Are Lip Piercings Risky? What You Should Know Before Piercing

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A lip piercing is any piercing done on the lips or around the mouth and adorned with jewelry. Various cultures in Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific have traditionally done lip piercings. You can get a lip piercing at a professional piercing studio. 

The piercer will hold your lip with a surgical clamp and pass a hollow needle through it, replacing the needle with the jewelry of choice.

Are you interested in lip piercings? Then, this article is for you. We cover everything you need to know about lip piercings, whether to get them, what to expect, and how to heal.

History of Lip Piercings

We can trace the culture of lip piercing to cultures in Africa, the Americas, and Papua New Guinea.

The Dogon people of Mali and the Nuba people of the Nile Valley wore lip rings as part of their culture. Women in parts of Malawi and the Mursi tribe wore lip plates as adornment, the plates increasing in size as they got older.

In Mesoamerica, Aztecs and Mayans practiced lip piercings for ritual purposes. The piercings served as a status symbol representing a man’s accomplishment in war. Men pierced their lips when they were younger and stretched the piercings as they brought more prisoners back to the tribe in conquest.

What is the purpose of lip piercings?

In the past, lip piercings used to serve various purposes. These piercings served as a status symbol in Mesoamerican cultures and among the Haida tribe. African tribes like the Mursi tribe still wear lip plates as a form of adornment. 

Nowadays, most people get lip piercings because they like the look. Some people might have other personal, symbolic reasons for getting them, but most do it for the aesthetics.

9 Types of Lip Piercings

There are multiple types of lip piercings. Here are nine different kinds of lip piercings.




The medusa piercing is done through the lip philtrum, the little groove above the upper lip. It’s adorned with a labret stud.


Labret lip piercing


Labrets are piercings located below the bottom lip. They’re adorned with seamless rings, labret studs, and curved barbells.




Madonna piercings are placed on the right side of the face, above the lip. It’s named after the superstar Madonna and placed in the position of her beauty mark.




Monroe piercings are named after the actress Marilyn Monroe. They’re placed in the position of her beauty mark above the lip on the left side of the face.




Ashley piercings go directly through the center of the bottom lip, coming out through the back of the lip.

Snake Bites

Snake bites - lip piercing


Snake bites are double lip piercings done at the two sides of the bottom lip. You can use curved barbells or rings for this piercing.

Angel Bites

Angel bites


Angel bites are double piercings sitting above the upper lip on the two sides of the philtrum. Labret studs are commonly used for this type of piercing.




Smiley piercings pass through the upper lip frenulum. The upper lip frenulum is the small skin connecting the upper lip to the gums. You can adorn this piercing with a captive bead ring, a seamless ring, or a curved barbell.




Frowny piercings are the opposite of smiley piercings. They are located on the lower lip frenulum.

What to Know Before Getting a Lip Piercing

You may be apprehensive before getting a lip piercing, and we understand. After all, it’s in a prominent position, and if it goes wrong, it can affect your appearance. That’s why we’re here to give you some tips to aid the process.

How old do you have to be for a lip piercing?

Most piercing studios in the United States will pierce you as long as you’re above 18-years-old. You’ll need to provide identification proving your age. 

However, if you’re a minor, you may still be able to get a piercing, depending on your state. Some states allow minors to get a lip piercing as long as they have parental consent. If you’re a minor and interested, check your state laws to be sure.

How much do lip piercings cost?

Lip piercings typically cost between $40 and $100. It could be more expensive if it’s a double piercing or a more experienced piercer. Check with the nearest studio to get a feel of the price range.

How to Prepare for a Lip piercing

As you get a lip piercing, keeping these tips in mind will make the process a little easier. Here are some important ones to consider.

Meet a Professional

Check the reviews of famous piercing studios around you to know which piercers have more experience. Target piercers who are APP-certified. (APP is the Association of Professional Piercers and a body specializing in spreading information about safe piercing.) Check the store’s website and read about their shop and methods of operation to know if it’s the right fit for you.

Visit the Store.

You can walk into the closest professional studio to ask questions and look around. Find out what you need before the piercing and what aftercare you’ll adhere to. The piercer will indicate what identification you need to bring before you get pierced and might book an appointment for you.

Get Necessary Supplies

When your piercing is done, you’ll need an antibacterial mouthwash, saline solution, and a brand new toothbrush. These products help to keep the piercing clean during aftercare.

Eat a Big Meal

Eat something you enjoy because it might be a while before you can eat properly again. After the piercing, taking bigger bites of food will be harder, and you’ll have to chew slowly and carefully. Avoid caffeinated drinks, energy drinks, and alcohol. These drinks are blood thinners and will make blood clotting difficult, while caffeine will make you jittery.

Brace for the Pain 

For many people, lip piercings hurt only a bit. You feel an initial pinch as the needle goes in, and the days after, you feel light tenderness. Find out if you can use some numbing method like an ice pack or a cream like EMLA. Calm yourself with slow, deep breaths. The piercing process only lasts a minute or two; it’ll be over before you know it.

Do they numb your lip before piercing?

Most people opt to get a lip piercing without any numbing. For them, the pain is little more than a pinch and bearable. Find out from your piercer if you can use a topical cream or ice to numb the area. 

What type of jewelry is used for lip piercing?

The most popular jewelry for lip piercings is the labret stud. It has a flat plate at the back and an accessory (usually a ball) screwed in front. But depending on the type of piercing, you can use other jewelry options, like captive bead rings, curved barbells, and seamless rings.

What is the normal gauge size for a lip piercing?

The two main gauge sizes used in lip piercings are 14G (1.6 mm) and 16G (1.2 mm). If you want to use bigger jewelry, your piercer will probably use a larger gauge.

Why do lip piercings bleed?

All body piercings bleed. However, bleeding shouldn’t last more than a few days or the first week. If your bleeding has lasted longer than a week and doesn’t show signs of stopping, your piercing might be infected. You can reach out to your piercer or a medical professional for advice.

How bad do lip piercings hurt?

Most people don’t feel much pain getting their lips pierced; usually a 4 or 5 on a 10 scale. Still, pain thresholds differ, so the pain might be less or more for you.

How long does it take for lip piercings to heal?

Lip piercings take about six to eight weeks to heal on average. However, some piercings, like Medusa and Joker bites, can take roughly three months or more to heal.

Do lip piercings close?

If you take out your jewelry, your fresh piercing might close in a few hours. Piercings older than a few months might stay open for a few days, but the speed depends on your body. However, lip piercings tend to leave mild dimpling and darkening, marking the spot where the piercing was.

How to Care for Lip Piercings

Piercings are open wounds and require adequate care to prevent infection. Your piercer will usually provide you with detailed aftercare instructions, but we have these tips to give you an idea of what to expect.

While your piercing is healing, avoid:

  • Touching the piercing with dirty hands. Always wash your hands before you touch your piercing.
  • Kissing or oral sex. You can get a lot of bacteria from another person’s mouth and genitals.
  • Entering pools, saunas, hot tubs, and public baths. Don’t expose your piercing to any liquid possibly containing bacteria.

How do you clean lip piercings?

When you get a piercing, it’s essential to keep it clean. Bacteria entering your fresh piercing can lead to an infection. Here’s how to clean your lip piercing.

  1. Wash your hands. Your hands carry bacteria picked up during daily activities. Before you touch the piercing, wash your hands thoroughly.
  2. Brush your teeth. Start by brushing your teeth to remove food particles in your mouth.
  3. Use a mouthwash. Choose an antimicrobial non-alcoholic mouthwash. Alcohol-based mouthwashes can dry out your mouth and the piercing, delaying healing.
  4. Rinse with saline solution. You can make a homemade saline solution by mixing a quarter teaspoon of salt with a cup of boiling water. Allow it to cool, then gaggle with it for about 30 seconds.
  5. Clean the outside. Use saline solution to wipe the outside of the piercing gently. You can use a tightly spun Q-tip or cotton gauze. Ensure your hands are clean before you begin the process. Soak the cleaning material in the solution and run it around your piercing to remove any crusty bits.

💡 Take Note: Repeat the cleaning process twice or thrice daily to keep your piercing clean.

What can you not eat after lip piercing?

Avoid salty, acidic, spicy, and high-temperature food after your lip piercing. These food items may irritate your piercing, leading to additional swelling and discomfort. For the same reasons, stay away from alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.

Stick to soft foods that require less chewing. Some of these meals (like oatmeal and mashed potatoes) may leave residue in your mouth. Brush your teeth and rinse your mouth to get out the residue after eating.

Also, take smaller bites while you eat. It’s helpful to cut food into little pieces rather than biting down on them. While biting, you can chomp on the labret stud, and that’s painful! Chew slowly to avoid agitating the jewelry and the hole.

Do lip piercings hurt more than nose piercings?

Most people report more pain piercing the nostril than the lips. But this might be different for you. If you’re piercing your septum, it’s probably about the same pain level as a lip piercing.

When can I change my lip piercing?

Ask your piercer when best to change your lip piercing. Typically, you should wait until the hole is fully healed before taking out the piercing. Healing happens in about two to three months, depending on the piercing and your body.

What does an infected lip piercing look like?

Without proper care, your lip piercing can get infected. Here are some signs your piercing might be infected:

  • Redness
  • Excessive pain
  • Occasional throbbing
  • Slight swelling
  • Clear or white discharge 
  • Other signs of illness such as fever, chills, fatigue, headache, and body pain.

If your piercing is infected, seek medical attention. However, if you can’t, try some home remedies.

  • Rinse the piercing site three to four times a day with saline solution.
  • Apply ice or a hot compress to the piercing to reduce pain and swelling
  • Apply a topical antibiotic if advised by a medical professional.
  • Drink oral antibiotics recommended by a medical professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

Though we’ve talked a lot about piercings, you may still have some questions. Don’t worry. We’ll answer them here.

Why do lip piercings smell?

The funky smell around your piercings is a combination of sebum, sweat, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Sebum is the oily substance your skin secretes to keep it lubricated. You can reduce the smell by practicing better hygiene. Brush your teeth, use mouthwash, and clean your piercing.

How can I hide my lip piercing?

Once your piercing has healed, you can hide it by wearing a clear plastic retainer. Retainers keep the hole open but are colorless and hard to see. You can also take out your piercing and cover the hole with a flesh-colored bandage.

💡 Keep in Mind: Only use these methods for hiding fully healed piercings. It’s difficult to hide a fresh piercing. If you can, get a piercing at a time when you won’t have to hide it. That way, it can heal enough before you need to hide it. 

How long after lip piercing can you eat?

You can eat within the same day you get pierced. Though some people advise waiting three hours after your piercing to eat, ask your piercer how long to wait.

Can you drink alcohol after a lip piercing?

Avoid alcohol after lip piercing, at least while the piercing heals. Alcohol can irritate the piercing, bringing discomfort and delaying the healing process. Besides that, alcohol is a blood thinner. If you hit the piercing, you stand to lose a lot of blood because the wound won’t clot as it should.

Can you smoke with a lip piercing?

You can smoke with a lip piercing. But ensure you rinse your mouth with saline solution after smoking.

Who shouldn’t get a lip piercing?

Pregnant women should not get piercings because of the risk of infections. An infection can get into the bloodstream and affect the baby.

Also, reputable piercers won’t pierce you if you have health conditions that affect the healing process. Those conditions include congenital heart disease, haemophilia, and autoimmune disease. You can speak to your healthcare provider for more advice if you have these conditions.

Are lip piercings risky?

Lip piercings can be risky if not done correctly and treated with care. You can lower your risk of getting infections by using a reputable piercer and adhering to proper aftercare.

Add Glam to Your Smile

Though labret piercings are the most common lip piercing type, you can choose any other option. Medusas are bold and prominent, while snake bites allow you to try out various jewelry options. Whatever you choose, lip piercings are sure to give you a more striking smile! 

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