What to Know About A Vertical Lip Piercing

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on July 23, 2023
4 min read

A vertical lip piercing, also known as a vertical labret, is done by inserting jewelry through the middle of your lower lip. Although it is a popular practice, a vertical lip piercing can come with some unpleasant effects.

Before you get one, it is important to know that a lip piercing may hurt more than any other piercing, since the tissue around your mouth is sensitive and dense with nerve endings. You should never get a piercing from a person who is not professionally qualified.

The way your piercing is inserted and how you take care of it determine whether your piercing heals well or doesn’t. If it doesn’t, complications may develop and can last for months after the procedure.

The vertical labret piercing has two puncture points that go directly through your lower lip. The piercing needle is inserted vertically through your bottom lip and exits through the skin below the lip. This piercing can be more painful compared to other types. However, the pain may vary depending on how well you tolerate it.

The piercing is mostly done through the bottom lip and is completely on the outside of the mouth. This makes it more visible than any other type of mouth piercing. Your piercer should follow all hygiene requirements to avoid infections when they do it.

The inserted jewelry should be made of surgical stainless steel, gold, titanium, or acrylic. Regardless of the chosen type, you need to be able to take it out sometimes to clean it.

All body piercings need to be done by a professional who understands how to position them correctly and follows hygiene precautions. But even in the most hygienic conditions, you can have side effects from a vertical lip piercing. These include:

Rejection. This happens when your body identifies a foreign object and tries to push it out of the skin by breaking the skin open. This makes the area more vulnerable to infection and may leave a scar behind after healing.

Infection. The lips and mouth are more prone to infections than any other piercing. This is because you can easily get oral bacteria from eating, drinking, or touching your mouth.

Scarring. Thick scar tissue may build up on the pierced area if a piercing has been rejected or the space isn’t constantly filled with jewelry.

Swelling. You’ll have swelling and pain during the first few days of healing. If it goes on for weeks, talk to your piercer or doctor. It may be an infection or may become one if not checked.

Nerve disruption. Facial piercings have been proven to be disruptive to nerves on the face. This can cause back pain and your eyes to fall out of alignment.

Allergic reaction. Piercing materials containing nickel or chromium may cause dermatitis by irritation or sensitization.

Low quality of life. Scars caused by a piercing procedure can be painful. You may also feel embarrassment or emotional discomfort.

A lip piercing is more prone to infections, because it regularly comes in contact with things like food and drinks, makeup, and bacteria from your mouth.

How to identify a vertical lip piercing infection‌

If you notice discharge, swelling or redness that doesn't go down, tenderness, burning, itching, or intense pain, your piercing is most likely infected.

Avoiding and treating a vertical lip piercing infection

An infected piercing can be serious if it's not treated quickly. For the first few days, your piercing may be tender and itchy. The surrounding area may look slightly red on white skin, or darker than usual on dark skin. It may also produce a pale fluid that forms a crust. If you think your piercing might be infected, leave your jewelry in and contact your doctor. They may want to prescribe antibiotics.

To prevent infections, here are some helpful tips:

  • Go to a qualified, licensed, and experienced piercer.
  • Never do your own piercing.
  • Don’t remove or twist the jewelry when the piercing is still dry.
  • Always ensure that your mouth is clean.
  • Clean the area at least twice per day.
  • Don’t use mouthwash that contains alcohol.
  • Gargle with warm, saltwater while softening a crust.
  • Do not perform oral sex until your piercing is completely healed.

The healing period of a vertical lip piercing is about 6 to 8 weeks. However, the healing time may be shorter or longer depending on how you take care of it. When it comes to piercing complications, prevention is key.

Always remember to clean your piercing. Make sure that your hands are clean any time you handle it to prevent infections. Try to keep items like clothes, sheets, or blankets from touching the piercing to avoid injury.

A vertical lip piercing isn’t for everyone. Many of the most common ones aren’t recommended for people that

  • Are pregnant
  • Have weak immune systems
  • Are prone to keloid scars
  • Have infectious dermatitis or atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Have skin that forms welts when exposed to pressure (dermographism)
  • Play sports.

If you choose to get a lip piercing, be sure to talk to a professional piercer to guide you through the entire process.