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You may be familiar with the labret piercing, which sits in the middle of the face just below the bottom lip. Snake bite piercings are similar, but there are actually two separate piercings: one on each side of the face.
The snake bite piercing is known for its striking appearance; it’s hard to miss two big piercings right below your bottom lip. The name of the piercing comes from the look it gives you: as if you have the fangs of a snake, or as if a snake bit you right there!
Snake bite piercings are a great idea for someone who wants to drastically alter their look, someone who wants more of a “punk” vibe, or someone who just wants an attention-grabbing piercing. But before heading to the piercing studio, there’s a fair amount to consider about getting snake bite piercings.
Snake Bite Piercings
Placement: Located below the lip on both the left and right side
Pricing: $40 to $100 per piercing
Pain level: “I would rate mine on the pain scale as a 3/10,” says Stubbs
Healing time: 4 to 6 weeks
Aftercare: Clean the outside piercing site with a sterile salt solution; avoid harsh toothpaste or mouthwash on the inner portion and opt for gargling the same salt solution instead
What Are Snake Bite Piercings?
A snake bite piercing is actually made up of two lower lip piercings, usually placed close to the edge of the lip equidistant from the center on both the left and right sides.
There are actually two types of snake bite piercings: ring piercings and labret studs. These categories are exactly what they sound like: The ring piercings are snake bites pierced with jewelry that fully wraps around the lip, while labret studs are two piercings directly from the outside of the mouth to the inside.
“It's important to decide what look you want ahead of time — the holes aren't pierced the same way, and swapping out jewelry styles can lead to complications with healing and irritation,” says Gabriela Soza, MD, a board-eligible dermatologist at Sadick Dermatology.
The piercing process is fairly straight-forward — but remember: You have to do it twice! First, the outer skin is clean and marked up to check for placement. Once you’re certain the marks are exactly where you want your snake bite piercings to go, the skin is clamped or held taught, with the lip being pulled down and away from the rest of the mouth. A cannula needle is then pushed through from the outer lip to the inside, the clamps are removed, and the jewelry is placed into the opening. Then, you do it all again.
Pain and Healing Time
“I think … something that I can say for definite: What hurts me may be like a poke to another person,” says Marnie Stubbs of Bold Street Piercing. “Pain cannot be determined due to every person being different and having a different pain tolerance.”
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how painful a piercing will be, as it depends on so many factors, like piercer and pain tolerance. If you have a decent pain tolerance, though, Stubbs says to expect a 3/10.
Snake bites, like most piercings, have healing time that depends on how well you take care of them. However, to be certain that your piercing is fully healed, it’s best to give it at least 4 weeks, though it’s recommended to wait up to 6 weeks.
If you’re worried about the pain, Soza recommends getting one piercing done at a time, as getting both at once could potentially lead to more stress on your body, and you could become more susceptible to something going wrong. Getting the piercings done one at a time does come with its own obstacles, though: you have to make sure all residual swelling is gone or you could have asymmetrical piercings.
“Due to sufficient blood flow, oral piercings heal relatively quickly and uneventfully when all aspects are handled by an experienced piercer and proper post-care is followed,” says Soza.
Cost of Snake Bite Piercings
When considering the cost of snake bite piercings, remember that everything is multiplied by two. So, if your shop charges you separately for the piercing service and the jewelry, keep in mind you have to pay those two fees twice. And while the piercing price may sound like you can afford it, make sure you’re not getting jewelry that’s way higher than you can afford — or, double-check it’s included in the price, if that was the deal. Stubbs says she charges roughly $50 for the piercing, including jewelry. However, she says, higher priced jewelry means a higher overall cost.
“Cost for the two piercings and the two pieces of jewelry vary greatly by region and jewelry choice, so unfortunately there is no base answer for pricing,” agrees Christy Tooher, a piercer at Eternal Devotion Tattoos. “Some studios may charge separately for the procedure and jewelry, while others will have a flat rate.”
As with any piercing, the best way to clean snake bites is to use sterile salt water to clean both piercings twice a day. It’s also important to avoid harsh toothpaste and mouthwash or you may cause irritation on the inside of the fresh piercing. Staying hydrated can also help keep the piercing clean, notes Tooher.
“If these instructions are fulfilled twice daily then you'll be on your way to a happily healed piercing with no complications,” agrees Stubbs.
There are four specific ways to make sure you’re caring for your new snake bite piercings in the best way, according to Soza.
“R-I-C-E: You may have heard of this mnemonic acronym for exercise induced-injuries, but a slightly modified version also applies to oral piercings — significantly improving the immediate aftermath of swelling and pain, and decreasing the risk of further complications down the line,” Soza says.
The “R” stands for “rest,” which cautions you to try not to use your mouth as much as possible. Try not, for example, to give a presentation the next day. If you don’t let your piercing sites — and by extension, your bottom lip — rest, you risk swelling, pain, and being difficult to understand.
“I” is for “ice.” Carefully applying an ice pack or some other frozen, enclosed item gently on your outer lip can offer relief for the frontal piercing site. To also calm the inner area, try sucking on an ice cube.
The “C” is for “clean,” as in: keep your mouth clean so your piercings stay clean. Gently brush your teeth after every meal and try to rinse with saline solution — or, once it’s fully healed, mouthwash — to keep your mouth as clean as possible.
Finally, “e” stands for “elevation.” Try to sleep with a few pillows tucked behind your head to help decrease swelling. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications — like ibuprofen — can also be taken to help stop swelling and pain.
In general, it’s wise to be conscious of what activities you’re doing with your bottom lip. Smoking, drinking, and even spicy foods could cause complications to your new piercing.
Side Effects of Piercing
Swelling: It’s common to have a bit of swelling around the snake bite piercing sites. If it persists for more than a week after getting it freshly pierced, though, or if the swelling appears suddenly, you might want to consider seeking attention from either a piercer (if you’re not sure what’s wrong) or a doctor (if you’re sure something is wrong).
Infection: If you don’t follow through with the proper aftercare, it’s easy for your tattoo to become infected. Any sudden increase in pain, redness, or swelling post-piercing should be alerts — you may be experiencing symptoms of an infection. Don’t expect an infection to be a big lump oozing pus; sometimes it’s as simple as a tender, prolonged swelling. If anything seems unusual, reach out to your piercer or medical professional.
Scarring: All body piercings leave a permanent mark, whether you keep it in or remove it. Before getting pierced, it’s important to consider the risk of scarring if you decide to remove the snake bite piercings. Scarring can also occur due to improper aftercare and infections.
“The first step is picking a licensed piercer and ensuring that sterilized instruments are used,” says Soza
How to Change Out Snake Bite Piercings
When you first get snake bite piercings, you can expect the jewelry to be larger to allow room for initial swelling while it heals. However, after about 8 weeks, it’s actually recommended that yo replace the jewelry with something thinner. Make sure to return to your piercer to inquire about what jewelry will best fit, as something that’s snug won’t touch the teeth or other things in your mouth — this leads to both good oral hygiene and is good for the piercings.
Once the piercing site is fully healed — around 3 to 6 months — you can start changing the jewelry out yourself, says Soza. To do so, hold on to the flat base located on the inside of the lip and twist the ball on the other end with your other hand. However, it’s imperative that you make sure it’s completely healed, as trying to change the jewelry before that can further delay healing and possibly lead to complications.
“Common sense is key; make sure your hands, the jewelry, and the lip and mouth area are clean before gently swapping out jewelry — and don’t force it,” says Soza. “Any resistance or pain during a jewelry change should prompt a visit to your piercer.”
What Type of Jewelry Is Used for Snake Bite Piercings?
Labret bar: A labret bar is a standard bar, like one used in a barbell; however, a labret bar has a flat base on one end and a removable ball on the other. A labret bar can be internally or externally threaded.
“There are many wonderful jewelry options available for these piercings,” says Tooher. “Your local reputable body piercer should have a variety of implant-grade hypoallergenic pieces to choose from, and they will also be able to help you get the right size and properly install your new jewelry!”
What Jewelry Material Is Used for Snake Bite Piercings?
Surgical steel: You can expect to see most snake bite piercing jewelry made out of surgical steel, as it’s the most reliable thanks to its variety of appearance and general high-quality. The one thing to note, however, is that you can’t opt for this metal if you’re allergic to nickel.
Titanium: Medical-grade titanium is the best idea for snake bites because it’s not only got all the properties of steel, but it also doesn’t contain nickel. This means, if you’re allergic to nickel, you can get the same customizable look without the irritation (and bonus: It’s lightweight!).
Gold: Gold is a great metal choice for anyone who leans more toward the chicness of not-silver jewelry. It’s important to make sure, though, that the gold you choose for your jewelry is at least 14 karats, as anything less than that could potentially be too soft and harbor bacteria.