This guide is intended to help you think through the considerations and learn about what you can expect before, during, and after a vertical labret (lip) piercing. PLEASE VOTE YES IF YOU FOUND THIS GUIDE HELPFUL! THANKS!
I want to write this guide to share my experiences with this uncommon, yet quickly spreading body piercing trend.
First of all, let me describe what a vertical labret ("LAY-brett," not "luh-BRAY" as it is commonly mis-pronounced) piercing is. Most commonly, when people hear of "labret," they think about the stud that goes through the skin above the chin and below the lower lip. A vertical labret, however, actually goes through the lower lip itself, vertically, parallel to the tissue inside the lip. The photo below is MY vertical labret piercing, just 4 hours after having it pierced.
There are some advantages of the vertical labret over a standard labret - the best example would be the difference in oral problems. It has been proven that standard labret piercings, the back of which is actually inside your mouth resting near the gum line, errodes the gums, scrapes the teeth enamel, and can even cause errosion to the point of tooth loss over time, if correct size of jewelry is not worn or care is not taken. Vertical labret piercing, on the other hand, has absolutely no part of the jewelry inside the mouth - what you see is a barbell that goes through the lip, entering at the top and exiting at the bottom.
One disadvantage of the vertical labret over the standard labret, however, is that it seems harder to eat certain foods, especially sandwiches in my case, while the piercing is healing. Care must be taken when eating to ensure that food does not press on or irritate the piercing as it goes into your mouth. Read on for further details about this.
If you've decided you're ready to try a vertical labret, the first thing you want to do is talk to friends and family for a reference, or walk into local piercing studios and get a feel for which has the most professional atmosphere. Look for things like cleanliness, friendliness, and make sure to ask a lot of questions. You want to have a piercer that is confident in what they are doing. A vertical labret piercing is not all that common at this point, and if the piercer has not done one in the past, do not let yourself be the first experiment! Select a piercer with experience, knowledge, and a willingness to answer any and all questions you have prior to the piercing.
Once everything has been sterilized and you are ready to be pierced, your piercer will guide you through the process. He or she will take time to carefully mark where on your lip the piercing will go in, and where it will come out. Check yourself in a mirror to make sure the locations are suitable for you - after all, you will be wearing it, not the piercer. Once you've measured up, a clamp similar to the one pictured above will be applied to flatten and steady your lip. Some people say the clamp hurts more than the actual needle going through, but this is all dependant on individual pain tolerance. (I typically have a low pain tolerance, but the clamp wasn't too bad for me.) You will then likely be instructed to do some relaxing breathing and your piercer will insert a long needle through your lip, usually from the bottom up. The needle will probably take about 5 seconds to go through. This was the worst pain for me, but it does not last long and it is not as bad as getting a tattoo. For a close approximation, pinch your lip as hard as you possibly can between two fingers - that is about the amount of pain to expect.
Once you are pierced, your piercer will insert your jewelry (most common size is 16 gauge) and secure everything tightly. The most common jewelry with a vertical labret is a barbell. I suggest a curved barbell instead of a straight one. The initial jewelry used in the piercing is larger (longer) than jewelry you will use when healed to accomodate for the swelling that will happen. Your piercer should suggest coming back in a few weeks to change your jewelry to a smaller piece.
The next few hours will entail a lot of swelling, as you can see in the photo of my lip near the beginning of this guide. There should be little to no pain following the initial piercing - after the needle comes out, the pain subsides. Do not play with the jewelry or touch it with your tongue. Take ibuprofen (available over the counter at most grocery or convenience stores) as recommended on the bottle to reduce the swelling for the first few days, or as needed. Your piercer will send you home with aftercare instructions - be sure you have them on paper or understand what to do before you leave the studio!
The first two weeks of the piercing are crucial healing times - it is an open wound on your body - and must be treated as such. Closely follow the aftercare instructions, which will include how to properly wash your piercing with anti-bacterial soap, how to safely and effectively use sea-salt soak treatments (1/8 teaspoon dissolved in 8 ounces of water for 10 minutes on the piercing at a time) (this is especially helpful for me), and how to steer clear of infections. Touch the jewelry as little as possible and don't play with it - every time you move the jewelry you increase your chances of infection by irritation. Do not kiss or engage in oral sex of any kind for at least two weeks - but I'd suggest longer than that just to be safe. Below is a photo of my piercing at three days old. Swelling has gone down, does not hurt at all to talk, chew, or smile. The only problem I found in mouth movement came from laughing with my mouth wide open, which produced a little noticeable pain for the first week or so.
Vertical labret piercings typically heal completely within 8 to 10 weeks. The most important thing you can do for your piercing during that time is closely follow aftercare instructions and don't skip cleanings or soakings. A piercing needs care for its entire existence, though. Don't stop taking care of it, cleaning it and routinely checking it after the 8 to 10 weeks is up. Any piercing requires a certain amount of responsibility, and the vertical labret is no different.
If you get an infection, sea-salt soaks will pull yellow or green puss out of the piercing. Unless you are confident in healing the infection yourself, go back to your piercer or go to a doctor immediately. Do not take the jewelry out yourself - taking the jewelry out of an infected piercing can close up the only means of drainage your piercing has and can even result in an abscess if not handled properly. Follow the instructions of a piercer or doctor - they know best when it comes to infected piercings. When in doubt, don't take it out.
When your vertical labret is healed, you can begin changing the jewelry. eBay is a wonderful option for searching for jewelry for the piercing. Since it is not a common piercing, like a nose or navel piercing, it's quite hard to find jewelry that is marketed especially for the vertical labret. But, unless your lip is uncommonly thick, many types of standard size eyebrow barbells will fit perfectly! You may need to search for different lengths (keep in mind to get the same gauge as what you were pierced at) depending on the thickness of your lip. Make sure your jewelry is not too tight (don't let it indent the skin of your lip, that's too tight) but you don't want it to hang down loosely either - this can make it easier to get snagged on clothes and such. A little searching on eBay can produce some very nice money saving results - for example, I was able to purchase a large lot of 60 curved stainless steel eyebrow barbells with all different colors of acrylic balls for less than $15 including shipping and handling.
When you're searcing for good deals on body jewelry, please keep the good old saying in mind - "You get what you pay for." You do not want to pollute your body by putting a cheaply made piece of jewelry in, and you want to be sure to always use high quality types of jewelry. Surgical steel and titanium are the most common kinds to use. Never use nickel. Always make sure you buy from a reputable source that is willing to answer questions and provide proof of the origin, gauge, length, and metal qualities of your jewelry. Always sterilize everything you purchase before you put it into your piercing.
Your body will do its job and heal the piercing if you do your part by keeping it clean and keeping yourself healthy! This piercing will last for as long as you're willing to take care of it.
If you found this guide helpful, please take a second to rate it! And, if you have any more questions or concerns about the vertical labret, don't hesitate to contact me, I'm glad to help!