A vertical lip piercing, or vertical labret piercing, is done by inserting jewelry through the middle of your bottom lip. It’s popular among people into body modification, as it’s a more noticeable piercing.

We’ll go over how the piercing’s done, what to expect during and after the piercing, and what to do if you experience any side effects.

Vertical labret piercing procedure

Make sure you go to a certified professional piercer in a shop that’s regularly inspected by the local health department. Look online for reviews to make sure the shop is reputable.

This piercing is done quickly. Here are the general steps:

  1. Your piercer will clean your lower lip with water and a disinfectant solution.
  2. You’ll rinse your mouth out with an antibacterial mouthwash to make sure it’s free of potentially infectious bacteria that could get into the pierced area.
  3. The piercer will use a marker to label the area inside and outside of the lip where the piercing will be done.
  4. They’ll clamp your lower lip with a special tool to keep your lip in place and gently pull the lip outward to better see inside your mouth.
  5. A needle will be pushed through the marked areas from top to bottom, firmly and rapidly but gently to minimize pain.
  6. They’ll remove the needle slowly and gently.
  7. Your piercer will insert jewelry, such a bent barbell, into the newly opened piercing. They’ll also put any beads on the end of the barbell to keep it in place.

What’s an inverse vertical labret piercing?

With a vertical lip piercing, both sides of the barbell are typically visible outside your mouth. One end pokes out at the top of the bottom lip and the other pokes out the bottom near the chin.

The inverse vertical labret piercing, also called the Ashley piercing, is done by inserting a piece of jewelry through the outside of the lower lip into the mouth so that one side of the jewelry is fixed inside your mouth.

Vertical labret pain

Everyone’s pain tolerance is different.

Most people don’t report a ton of pain with the vertical lip piercing. Some have rated it around a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10.

It may hurt more than ear, nose, or other piercings because the tissue around your mouth is sensitive and dense with nerve endings.

The vertical lip piercing can also hurt more than regular lip piercings because it pierces through thin, delicate lip tissues rather than just skin and interior mouth tissue.

Healing from vertical labret piercing

Vertical lip piercings heal in about 6 to 8 weeks. The healing process may be longer or shorter than this depending on how well you take care of the area.

Aftercare instructions for the first few weeks include:

  • Wash your hands regularly with clean water and unscented soap before you touch the piercing area.
  • Wash your mouth with antiseptic, nonalcohol mouthwash regularly to keep the mouth free of bacteria. Try to do this first thing in the morning, right before bed, and after every meal.
  • Don’t immerse the piercing in water. Don’t swim. Shower rather than bathe.
  • Keep your clothes, sheets, and blankets clean to keep bacteria from getting into the piercing. This goes for anything that’s going to touch your face.
  • Avoid touching your mouth or face unless your hands are clean. This can be difficult to learn.
  • Soak the pierced area with 1/8 cup of sea salt dissolved in 1 cup warm water for at least 5 minutes a day. Pat the piercing dry with a clean towel when you’re done.
  • Use a saline spray on the piercing to keep the area clean. This is a good alternative to the salt soak.

Side effects and precautions

Choose a practitioner who will use gloves and sterile, new, disposable needles. Check your state regulations and licensing requirements.

Possible side effects or complications you might experience with a vertical lip piercing include:

Rejection

Rejection happens when your body identifies the piercing as a foreign object and tries to push it out of the skin.

Eventually, the body will break open skin to get the piercing out, which can leave scarring behind. This can also make the area more susceptible to infection.

Tooth or gum damage

This happens when jewelry rubs against the enamel of your teeth or the surface of your gums.

This is a common side effect and can lead to tooth damage and decay or gum damage and disease like gingivitis if it’s not resolved. See your piercer right away if you start to notice this.

Infection

Infections are more likely with lip and mouth piercings than with other types of piercings, as oral bacteria can easily enter the pierced area after you eat, drink, or touch your mouth.

Scarring

A piercing that’s been rejected or that isn’t consistently filled with jewelry may build up thick scar tissue.

Swelling

Symptoms like swelling and pain are typical for the first few days after the piercing. See a doctor right away if they persist for weeks or if you notice other symptoms like bleeding, intense pain, or abnormal discharge.

Nerve disruption

Facial piercings have been linked to the disruption of nerves in your face. This can cause back pain and your eyes to fall out of alignment.

Vertical labret jewelry

Jewelry options for the vertical labret piercing include:

  • Fully enclosed ring or hoop. This wraps around the entire pierced area, similarly to an earring in your earlobe.
  • Curved barbell. This thick rod-shaped type of jewelry usually measures 14- to 16-gauge and bends around the lips with beads on each end facing forward.
  • Vertical labret bars. These go through the piercing vertically and have a bead on each end. You can even put these side by side if you get double vertical labret piercings.

Takeaway

A vertical lip piercing is a common and distinct type of piercing. It can be a fun addition to other facial piercings, or a somewhat subtle piercing to enjoy all on its own.

Be sure to follow your aftercare instructions carefully. Lip piercings are especially vulnerable to bacteria introduced through the mouth.