Let’s explore the world of lip piercings. Where they originate, how they’ve developed, what they’re called and how to care for yours! Lips are one of the most popular facial piercings so let’s talk about the anatomy of the lip and what options are available to wear in your lip piercing.
The History of the Lip Piercing
Lip piercings have a fascinating and ancient history. As far back as 6400 B.C we have evidence of lip piercings being worn in Sudan. Probably the most well recognised ancient piercing practice is the lip plate body modification practiced by the Mursi and Surma women of Ethiopia in which large plates of clay or wood are worn in lip. These can then be decorated with carvings and inks. Traditionally, once the girls reach child-bearing age and are ready for marriage, the lip is either pierced or cut by their mother to begin the lip plate process and then slowly stretched up to the desired size. Lip plates are a symbol of great beauty, worn during ceremonies, times of celebration and when presenting their husbands food. As the tradition is passed down orally to each generation, there is no clear documentation as to why this practice began. Some speculate it may be connected to dowry payments, the larger the lip plate, the larger the payment in exchange for marriage. Others believe it is a symbol of fertility and commitment to the tribe. Regardless of it’s origins, images of tribal members adorning large, decorated lip plates still fascinate people all over the world to this day and contribute to tourism throughout Africa from curious travelers.
The Western world embraced lip piercings throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, particularly within the alternative scene. Many metal musicians rocked a labret including David Draiman of Disturbed and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte. The most common is the lower lip piercing, worn either in the centre or towards the edge of the lower lip. A paired set of lower lip piercings is known as “snake bites” and these became very popular in alternative teenage circles throughout the early 2000’s. We’ll talk more about placement names later so don’t worry! And here we are, in 2022 and the love for lip piercings is just as strong. With the resurgence of 90’s nostalgia and pop culture, here at Rogue we have been loving the comeback of this classic piercing. In all it’s placements and with all it’s jewellery choices, there’s never been a better time to embrace the tradition and find a lip piercing that works for you and your lifestyle!
Lip Anatomy and Piercing Names
Let’s look at the anatomy of the lip. It’s important to keep the base anatomy in mind when marking and piercing lips!
The vast majority of lip piercings pass through the Orbicularis Orbis – The ring of muscles that encircle the vermillion zone (the lips themselves). The Orbicularis Orbis is actually made from four seperate quadrants of muscles. Top and bottom, left and right. The fibers are split into ‘deep’ and ‘shallow’ sections. The deep allow for chewing and swallowing, and the shallow are used for speech. The main blood supplies that feed these muscles are the superior and inferior labial arteries and veins.
Because of the vast amount of places on the lips that can be pierced, there are many names that have been coined for each type of piercing. There is a lot of contention surrounding the names of lip piercings and these names can also change culture to culture and country to country. Here is an example of a few.
If you’re ever unsure of the name of the piercing you’d like, don’t worry! You can always show us reference images or simply point to where you want your piercing to be. (Of course we always double check placements with you before the piercing is performed!) The names for lip piercings change so often that it is often tricky to keep up!
No matter what you want to call your lip piercings, we love them all! They’re a great celebration of piercing world history and a fantastic facial adornment. Check out a small selection of the lip piercings we’ve had the pleasure to perform here at Rogue, and some of the beautiful lip jewellery worn by our team.
Oral Piercing Aftercare
Oral piercing aftercare is slightly different to other body piercings as the piercing passes through both a mucous membrane and normal skin. Our usual aftercare advice can be found HERE.
- Keep It Clean! –> We recommend cleaning the outside of your lip piercing twice a day with sterile saline solution. Spray a small amount on, let it soak into and soften any crusties, then gently wipe to remove the crusties with a piece of folded kitchen roll or nonwoven gauze. Dab dry. Clean the inside of your lip piercing a maximum of five times a day with an alcohol-free, chlorhexidine based mouthwash. If you snack, smoke, or have sexual contact using your mouth then rinse afterwards with just clean water.
- Keep It Dry! –> Avoid soaking and submerging the piercing for 4-6 weeks.
- Leave It Alone! –> Do not touch, fiddle, twist or turn the jewellery. Do not rattle the jewellery across your teeth!
Standard Lip Piercings – 12 Weeks
Vertical Labret/Jestrum – 6 months
Cheeks – 18-24 months.
As with any oral piercing, wearing jewelery inside the mouth can pose a risk of damage to your teeth and gums and this can be a particular problem if you’re wearing inappropriate jewellery. Your piercer should always endevaour to ensure that they consider your teeth and gums when discussing placement and provide you with adequate information on the assosiated risks.
The most important way to protect your oral health is to downsize the length of the jewellery once your swelling comes down. This is usually recommended to be done 2-3 weeks after your piercing. Jewellery must be longer initially to allow room for your swelling, but that excess length will cause issues when it comes into contact with your teeth. If you do nothing else with your lip piercings, please have them downsized! Once downsized, lip piercings can experience what is called ‘nesting,’ where the disc sits just inside the soft inner oral tissue. This is completely normal and actually ideal as it again protects your teeth and gums from damage.
So there you have it, a good introduction to lip piercings! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!