The medusa piercing (or philtrum) has seen massive increases in popularity in recent times for both men and women – and it’s not surprising why.
A well-executed philtrum piercing can look striking, especially when matched up with some bold and inventive jewelry.
However – as awesome as they are, medusa piercings still need to be well respected during their healing stages, and you must ensure you know as much as possible about them before taking the dive.
Taking good care helps to ensure that everything turns out as it should, and your piercing ends up looking as perfect as you initially imaged.
This article has been written to explain as much as possible about everything you’re going to need to know about these beautiful piercings.
What Is A Medusa Piercing?
The medusa piercing is an increasingly popular piercing which is placed centrally below the septum of the nose and above the upper lip.
As the vertical groove between the base of the nose and the top of the upper lip is anatomically known as the philtrum, this piercing is also known as a philtrum piercing.
The piercing shouldn’t be mistaken for the Monroe piercing, which is situated over the left-side of the upper lip, instead of centrally.
In terms of how a medusa piercing is usually set up, a labret stud is commonly used as the jewelry type of choice. The stud is generally made up of three separate sections, including:
The Bead – This is the part of the stud which is visible on the outside of the skin and which comes available in many hundreds of different styles and colors. Most of your medusa piercing jewelry choices will be primarily based on how the bead looks.
The Barbell – This is the long middle section of the stud which connects the bead at the front to the disk at the back.
The Disk – The disk is the final section of the stud which the barbell is attached to. The disk helps to keep the rest of the stud in place and stops the bead and barbell from slipping out.
Double Medusa Piercing
The double medusa piercing involves piercing the philtrum area twice so that a combination of different stud styles can be used with each other.
Vertical Medusa Piercing / Jestrum Piercing
The jestrum piercing involves perforating the philtrum area vertically so the barbel protrudes out of the skin twice, allowing two studs to sit on top of each other.
This piercing is different to the double medusa above due to this being only a single piercing, and not two separate ones.
What Happens During A Medusa Piercing?
While a medusa piercing may look relatively straightforward, it’s imperative that the piercing is placed perfectly centered within the philtrum area, as any slight deviations either left, right, up or down can cause the piercing to look symmetrically out of place or otherwise wonky.
Not only this but if the piercing is placed incorrectly it could increase the risk of various issues occurring such as gum recession and dental erosion.
For these reasons, you should ensure that the piercer you choose is both professional and experienced with not only piercings in general but with medusa piercings specifically.
Once at the studio, your piercer will usually start off by putting on a clean pair of latex gloves and cleaning the outer area of skin using an antibacterial substance such as alcohol. They will also likely give you an antiseptic oral solution to rinse the inside of your mouth out with before starting with the piercing.
From here the piercer will probably use a pen to mark the exact entry point in which the needle will go through and where the jewellery will eventually sit.
While holding the upper lip (usually with a clamp), your piercer will proceed to use a very thin and sharp hollow needle to penetrate the philtrum from the inside-out, being extremely careful as to ensure the needle goes right through the marked spot on the outer layer of skin.
Once the needle has fully penetrated the skin, a special instrument will be used to help pass the jewelry through the new hole so the piercer can then set it in place. This initial barbell will generally stay inserted until healing has finished.
Medusa Piercing Pain – How Much Does It Hurt?
While it’s normal to expect at least a couple of seconds of sharp pain during the initial procedure, the medusa piercing isn’t considered to be any more painful than other conventional lip/facial piercings.
However, several layers of skin and tissue will be perforated during the procedure, so as mentioned, you will very likely feel a few moment of sharp pain, but this should subside very quickly once the needle has fully penetrated the area.
It’s also worth remembering that no two people are the same when it comes to pain and pain tolerance.
Everybody perceives pain differently from one another, and this means that while one person may find this specific procedure extremely painful, another person may find it absolutely fine and not painful at all.
Therefore, don’t worry if somebody tells you than medusa piercings are unbearable – it doesn’t mean that you’ll have the same experience.
Once the initial piercing has been completed, you are likely to experience some minor pain and discomfort throughout the next several days as the area begins working to heal itself.
You may experience a dull throbbing pain for the first day or two, but this should disperse quite quickly thereafter.
Along with the pain, you may experience some slight localized bruising, swelling and tenderness, however this is considered completely normal and is your body’s natural reaction to healing a mild trauma such as a skin wound.
Finally, don’t be worried if the area bleeds slightly during or shortly after the procedure, as again, this is completely normal and the bleeding should completely stop a day or two afterwards (usually much sooner).
How Much Does A Medusa Piercing Cost?
As with any other form of piercing or body modification, philtrum piercing prices can vary widely.
Depending on various factors such as piercer experience and studio location, the average cost of a medusa piercing generally tends to be set at between $40 – $80.
What To Do Before Getting A Medusa Piercing
In order for the piercing to turn out as successfully as possible, and to help ensure that risks such possible infections are minimized, it’s important to undertake a few principal steps before walking into the shop for your piercing.
The most crucial part of your preparation will be to ensure that the area around where your future piercing will go is kept as clean as it can possibly be.
Try to carry out the below steps in the week leading up to your piercing appointment to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as it possibly can.
Brush Your Teeth – Your teeth and gums harbor many millions of bacteria, all of which can potentially cause problems such as infection if they were to enter a new cut or opening within the skin.
For this reason, you should remember to brush your teeth at least twice a day, and at any other point after consuming sugary snacks or drinks.
This brushing should help to keep bacteria numbers around the area lower; decreasing the risk of possible issues arising.
Remember to give your tongue a good brush too, as you tongue can contain huge amounts of germs and bacteria.
Floss – Brushing your teeth will not completely remove all traces of bacteria from the hard to reach places between your teeth and gums, and therefore flossing often can help towards keeping those nasty bacteria away
Use Mouthwash – Finally, using a good mouthwash can do wonders for your oral hygiene.
Rinsing your mouth out with an antibacterial solution after finishing the rest of your cleaning routine can help to wash away all of the food particles and bacteria that you’ve just dislodged by brushing and flossing.
How Long Does a Medusa Piercing Take To Heal?
While the healing process will always be different for everybody depending on their general health, immune system, and aftercare process, all medusa piercings should generally take between 6-12 weeks to completely heal, although for most people it should take closer to 6 weeks as long as correct aftercare and cleaning procedures have been correctly applied.
Although the pain and swelling can disperse after only a few days, and while the outside of a piercing can look as though it has sufficiently healed rather quickly, it’s worth noting that the tissue deep inside the piercing hole will take considerably longer to fully heal and close up, and therefore you should still continue to take good care of your piercing right up until that 6 week mark (at the very least).
Medusa Piercing Aftercare Guide
While the healing in itself should be relatively straight forward, there are a few things to know about and a few situations to be wary of.
As the first week of healing is always the most important, you’ll want to ensure that you take extra good care during this period.
During this initial week, you’ll want to eat and drink carefully to ensure the area doesn’t get irritated as your lips/the insides of your mouth move around.
Along with taking care when eating and drinking, it’s highly recommended that you completely avoid smoking during the first week (at least) as all of the harsh chemical can seep into the wound and cause further damage and inadequate/delayed healing.
Along with smoking, alcohol consumption should also be avoided during the early stages of medusa piercing aftercare as it can cause the wound to not only dry out, but the strength of the alcohol can also cause damage to the healing tissue inside of the wound.
Swimming is also an activity that should not be undertaken for at least a couple of weeks while the area continues to heal.
Swimming in a chlorinated pool can cause the wound to dry out and alternatively swimming in an untreated (unchlorinated) body of water can open your new wound to a whole host of nasty infection-causing bacteria.
Finally, it’s recommended that all kissing is avoided for at least a week to ensure that no bacteria is transferred over from somebody else’s lips/mouth into your open wound.
After the first week or two have passed (hopefully without a hitch), the most vital and important moments in the life of your piercing are out of the way can you can now focus on keeping the area clean for the rest of the healing process.
Medusa Piercing Swelling
Although it won’t happen in all cases, swelling that appears around a medusa piercing a day or two after the procedure is relatively common.
The amount of swelling that may occur will also depend on various factors such as how your body usually reacts to trauma.
While you may be lucky and produce no swelling at all; your whole upper lip may bloat out if you’re especially unfortunate.
However, most cases of swelling will simply result in a small, slightly raised bump around the central upper lip area (likely inside and outside), which will slowly disperse over the next week.
In order to accommodate for any swelling that may potentially occur, most good piercing professionals will use a longer barbell for the initial jewelry.
This use of a longer barbell is to make sure that if there is any significant swelling, there is enough depth along the jewelry to ensure the stud doesn’t get pulled into the inflamed skin and become lodged, which may cause injury or scarring.
If your piercing becomes particularly swollen, there are a few things that can be done in an attempt to reduce the swelling:
Apply a cold compress to the outside of your upper lip
Suck on a clean ice cube to soothe the inner lip
Keep your head elevated above your heart as much as possible for a few days to help drain fluid down and away from the area
Be extra-careful with the piercing and resist the urge to prod and poke the area as this could make the swelling worse and increase the risk of getting an infection
Drink and eat slowly and carefully for the first week with your new piercing
Cleaning A Medusa Piercing
A quick guide to cleaning a new piercing:
As mentioned in the section above, properly cleaning your new philtrum piercing regularly is important to promote fast and healthy healing and to prevent nasty infections can permanently scar and disfigure a piercing if not treated quickly.
As the piercing wound is open on both the outside and the inside of the mouth, there is a unique cleaning technique for both sides. However, there is one thing that should always be done before starting both cleaning routine, and that is to ensure that your hands have always been washed well before touching your new piercing wound.
While the wound may be sore to touch for several days or even up to a week, it’s still important that you attempt to clean the area as best you can.
Cleaning The Outside
When cleaning the outside of you philtrum piercing, you should try to be as gentle and delicate as possible.
If there is any dry/sticky crust or blood clinging to the outside of the wound then you should never attempt to just pick it off; instead, you should soak a cotton ball in warm water before gently dabbing it around the area in an effort to rub the crust away.
Once the area around the wound is clear, you should apply a small amount of cleaning solution (such as a saline solution) to the jewelry and wound.
You should also allow the cleaning solution to soak into the area for 30-60 seconds to ensure the wound is sterilized properly.
Finally, you should finish cleaning the outside of the wound by gently blotting it with more warm water to ensure that all cleaning solution has been thoroughly rinsed away.
To finish off the cleaning process, dab the area dry with a clean paper towel (avoid using fabric/cotton towels as these can transfer bacteria to the area).
Try your hardest to not get any makeup products or other lotions/ointments/creams on the area when conducting your daily facial makeup/cleansing routine.
All of these products can cause irritation and damage to the already very delicate area during the healing stages.
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.
Cleaning The Inside
To ensure the inside of the philtrum piercing is kept clean, you should make sure that you wash your mouth out with alcohol-free mouthwash after every meal for 30-60 seconds.
This swilling not only helps to ensure the area is kept disinfected, but it also helps to dislodge any food that may have been caught inside the hole.
If you’d like an alternative to mouthwash, a non-iodized sea salt blend can be used, or even a saline solution.
If you’re eating away from home and have none of the above cleaning solutions at hand, you should try to swill your mouth with clean water straight after your meal before ensuring that you try to clean the inside of your mouth properly as soon as you’re next able to.
Finally, it’s recommended that you use a brand new toothbrush after getting a medusa piercing to minimize the transferring of bacteria to the wound as best as possible.
You should continue to clean the inside and outside of the piercing twice daily (morning & night) until the area has completely finished healing.
Medusa Piercing Healing – What NOT To Do
As previously mentioned, it is imperative that you help your philtrum piercing heal as best as you possibly can to avoid any potential complications, and this means there are several things you definitely shouldn’t do while the piercing continues to heal, including:
Using alcohol to clean your piercing – Alcohol is an incredibly strong substance and will be very harsh on your delicate healing skin and will likely dry the area out far too much.
Drinking alcohol – For the same reason as above. Once inside your mouth, the alcohol could potentially cause damage to the piercing area and delay healing times.
Covering the piercing in petroleum-based products – Your skin wound needs to breathe and take in fresh air in order to heal quickly, and this won’t be possible if you apply a layer of vaseline or petroleum-based lip balm over the area.
Touching your piercing with dirty/unwashed hands – For the obvious reason of preventing the spread of harmful germs and bacteria to the site of the wound.
Engaging in oral sex or french kissing – Allowing other people’s bodily fluids (like saliva) to come into contact with your wound highly increases the risk of contracting an infectious disease. Try to avoid any related activities until both sides of the wound have completely closed up.
Exposing the wound to other harsh products and chemical – This includes, but is not limited to: makeup/cosmetics, scented/colored lotions, perfumes, body sprays and hair product.
Submerging the wound in a body of water – Most bodies of water (swimming pools, lakes, baths, and jacuzzis etc.) harbor many billions of harmful bacteria which could severely infect your new piercing if you’re not careful.
Try to keep dirty water away from your medusa piercing as best as possible, and always clean the area well if the wound gets splashed/submerged.
Smoking, chewing or otherwise ingesting any form of tobacco product – Tobacco and other related products can cause endless problems to a healing mouth wound, and you should stay away from them throughout the whole healing process.
Eating very hot or spicy foods – Hot foods/beverages could potentially burn and further damage a healing mouth wound while spicy ingredients can cause irritation and inflammation to the area.
Infected Medusa Piercings
While Medusa piercing infections are quite uncommon, they can occur during the healing stages, especially if the piercing hasn’t been looked after as well as it should have.
If you believe your wound may have become infected, then you should act fast to get the infection treated by a medical professional.
If the infection is particularly severe, it can not only cause permanent damage to the skin surrounding the piercing, but it can also affect your general health.
Listed below are the most common symptoms of an infected medusa piercing, but please be aware that you will likely see at least a couple of these symptoms throughout the first few days of healing, so don’t start to worry prematurely, things like slight redness, pain, and swelling are completely normal.
As long as the symptoms are getting better rather than worse over a period of around 5-10 days, then it’s unlikely that there’s an infection present, and the wound is probably healing exactly how it should be.
Common symptoms of an infection include:
Extreme redness that doesn’t clear or begins to get gradually worse.
Severe swelling that doesn’t disperse or starts to affect talking, eating, and drinking
Severe pain (only mild pain should be experienced after a medusa piercing)
Severe rashes or reactions that appear around the site of the wound (including excessive bleeding, pus/oozing, and crusty scabbing)
Extreme itchiness around the area of the piercing
Medusa Piercing Risks
It must be known that all piercing variations come with an element of risk, and this includes medusa piercings. It’s therefore advised that you study the risks associated with philtrum piercings as much as you can before entering a studio in order to negate any risks as best as possible.
The most common risks associated with medusa piercings are:
Infection – As mentioned above, infections are most likely to happens during the initial healing stages and can usually be prevented by incorporating good care and hygiene practices.
Tooth Erosion – This can sometimes happen when the jewelry disk inside the mouth comes into frequent contact with the upper front teeth. Over time, this rubbing can wear down the enamel and create small pits and divots within the teeth, which will also likely increase the risk of tooth decay.
Gum Recession – Like tooth erosion, except gum recession happens when the disk rubs against the gums instead of the teeth, causing the gums to wear down and recede.
Scarring – Poor healing around the wound area or accidental damage to the piercing site can lead to permanent skin damage in the form of scarring. The risk of medusa piercing scarring can be minimized by caring for the wound properly during healing and being careful not to have the piercing pulled on, ripped out, or otherwise damaged throughout its lifetime.
Medusa Piercing Jewelry
Like all piercing variations, there is a huge selection of medusa jewelry available for every style imaginable, with all shapes, sizes, materials, and colors instantly available at most jewelry shops worldwide.
While the most common type of jewelry by far is the standard labret stud, there are dozens of other types available, such as balls, spikes, rings, and chains, among others; the world is your oyster!
When searching for your piercing jewelry, you’ll likely come across a range of sizes and may be unsure which size to choose. As a rough guide, most medusa piercings will usually be done in either a 16 gauge or an 18 gauge, therefore, use these sizes as a starting point when picking out your new jewelry.
If you’re still unsure about the correct size and don’t want to make the wrong decision, it’s always best to consult a piercing professional so they can give you a face-to-face opinion on what sizes and jewelry types will best suit your own specific piercing.