The labret piercing has become a hugely popular symbol of style for women and men alike over the past several years.
However, when looking to get a new piercing (especially one that is so visible on the face), you’ll want to be certain that you know as much as possible about what you’re getting yourself into.
This article sets out to explain everything you need to know about labret piercings, so sit back and get that bottom lip ready for some beautiful new bling.
What Is A Labret Piercing?
A labret piercing is the perforation of the central point below the lower lip. Although many people believe that a labret piercing is placed on the outer lip itself, the piercing isn’t physically attached to the lip at all.
While many would class it as a lip piercing or an oral piercing, it is technically better to be described as a facial piercing.
In terms of the most common piercing setup, a labret stud is usually made up of three main parts. These include:
The Disk – The flat section placed at the back of the piercing (within the mouth) which is used to secure the rest of the stud from the inside and to stop the stud from slipping out of the lip.
The Bead – The visual part of the stud that appears on the outside of the mouth. Labret beads come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors to perfectly suit the style of the wearer.
The Barbell – The short rod-like middle section that passes through the hole in the lip and connects the disk to the bead.
A Short History
In terms of the history of the labret; although it’s unknown as to when the specific point in time was with regard to first sightings of this piercing, it has been documented that men and women living on the north-west American coast were sporting labret piercing as far back as 3,000 years ago in order to visual display various aspects of their tribal lives such as wealth, social status and rank.
Labret Piercing Variations
While the most common type of labret piercing is the single central perforation beneath the lower lip, there are many variations of this piercing, of which the more popular are:
Vertical Labret Piercing
The vertical labret piercing, unlike the standard labret, actually goes through the lip. Another difference is that the barbell is usually curved, allowing the piercing to sit better with the natural contours of the lip.
While only one bead is visible on the outside of the mouth with a standard labret, both sides of the barbell are visible with the vertical labret – one towards the top of the lower lip and one pointing downwards out of the underside of the lower lip.
One advantage of the vertical labret is that due to the position of the barbell and beads, the likelihood of any of the stud coming into contact (and affecting) the teeth/gums is low (more about labret piercing risks later).
Horizontal Labret Piercing
The horizontal labret piercing, like the vertical labret, has two beads attached to a curved barbell, but the main difference is that the piercing goes straight through that fattest part of the center-lower lip horizontally so that the beads sit next to each other (normally between 1-2cm apart).
As both sides of the piercing have to go through the extra-sensitive lip tissue (as opposed to just one with the vertical labret), this piercing can be slightly more painful during the procedure.
Side Labret Piercing
The side labret piercing is a single bead positioned underneath the lower lip like a standard labret, except it’s placed to either the far left or far right of the mouth instead of toward the center.
Double Labret / Dolphin Bite Piercing
A double labret (or dolphin bite) piercing is when two standard labrets are placed very closely next to each other side-by-side underneath the lower lip. Double labrets can even sit on top of each other vertically.
Double vertical labrets can also be created in the same manner so that two beads are visible side-by-side underneath the lower lip, and two beads are protruding out of the lower lip itself.
Snake bite piercings are when a pair of side labret piercings are present underneath each side of the lower lip, so in total there are 4 beads present (2 on each side).
Spider Bites / Viper Bites
Spider & Viper Bite Piercings are the names given when there is a pair of labret piercings on just one side of the mouth (so it’s basically half of the snake bite piercing mentioned above).
A lowbret piercing is when the skin is perforated much lower down the chin, usually as far as possible until there is no more ‘grab-able’ skin to pierce through toward the bottom of the gum area.
Although not as common as labrets, lowbret piercings are popular amongst body modifiers due to them being in a better position on the face to be stretched to wider diameters.
Lowbret piercings can also be doubled up on, so two lowbrets are sitting between 1-4cm away from each other (depending on personal preference).
Along with all of the variation above, a labret piercing can also look striking when matched with other piercings such as the Medusa, Monroe, and Smiley piercings.
What Happens During A Labret Piercing?
While labret piercings look relatively straightforward and simple, it’s imperative that they’re placed as perfectly as possible to prevent common problems such as enamel erosion and gum damage (among other risks, which are mentioned later in the article).
Therefore, when it comes to piercings, it’s always best to ensure you chose a well-respected and experienced specialist.
This is particularly the case when it comes to facial piercings; you don’t want to be walking around with a botched and off-center stud beneath your lip. For this reason, it’s advisable to do a bit of research for good piercers around the area before just walking into any old shop.
As for the piercing itself, it will usually be done extremely quickly (within a matter of a couple of seconds).
Firstly, the piercer will proceed to clean and disinfect the lower lip area before giving you an antibacterial mouthwash to kill any harmful germs which may be residing behind the area which is about to get pierced.
After this, the piercer will most-likely mark entry and exit points inside and outside the mouth to ensure the needle goes exactly where it’s intended to.
From here, the piercing professional will clamp your lower lip to allow for better steadiness and visibility before quickly but carefully passing a hollow needle through the skin.
Finally, the needle is removed, and the jewelry/stud is inserted and fastened in place by screwing on the bead section – and you’re done!
After the procedure, your piercer will likely give you instructions in the form of an aftercare sheet which will explain how to look after the piercing to ensure it heals as well as possible and ends up looking exactly as intended.
Labret Piercing Pain – How Much Does It Hurt?
The pain during the piercing process isn’t considered too bad when compared to other mouth/oral piercings, although a horizontal/vertical labret will likely hurt somewhat more than a standard labret due to sensitive lip tissue being involved rather than just skin.
However, you must remember that the experience will all be over in a matter of seconds and the whole feeling will generally just feel like a quick and intense pinch.
It’s also worth noting that a small amount of pain and discomfort should also be expected in the coming days once the piercing process has been completed.
This discomfort is down to the body’s natural reaction to skin perforation, which usually causes at least some amount of localized bruising and swelling (which in-turn is usually accompanied by mild pain).
The pain itself usually begins as a throbbing pain for the first day or so, followed by tenderness when the area is touched for the following few days.
Don’t worry if the area bleeds slightly after the procedure as this is relatively common. Taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medications shortly before or after the procedure can also prolong bleeding.
Finally, you must remember that when it comes to pain, everybody is different. What somebody may find hurts a lot, you might find that it doesn’t hurt at all.
For this reason, if a friend has already had a labret piercing and says it hurt a lot, this doesn’t mean your experience is going to be just as bad. Try not to worry about the pain too much.
How Much Does A Labret Piercing Cost?
The cost of a labret piercing can vary greatly depending on several different factors, including the popularity/demand of the piercer, the experience of the piercer, the location (country/city) of the shop and the type of jewelry chosen for the piercing.
Generally, however, the price will usually end up being between $40-$65.
What To Do Before Getting A Labret Piercing
In order to ensure the piercing turns out as successful as possible, it’s important to undertake a few preparatory steps before heading to the shop.
Firstly, the mouth harbors many billions of bacteria, some of which can become harmful if they enter a cut or opening.
Therefore, it’s vital to ensure you focus on maintaining a comprehensive oral hygiene regime in the week leading up to your appointment:
Brush – Brushing your teeth, gum-line and tongue at least twice a day and after any sugary meals/snacks helps to keep the bacteria numbers in the mouth lower, which should help to boost healing properties within the area once the piercing has been completed.
Floss – Ensuring you floss after meals will help to remove bits of food from between your teeth. These small bits of food are typically eaten by bacteria to help them survive and multiply, therefore by removing one of the food sources you’re helping to keep bacteria numbers down.
Wash – Swilling an antibacterial mouthwash around your mouth after brushing helps to finish off killing any bacteria that may have ended up surviving after the brushing. Mouthwash can also reach areas you may have missed with the toothbrush and floss.
Labret Piercing Aftercare & Cleaning Guide
Your labret piercing will only heal as well as your aftercare routine allows it to – therefore you should to ensure you care for your piercing as best as you possibly can until the area has completely healed (which means that the skin inside of the piercing has completely reshaped and regenerated).
While it may seem easy to look after a new piercing while it’s healing, there are a few things you must do to make sure that you minimize the risk of any problems arising, such as infections and excessive scarring.
Do Not Touch Or Play With The Piercing
It is imperative that you keep your hands (and other objects) away from your new piercing as best as possible. Although your hands may look clean, they will still likely harbor many billions of bacteria that may cause harm to your open wound if transferred over to the area via touching.
Just as important is not playing with the piercing by pushing/pulling it with your fingers or moving it around with your tongue – this could disrupt the healing process, increase healing times and potentially even cause more damage to the area.
Clean The Outer-Lip Area Correctly
t’s important not to use harsh skin care products or artificial ingredient on your piercing at all as these can irritate the area and delay healing times. This means that you should keep things like regular soap, gels and alcohol-based products away from the area.
Instead, you should use natural, skin-sensitive ingredients to gently clean the area.
A lukewarm saline or salt solution added to a cotton ball or Q-tip is perfect for cleaning a new labret piercing. However, a cooler/chilled salt solution can instead be used if the area is swollen, as this could help to help reduce some of the swelling.
Make sure to clean the area morning and night, and at any point in the day where you believe the area may have come into contact with germs or bacteria (like touching the area with dirty a dirty hand).
Also, you must ensure sure that when drying the area after cleaning it, you apply an unused and clean paper towel to gently pat the area until no longer wet.
By using a normal, pre-used towel, you are increasing the risk of contracting an infection in the area.
Finally, Try your best not to get any kind of makeup product or lotion/ointment/cream on the area when conducting your daily facial care routine as these can all cause irritation and damage to the delicate area while it’s healing.
A good way to ensure your piercing heals as best as possible is to use a specialized piercing aftercare product, as these generally only contain ingredients that are guaranteed to have a positive effect during the healing stages.
Continue To Brush Your Teeth
Although the area directly behind the labret piercing can become quite swollen and painful for a few days after the procedure, you should still try to ensure that you keep your mouth as free from bacteria as possible, which means to carry on with your daily brushing routine.
A soft bristle brush and a mild unflavored toothpaste can help to prevent any irritation to the site of the piercing.
Use A Salt Solution Mouthwash
Many commercial mouthwash products are either alcohol-based or contain quite harsh and irritable ingredients. For this reason, it’s recommended to wash your mouth out with a warm sea salt solution (not table salt) at least twice a day and after meals.
As well as helping to keep your mouth clean, it also helps to remove any trapped food particles which may have become lodged around the site of the piercing.
Leave The Original Stud In
While the labret is healing, you should ensure that you keep the original stud inserted without changing it or otherwise removing it.
Removing the stud prematurely can not only cause irritation, but it could allow bacteria into the unhealed flesh, potentially causing an infection. Accidentally poking the already-inflamed flesh with the stud can also cause damage and delay healing times.
Avoid Smoking, Drinking Alcohol And Eating Spicy Food
Smoking while your labret is still healing is a definite no. All of those nasty chemicals from the cigarettes will seep into the wound and cause all sorts of damage which can delay healing, cause infection and even cause more serious problems years down the line.
Alcohol should be avoided as it can cause excessive drying-out of the area and also sting badly if it gets into the wound.
Likewise, spicy food can really cause the area to burn if it comes into contact with the piercing, and can also potentially cause other side-effects such as redness, rashes, and itching.
If handling spicy food, remember to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your piercing.
Having a labret piercing will take some getting used to, and you will have to be careful when eating, especially while the piercing is healing and is still very sore/tender.
Make sure that you chew food very slowing to ensure that you don’t accidentally bite down on the piercing as this is definitely not a fun experience, and could potentially cause the surrounding skin to tear.
Avoid Tanning Lotion
Like makeup and other face creams/products; tanning lotions, ointments, and creams can contain quite strong chemicals and can therefore cause irritation to the area while it’s healing. For this reason you should refrain from applying sun protection products to the area while it’s still healing.
If you plan on going outside for prolonged periods in intense sunlight, you may need to ensure the lower half of your face is kept out of direct sunlight as best as possible (sunburn on a new piercing is not fun and can cause permanent scaring if you’re not careful).
With all of the above aftercare tips, you will want to make sure that you keep following them for about 10 days. This is approximately the amount time it sufficiently takes for the skin within the piercing to close up so the possibility of infection becomes much lower, and pain completely subsides.
If your piercing still feels/looks tender after 10 days then continue your care routine until any lingering symptoms finally go away.
If after two weeks the area is still very red, sore, and swollen, you may want to consult your piercing professional to ensure that there aren’t any complications such as an infection.
How Long Does a Labret Piercing Take To Heal?
A labret piercing typically takes about six to ten weeks until it has repaired enough to be considered healed. However, tissue within the tunnel will continue to repair itself for up to 9 months until the whole inner wall has completely toughened up and regenerated.
Therefore it’s still important to take good care of the piercing for much longer than the first few weeks. The longer you can nurture your piercing for, the longer it will hold up and stand the test of time over the coming years and decades.
While the above timescales are rough averages, many factors can dictate how long a labret piercing takes to heal, including how well you clean and look after your new piercing, and how your body responds to trauma.
Everybody is different when it comes to how effectively and quickly they take to fully heal from damage caused to the skin and the tissue beneath, and therefore it’s very possible that you could heal much quicker, or much slower than the above timescales, depending on the capabilities of your body.
Looking after your body by getting adequate rest, exercise, hydration, and nutrition will go a long way to ensuring you’re in the best position to heal your piercing as fast as possible.
Labret Piercing Infections
Although uncommon, labret piercing infections do occur, and while they can be successfully treated if you act fast, they can also cause permanent damage to the area (mainly due to scarring) if you’re not careful and don’t try to treat the infection quick enough.
For this reason, you should ensure that you keep your piercing as clean as possible until it has fully healed, and if you see any severe reactions around the area, you should consult your piercing professional or a doctor as soon as possible to seek further advice.
There are several infection symptoms to keep an eye on, but many of these symptoms can also occur if piercings that are healing perfectly fine, so don’t worry if any of these symptoms develop.
However, if symptoms begin to get worse instead of getting better, or if they still don’t decrease or subside after 7-10 days, you should start to seek medical advice just to be sensibly cautious.
Common infection symptoms include:
Extreme redness that doesn’t disappear or begins to get gradually worse.
Severe swelling that doesn’t disappear or starts to affect talking, eating, and/or drinking
Severe pain (only mild pain should be experienced after a labret piercing)
Severe rashes or reactions appearing around the site of the piercing (including pus leakage, excessive bleeding and crusty scabbing)
Extreme itchiness around the site of the piercing
Labret Piercing Risks
It must be remembered that all forms of body modification carry some element of risk – and this includes labret piercings.
If you’re thinking about getting your labret pierced, you must consider that the below risks, although generally uncommon, can occur (mainly due to the location of the piercing):
Over time, the disk behind the mouth can occasionally come into contact with the teeth and slightly rub against them.
This is not a problem if it happens sporadically, but if rubbing happens often and over a long period of time (many months to years), the disk can begin to chip away at the tooth enamel and cause erosion (dips and divots) within the teeth. This erosion can eventually lead to decay if bacteria works its way into the damaged areas.
For this reason, you should ensure that you check your bottom front teeth regularly to make sure no gradual damage is being caused over time.
Tooth drift frequently affects people who have worn labret piercings for long periods of time with little amounts of time with the stud removed from the piercing.
Tooth drift is the problem caused by the disk behind the lip area constantly pressing against (or between) the front teeth. When this happens over extended periods of time, the disk can, in some instances, push the bottom front teeth slightly out of alignment.
As mentioned, this only occurs in a handful of cases, but if tooth drift does occur due to your labret, then you will likely need braces to realign the affected teeth.
If the labret is placed lower on your chin, it may rub against the lower gum instead of the teeth.
If this happens for too long, it could cause the gum-lines to recede, which in-turn could cause teeth root exposure.
Exposed roots can cause painful sensitivity issues and increase the chances of tooth decay.
In extreme circumstances the disk can eventually wear into the jaw bone, causing more severe issues such as tooth loosening.
For this reason, you should check your gum health often and see a dentist frequently.
Sometimes, especially if the piercer is inexperienced and inserts a piece of jewelry that is too small, embedding can occur.
Embedding is the term used when the disk or bead tightens against the lip and can in some cases actually be engulfed into the lip itself.
While all labret piercings will generally cause small amounts of swelling initially; sometimes the swelling can be more severe, causing the lip to grow in size and press against each component of the piercing.
This is why it’s important for the piercer to initially use jewelry that is slightly too big to ensure that it has enough room to remain loose in the case of excessive swelling.
If embedding does occur in a new piercing, it’s best to go back to the piercer to get the labret removed and to get a bigger piece of jewelry put in, and this should fix the problem.
While embedding can cause extra swelling and soreness to the lip area, any extra damage done will likely only be temporary.
Labret Piercing Jewelry
Like all piercings, there is a variety of studs and jewelry available for your labret piercing any many different shapes and sizes.
Labret appearance and style possibilities are almost endless, with balls, rings, spikes, and chains all available to purchase to ensure your piercing looks unique to your personal piercing style.
When searching for labret jewelry, you will likely come across items that have multiple sizings. A specific size can be chosen depending on how you want to wear your specific piercing, but generally a 16 gauge is a good standard size/width for this specific piercing and facial area.
If you are unsure about jewelry sizes, it’s always best to consult a professional face-to-face for their opinion on your particular piercing.
All variations of labret piercings can look hugely impressive if done correctly and matched with a piece of jewelry that suits your style and personality.
As long as you care for your labret piercing throughout the healing stages and try to avoid the risk factors mentioned above, you should have a beautiful piece of facial art for years to come.