The words “lip piercing” can mean a number of different things to different people. Most commonly when we hear this phrase it refers to one of three things: labret piercing, monroe piercing, or any combination of multiples. The labret is a piercing done below the lower lip which can be done exactly in the center, or off to the side. When pierced any lower than the indent of the chin, this is commonly referred to as a “lowbret.” Monroe piercings are piercings done off center above the upper lip, which again change name (this time when pierced in the center), to Medusa, referencing the famous mythological character.
Labret piercings in particular have a long and diverse historical context, having been practiced by tribal cultures across the globe for over a thousand years. The Aztecs, Mayans, Inuit, Dogon, Nuba, Makololo, and several other world tribes are known for practicing this technique, citing every size and adornment from thin shards of bone or ivory, to chips of natural semi-precious stone, and even large wooden plates. From ancient history through to the modern era, piercing of the lip has taken place on every continent and has grown in popularity to become one of the most prevalent body modifications. In Asia, parts of Europe, and the United Sates, the lips are second only to the tongue in commonality of oral piercing.
Most piercings of the lips will be performed at either a 14 gauge or a 16 gauge, with women often choosing the 16 due it’s slightly smaller, more feminine appearance. Length of jewelry will vary depending on the thickness of the individual lip, but is generally 5/16″ (8mm) to 3/8″ (10mm), and is measured as the distance from the base of the item to the underside of any visible decoration. Labret piercings can be stretched with a fair degree of ease for most who are pierced, but this usually requires the use of special jewelry, and once stretched the lip may never return to it’s former shape.
The modern evolution of lip piercings includes several combinations of multiple piercings with different names. Amongst these are snake bites, shark bites, dolphin bites, cyber bites, angel bites, spider bites, canine bites, and dahlia bites, each named for their placements and appearance. Due partly to the rising popularity of these sets of piercings (particularly those of the lower lip), the use of BCRs, horseshoe rings, and segment rings rather than studs has regained momentum. Lip hoops like these were initially the jewelry of choice during the punk and anarchist movements of the 1970’s, but with the sudden mainstreaming of facial piercing beginning in the 90’s, a flux in fashion culture caused the turn toward gem tipped stud jewelry.
The mass popularity of piercings of the lip and around the mouth only continues to grow, with new styles and types being innovated all the time. The only thing that’s for certain is that we will continue to see lip piercings for a long time to come.