t play with your jewelry.
- While adjusting to having a lip ring, chew food slowly and carefully. Eat soft foods like oatmeal, Jell-O, macaroni and cheese, soup, and yogurt during the first 1–-2 weeks after getting pierced.
- Carefully remove crusties (dried lymph) by saturating them with piercing aftercare spray and gently wiping them away with a clean tissue.
- If the skin around the outside of your lip piercing becomes dry, moisturize with tea tree oil-enhanced sea salt solution rather than using creams, oils, or balms that could clog your fistula, trap in bacteria and make you susceptible to infection.
And what you don’t do is just as important. Here’s what to avoid while your piercing heals:
- Don’t twist, turn or slide your jewelry to loosen crusties. You could push bacteria into your fistula and trigger an infection to develop.
- Don’t touch your jewelry at all unless you really need to, and then only with freshly-washed hands.
- Don’t use alcohol-based mouthwash at all while your lip piercing heals. Alcohol is drying, and it can delay the lip-piercing healing process.
- Don’t French kiss anyone, engage in oral sex, share food or drinks with other people, chew on foreign objects like pen caps, or soak/swim in communal water. All of these things can irritate your piercing and expose it to harmful bacteria that could cause a lip piercing infection.
For even more details and tips, see our full Lip Piercing Care Guide.
Changing lip piercing from stud to ring
Changing your lip piercing for the first time can be challenging, but you’ll get the hang of it. First, make sure your piercing is truly, completely, and 100% healed before attempting to swap jewelry. If it’s not, you’re just setting yourself up for pain and frustration.
Start with freshly cleaned hands. Hold the barbell in place with one hand while you unscrew the ball with the other, and gently guide the barbell through the piercing until it’s out. Next, open your ring, guide one end all the way through the piercing and close the ring (either with a captive bead or by clicking it together). We recommend choosing internally threaded rings to avoid scraping your piercing. And remember, you can always stop by your piercing shop and ask your piercer to confirm that the piercing has healed or even ask them to change your jewelry for you.
Get Everything You Need for Your Lip Piercing
From aftercare products to the best selection of lip rings you’ll find online, Painful Pleasures has everything you need to care for and enjoy your lip piercing. Shop our
Have more questions about getting a lip piercing? Head over to our Lip Piercing FAQ page for answ
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