Body decoration, and tattoos in particular, is a wonderful way to share your history, triumphs, and feelings in a public way.
I started with getting my ears pierced as a pre-teen, and when I turned 18, no one could stop me from getting more piercings. There’s nothing like the moment before the needle pierces the skin. That moment of anticipation is why I love getting pierced. Before you know it, and after a little bit of pain, you have a gorgeous new piercing. Even if you haven’t gotten any facial or oral piercings before, the medusa is a great place to start. It looks great if you decide to dress it up with fancy jewelry, plus it gives you the chance to build a new look for yourself by adding other piercings nearby.
What Is a Medusa Piercing?
The medusa piercing is in the philtrum, the indentation above your upper lip and below your septum. The philtrum piercing gained its popularity in the 1990s, which is also when it gained its name: medusa piercing. Rumored to have been named by a Canadian hairdresser, the reason for the name is lost to history.
It’s a perioral piercing, being placed in the lip with the piercing within the oral cavity and the jewelry seen outside of the lip. It’s a popular choice for people who already have other facial or oral piercings. The placement of paired piercings around the mouth draws people’s attention to your lips and mouth.
Piercings That Go Well With Medusas
If you really love a medusa piercing, why not get two? While not very common, some people like the look of stacked piercings. It’s best if you have a large philtrum and bow-shaped lips. It’s called the double Medusa piercing, and one piercing is stacked on top of the other. Because of the placement, piercers will generally only do one at a time, but if you know that’s the look you want to go for, let your piercer know ahead of time so that they can shift the placement slightly to allow the necessary space.
You can also pair your piercing with one below the lips. The two together are called “cyber bites.”
Septum or Nostril
If you prefer to keep the medusa piercing as your only lip piercing, you might look into septum piercing or nostril piercing to draw attention to your mouth, lips, and jewelry.
Where Can I Get a Medusa Piercing and How Much Will It Cost?
Philtrum piercings can be done at almost any tattoo and piercing shop. The cost varies based on the jewelry you choose, but the average cost is about $40, plus jewelry. When you decide to get a piercing, check out the piercer you’re going to. It’s recommended to look for someone who belongs to the Association of Professional Piercers (APP). Piercers have to ensure that they are using the most current techniques, both with the process of piercing and cleanliness.
Philtrum Piercing Pain Level
Philtrum piercings hurt. It’s a location that is close to your gums, and the skin above your lip is very sensitive and tender. The needle is small, but there is a very sharp pinch when the needle goes through. Most people rank it as a pain level of six or seven out of ten. I’ve seen comparisons to nipple piercing, but the pain doesn’t last as long.
Cool Medusa Piercing Jewelry Options
The jewelry that goes into your philtrum piercing is a labret, sometimes referred to as a post, stud, or flatback. When you first get the piercing, you’ll probably want to buy jewelry in the shop so that you can be sure you’re not getting something that you might have an allergic reaction to.
Your best metal options are surgical steel, titanium, or solid gold. There’s also bioplast, a medical grade flexible material. It is more flexible than metal options, and it has no nickel, so it’s considered hypoallergenic.
The shape of the jewelry can have a meaning. Triangles are often interpreted as being powerful or defiant, while circles tend more towards being friendly or peaceful. Squares and rectangles can be seen as strong and balanced. Of course, you don’t need to limit yourself to standard shapes. You can find stars, hearts, diamonds, moons, flowers, even miniature mustache studs.
Where to Buy Medusa Jewelry
Check out some stainless jewelry here.
Or some gold jewelry here.
Can I Pierce My Own Philtrum?
The short answer is no. The long answer is, no, you should not pierce your own philtrum. It’s important that this piercing be done by a professional because of potential risks, such as infections and complications. You need someone who is well-versed in the method, including cleaning, to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible. To top it all off, it’s on your face. If you mess it up, you risk more than infection—you also risk your appearance.
It’s also very important to make sure that you, or anyone else, do not use a piercing gun, like the ones often used for ear piercing. The gun can go through too much skin, and you can easily damage your lip, gums, and even teeth.
How a Medusa Piercing Is Done
The piercing process is simple and straightforward. Knowing what’s coming can help reduce the pain you experience because you’ll be more comfortable and relaxed while you’re being pierced. Keep in mind that this list is based on experience, but it may be different depending on where you go and the piercer you use.
- The piercer will start by cleaning and sanitizing their instruments and their workspace.
- The piercer will mark a spot on your lip for the piercing. That’s your chance to make sure that you like where it’s going to be. If you feel that it needs to be higher or lower, or you think that it isn’t perfectly centered, you can change it.
- The piercer will give you a rinse to use to clean the inside of your lip.
- The piercer will clean the area they’re about to pierce, your philtrum.
- The piercer will fix your lip in place with a clamp to keep you from moving.
- The piercer will flip the lip so that it’s inside out.
- The piercer, using a 14 or 16 hollow gauge needle, will pierce your philtrum from the inside to the outside.
- Your jewelry (labret) will be put in and the end of the stud will be secured.
- The new piercing will be cleaned, and you’re ready to go!
How Long Will It Take to Heal?
Medusa piercings can take anywhere from six to 12 weeks to heal. During that time, you’ll want to keep an eye out for any problems that might crop up.
Possible Risks of a Medusa Piercing
- Infection. Like any other piercing, the site can become infected. Look for signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, or a hard bump. While the site will be sensitive to the touch, after a day or two, it shouldn’t be excessively painful.
- Tooth erosion or gum recession. Since your piercing is in almost direct contact with your teeth and gums, it can cause damage. The problem is that a lot of the damage it can cause will be permanent since your teeth and gums can’t always heal. Pay attention to whether your jewelry is hitting any spot repetitively. You may need smaller jewelry.
- Scarring. This isn’t something you can control. Some people scar more easily and more quickly. Removing the piercing will not prevent you from scarring, but it may reduce it. Remember that the scar from removing it, though, might be worse or more noticeable.
- Allergic reaction. This happens when your body tries to reject the jewelry or has a reaction to it. To help avoid this, do not use a nickel-based labret. Surgical steel, titanium, and solid gold are good choices to help your body accept the jewelry.
- Crusting. This isn’t a serious problem, but it can feel like it. Your medusa piercing can sometimes have a slight discharge which can create a bit of caking (or crusting) around the piercing. Clean it gently, using a clean towel soaked in a saline solution. Do not pick or scratch at it. The spot is still healing, and you want to avoid giving it a chance to scar. Instead, use a sterile saline spray to loosen it up. You can also choose to gently swish an alcohol-free mouthwash to help loosen it up from the inside.
- Sinking. Embedding (also called nesting) can occur if the bar is too short. When you first get your medusa piercing, you might notice that the skin around it is swollen. That will come down in a day or two, but if you notice that more than half of the top or ball is covered, see your piercer. Swapping to larger jewelry is generally all you need to do, but if the jewelry gets embedded, you will need to see a doctor or dentist.
Medusa Piercing Healing Tips
Your piercing should generally take somewhere between six and 12 weeks to heal completely. Use these tips to help the healing go more quickly and comfortably. It’s suggested to follow these guidelines for at least a week.
What you should do:
- Use a saline spray or piercing aftercare spray to keep it clean.
- Clean it after you eat.
- Avoid alcohol, vaping, and smoking for at least three days, as per Healthline.com.
- Drink a lot of water to keep it irrigated.
- Be careful when you brush your teeth.
What you shouldn’t do:
- Touch the area.
- Twist or turn the piercing.
- Clean it with hydrogen peroxide. While it kills off the bacteria, it also kills off the white blood cells that are helping it heal.
- Go swimming, including pools, lakes, and the ocean. The bacteria can get into the piercing and cause infections and irritations, and in the case of a pool, the chemicals used to keep it clean are harsh.
- Eat spicy or highly acidic food.
- Remove the jewelry before the piercing is healed.
- Kiss. While you (and your partner) might find it sexy, you don’t want to swap spit with a new oral piercing.
How to Clean a Medusa Piercing
While your medusa piercing is healing, it’s important to keep it clean to avoid infection and help it heal. Cleaning it twice a day is recommended. Don’t clean it too often or you can irritate it.
- Wash your hands. Before you touch your piercing, even for cleaning, you need to clean your hands first.
- Clean with warm water. Don’t rub the area; simply splash or immerse your lip with warm water.
- Clean gently with saline or a gentle soap. Do not use any astringent or alcohol-based cleanser.
- Rinse with warm water.
- Use a disposable towel or pad to dry it. Washcloths or towels can harbor bacteria.
- Swish with mouthwash. This is especially good for after eating, as it can dislodge any food. Make sure that the mouthwash doesn’t have any alcohol in it. Most children’s mouthwash does not have alcohol.
- Clean gently with a saline solution.
- Use a soft toothbrush to carefully remove anything that was left under your lip or around your piercing.
- Swish with mouthwash again. This will catch anything that was dislodged during the cleaning.
How to Remove a Medusa Philtrum Piercing
Make sure that your piercing is fully healed before you remove your jewelry and swap it. Try to wait at least three months (12 weeks) before changing it, just to make sure that the piercing is as healed as it can be.
If you just want to change the look without having to remove the labret entirely, you can swap out the bead and leave the stud in place. Otherwise, you’ll want to remove the labret.
There are two easy ways to remove your piercing: with just your hands or with your hands and tweezers.
- Wash your hands. You always want to make sure that anytime you’re changing jewelry for an oral piercing that you avoid adding any bacteria to the situation.
- Use two fingers on one hand to flip up your lip and place your thumb on the back of the labret to hold it firmly in place. Use your other hand to unscrew the bead on top OR you can use a good pair of tweezers to pull the bar away from your outer lip, then use your fingers to unscrew the bead.
- Push the bar back from your lip into your mouth.
- Clean the piercing.
- Clean the new piece of jewelry.
- Get your new jewelry and, just as you did when you were removing the labret, flip your lip up. Then slide the bar into the piercing, going from the back of the piercing (the inside of your mouth) to the outer lip.
- Screw the bead back on. Once again, you can use your finger to press against the back so you can screw on the bead, or you can use the tweezers to hold the bar in place while you screw the bead back on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you feel a philtrum piercing when you kiss?
After you've healed, you probably won't notice your medusa piercing much, even while kissing. The back might rub a bit against your gums: you'll probably feel it a little bit, but the person you're kissing likely won't. Note: It's not a good idea to do a lot of kissing until you've healed because you risk rubbing, exposure to bacteria, and possible infection. But after that, you can get a shorter bar.
Does food get stuck in there?
It doesn't happen often, but it can. Experts recommend washing out your mouth with water or a saltwater rinse after eating.
Will my medusa close up if I take out the jewelry?
The fistula of a philitrum piercing will probably close up quickly without jewelry. Some people might be only able to take theirs out for a few hours before the hole gets smaller—others might be able to leave it out for days, or even a week or two. It depends on your body. So, after healing, it's probably fine to take the jewelry out for a job interview, but if you want to keep the piercing, don't risk leaving it out for too long. Alternatively, you could have a clear and almost-invisible retainer put in.
Why do philtrum piercings smell (like cheese)?
Sebum mixed with dead skin cells and bacteria can get a bit stinky. If this happens, wash regularly and carefully with soap.
Can I wear a hoop in my philtrum piercing?
Some people wear a hoop, if their piercing is not too high, but the hoop will definitely rub against your teeth. If you plan on wearing hoops regularly, tell your piercer so they can use that information when placing the piercing.