Labret Piercing Introduction
Beauty has become a culture. It has
been a conscious and well developed
art, cultivated through history and
is not 'skin deep', as often
thought. Enhancing physical beauty
is an accomplishment, which as time
reflects, is ageless and
imperishable. Subdued or garish,
fashion is always a part of one's
personality. Apart from adorning the
body with jewelry, the practice of
piercing various parts of body and
implanting ornaments has been widely
used by ancient tribes. Piercing was
once very popular with the people of
yesterdays, it is slowly but
steadily making progress and
becoming a part of the fashion
industry to day. Making resurgence
in the early sixties it was the
hippies and the punks, who wanted to
break the boring and starchy
traditions of staid life, shocked
people by piercing nose, lips, and
belly buttons. To day piercing has
become a craft that is practiced by
skilled professionals. Jim Ward,
Doug Molly and Fakir Musafar are
considered pioneers of Body Piercing
Renaissance. Jim Ward opened the
first Body piercing studio,'
Gauntlet' in 1975, in Santa Monica.
He also started the first Piercing
magazine called Piercing Focus
International Quarterly. This was
the only source of information
regarding piercing. In fact Jim also
gave certificates of 'Master
Piercer' to accomplished artists of
this trade. Elayne Angel was the
Labret Piercing Facts
Labret or Mao is
a form of body piercing started by
the ancient tribes.
Many parts of the body is pierced,
nose, ears, belly button, eyebrows,
breasts and lips. Piercing of the
lips is called labret piercing and
is usually done on the bottom lip.
Some people prefer to call all body
piercing as labret piercing. However
if one goes by the meaning of the
word 'labrum', then it is lip
piercing since it is the Latin word
for lips. Dictionaries clarify the
meaning of Labret piercing "an
ornament inserted into a perforation
in the lip' or Anthropology/Webster
dictionary explains 'A piece of
wood, shell, stone or other
substance worn in perforation of the
lip or cheek by many savages'.
Labret also called lip ring, lip
plug or lip plate is inserted into
the lips to alter the shape by some
tribes. Dubbed an activity of the
youth, traditional labrets were used
to enhance beauty of the face by
inserting a saucer like disc made of
clay to spread the lips, after
slitting it. This was practiced by
many tribes like the Mayans and the
Aztec, the Dogon of Mali, the Nuba
of Ethiopia, the Mokololo of Malawi
and the African Polcot tribal girls.
Lip or labret piercing are also worn
by the Nunivak tribes of North
America. Some tribes in India wore
labrets while upper labret piercing
was unique to the tribes of Chad.
The Aztec and Mayan men wore labret
made of gold to indicate their
social status. The Makololo tribes
of Malawi wore circular solid lip
discs for beauty and wedding rites.
Some African tribes wore them for
religious reasons, some to ward off
evil and keep harm at bay like the
Nuban and Dogon tribes. Some
Amazonian tribes wore them to denote
their status, age and wisdom. The
Nunivak tribes of N. America wore
modest piercing just for decoration.
Some wore it to show a new phase of
their life, like puberty or
adolescence or newly acquired
marital status, power or virility or
express a continuity of a particular
way of life. The higher castes wore
beautiful labrets made of gold and
shaped like a serpent or embedded
with stones or jade or
obsidian.(Obsidian is a kind of
natural glass like substance which
is produced by the rapid cooling of
molten lava). Some wore labrets made
from walrus ivory, bone, wood, shell
or colored cloth. Naturally all
Simple Labrets do not change facial
structure at all. But some do, like
the wooden circular discs that are
inserted in the lower lip or some
times in both. The plug changes not
only the shape of the lips but its
own form too and becomes a real
plaque. Lip plates are a form of
body modification, practiced by some
tribes. In order to protect the
young girl and show her to be under
a man's protection, it is a wedding
ritual and it is the husband who
begins this physical change of her
lips by inserting a blade of straw.
The lips slowly begin protruding
from the face completely altering
the look. To some it would look
awful. To some, like the men from
the Makolo tribe encountered by Dr.
Livingstone, it was 'beautiful'.
Lip plugs or plates or pelele (in
Malawi) or Tenteli (in Mayan) were
worn for different reasons,
religious, ceremonial, matrimonial
orbeautification. To day it is worn
for enhancing physical pleasure and
for fashion. It is quite common to
see a young person with a metal
piercing. It holds no bar. Young
highly qualified individuals,
teenagers or young married couples
have no hesitation to get piercing
done. Many employers are debating on
upgrading the dress code since many
educated young adults are sporting
this look. In a study conducted by a
dermatologist Anne Laumann of
Northwestern University, and
published in June 2006, in the
Journal of the American Academy of
Dermatology, the figure of young
Americans sporting tattoos and metal
piercing is growing. 27 year old
Colleen Harris, a librarian holding
multiple masters degrees, proudly
displays her arms covered with
tattoos without reservation. This
primitive art of piercing, which
dates back to 5,000 years ( as
discovered in a mummy that old whose
ears were pierced with huge plugs)
has come into full bloom in the
modern world. Body coloring and
metal piercing is trendy and
reflects a carefree attitude.
The process of inserting a labret is
pretty simple. The lip is pulled or
held away from the mouth with a
clamp and a hollow needle is pushed
in. The needle is inserted from
inside the mouth and the labret
which is at the end of the needle is
placed in the opening and gently
locked. The piercing takes hardly a
few minutes. It is marking the right
spot that takes up a whole lot of
time. Marking and choosing the right
place is crucial to the successful
insertion and quick healing of the
Lip piercing can be placed anywhere
around the mouth, the actual lips
are usually avoided. Upper lips are
pierced with a small stud. This
piercing is more for style. While
the lower lip piercing depends on
the reasons for the piercing. There
is lip ring; labret, vertical or
horizontal lip piercing and these
names indicate the place where the
insertion is done.
Lip Ring can be placed right in
the center or slightly off centered.
This way the jewelry has no contact
with the gums as it goes through the
Lip pierced with a simple
stud. It too can be placed centered
or off center. The flat disc remains
within the lips while the
decoration/stone remains outside.
Vertical Labret: - passes through
the center of the bottom lip and
shows below the bottom lip. It
sticks out between the two lips and
thus it is slightly curved.
Horizontal Lip piercing: - is a
horizontal bar put on the lower lip
through the soft red and sensitive
part of the lips and is rarely done.
Low Bret: - is just the lower
Vertical Low Bret: - the vertical
low Bret is when the piercing is
done from inside the mouth. It
starts between the teeth and the
lower lip and comes out from the
lower edge of the jaw line and is
Lip Plates: - large lip piercing
stretched to its maximum so that it
can be worn flipped out.
Madonna/Monroe: - as the name
suggests it a piercing done on the
exact spot where Marilyn Monroe had
her famous mole. This style was
started by Madonna who had a
piercing placed similarly.
Medusa/Philtrum: - goes straight
through the center of the upper lip
and is perpendicular to the tissue.
Snake Bites: - when two lower lip
piercing is carried out on the two
opposite sides of the mouth. Rings
or studs are worn.
Spider Bites: - this includes two
piercing on the opposite ends of the
lower lip along with a stud in the
The labrets are made from surgical
steel, gold or silicone. Only the
best quality materials are always
used and are machine made or hand
crafted. The shapes depend on their
utility and ornamentation and the
style one is looking for. Selection
of the Labret should be done
carefully and with great
consideration. One has to keep in
mind its long time use and the 'pros
and cons' of the insertion. There
are many designs to select from. A
brief summary of the huge array of
designs available: -
Can be made from gold or
surgical steel or silicone. Simple
barbell or a stud having a diamond
or any other stones affixed at the
top or just a ball, or it can have a
hedgehog top which is a spiked ball
with numerous spikes sticking out.
This is always made from silicone.
It can be simple colored silicone
stud with a round top. The tops
could be multi colored or have a
bead on it. It can be glow in the
dark type or have crystals. The Stud
can have an arrow or spiked top.
Butterfly, dragonfly, dolphin, skull
or curved claws are also available.
Cylinder, atom or rainbow colored
studs is available. They are all
usually push in Labrets.
Also called lip plug or
lip plate. There are various types
of lip rings, like the slave labret
ring, captive bead lip ring, acrylic
captive lip ring, segment captive
bead ring or the simple ring lip
labret. There is the "D" shaped
ring, dice captive ring, cat's eye
captive ring , UV ball captive bead
ring and star, square or round gem
captive rings can be got.
Spiked labrets with
arrow like top, made of surgical
stainless steel or gold or
silicone/acrylic,, tear drop spike, hexa spike, black titanium spike in
various sizes, hedgehog spiked
labrets with acrylic top in various
colors, there is a world of such
spiked labrets. One has to patiently
go through a number of sites to get
one of that is the most appealing.
There are Monroe studs or hard core
"disturbed" lip rings available,
atom labrets, horse shoe barbell
labrets, flat back talon labrets,
labret claws, slave flat back
labrets for the enslaved look. There
is also hand carved labrets made out
of bone or horn available. These are
organic. Labrets with logos,
symbols, phrases, and flags can be
ordered to specification.
Health Issues associated with
The style that one chooses depends
on individual taste and wants.
Getting a part pierced is not all
hunky dory. It needs careful
research and consideration for the
simple reason that a foreign body is
going to be implanted in a part that
might reject it or it might lead to
some health problem. The most common
problem is infection. Cleaning of
the wound needs care and attention.
Use of saline water is recommended.
Drinking fluid in the initial stage
or when the wound is a day or two
old is prudent. Avoiding spicy or
hot food is advantageous.
Damage to the teeth and the gum is
quite possible. This happens if the
piercing is not properly placed or
the jewelry worn is not proper.
Besides due to constant friction the
gum might erode.
Infection during healing and or
piercing may lead to hepatitis, HIV,
Tetanus, Bacteria or yeast
Damage to a nerve or excessive
bleeding might result due to
Allergy to the material used in
making the labret.
Chipped or broken teeth may result
or the labret may prevent teeth from
being X rayed or treated or cleaned.
Thick scars can be formed due to
Therefore the need to select the
right piercing studio is very
important. A visit to the studio is
essential and a careful examination
of the following facilities should
be kept in mind: -
How good or experienced is the
The professional piercer should be
free of infectious diseases. No wounds should be on his body.
He should be using sterilized
gloves, gauze, needle and the room
should also be free of germs.
Autoclave steam process should be
used to clean the jewelry.
Surgical mask should be worn.
The skin should be cleaned with a
surgical cleaner before piercing.
Read their brochure and instructions
Question your doubts and have them
One can never be too careful! It is
useful to keep these guidelines in
mind while thinking of getting a
piercing done. They will stand you
in good stead. Happy piercing!