How Long to Wait Before You Change a Lip Ring

two models image by Bruce Shippee from

Lip piercings have multiple placements, and different names depending on the placement. A labret goes through the center of the lower lip, while a Monroe looks like a beauty mark and sits to the side of the upper lip. A Philtrum goes through the center of the upper lip, just below the nose. Whatever lip piercing you choose, the healing time is three to six months.

Labret Piercing Procedure

Before piercing your lip, a professional piercer cleans your skin with surgical scrub and gives you antiseptic mouthwash to rinse your mouth. She measures your lip with calipers to make sure she is inserting the right size ring or stud. After marking a dot on the front and back of the lip to indicate the entry and exit points of the needle, she holds your lip between a pair of clamps known as Pennington forceps. Using a sterile single-use needle, she pierces the lip and pushes the needle out with the jewelry.

Appropriate Jewelry

The most commonly used jewelry for a lip piercing is a surgical stainless steel labret stud. A labret stud unscrews into three pieces--the bar, the bead that sits outside the lip and a round, flat back that sits inside the lip. Your piercer will insert a longer bar for your initial piercing than you will ultimately want to wear. This allows the lip room to swell while healing. Captive bead rings and segment rings are also appropriate for initial lip piercings.

Oral Piercing After Care

The single biggest factor in how long it takes your piercing to heal is the diligence of your after care. The Association of Professional Piercers recommends washing the outside of the piercing with antimicrobial soap and rinsing the mouth with saline solution or alcohol-free mouthwash. You can make your own oral rinse by mixing 1 cup of warm bottled water with 1/4 tsp. of non-iodized sea salt. Smoking can prolong the healing time of oral piercings, so if you want to change your jewelry sooner rather than later, don't smoke.

Changing Lip Jewelry

After three months, you can return to your piercer to have a shorter bar put in your labret stud for a snug fit. You can keep the same bead and flat back if you wish. It is always best to have a professional piercer show you how to change your jewelry the first time. Whatever jewelry you choose, lubricating it first will make insertion easier. Wash new jewelry for three minutes with antimicrobial soap and hot water, then lubricate the end with a drop of the soap. Do not leave jewelry out of a lip piercing for more than a few hours, as the inside hole will close up quickly.

Possible Complications

If you go to a piercer trained in sterile procedure and anatomy and certified by the Association of Professional Piercers, and you follow the after care instructions to the letter, your piercing should heal quickly and easily. However, if you touch your jewelry with dirty hands or allow another person's body fluids to come into contact with your lip ring, you could wind up with a nasty infection. If your piercing oozes yellow or green pus or feels hot to the touch, contact your physician for antibiotics.