Ashley piercings, or a single piercing on the bottom lip, have a strange name origin: nowhere. The single-stud piercing’s name doesn’t necessarily come from anywhere specific, though many assume it was first pierced by or gotten by someone named Ashley. “Much like most piercings with names, outside of the technical description, they are all a mystery,” says William Thompson, professional piercer at Blacklisted Tattoo in Crown Point, Indiana.
The actual name for this piercing is an inverted vertical labret. While a typical vertical labret has two visible points, the Ashley piercing only has one, as it’s fixed to the inner mouth. If you’re interested in learning more about the piercing, read on for everything you need to know about Ashley piercings.
Meet the Expert
- William Thompson is a professional piercer at Blacklisted Tattoo in Crown Point, Indiana.
- Kynzi Gamble is a professional piercer at Ink'd Up Tattoo Parlor in Boaz, AL.
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, is an associate professor and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Placement: The bottom lip
Pain level: “I would say this rates approximately a five or a six,” says Thompson
Healing time: 12-16 weeks
Aftercare: Wash the outside of the piercing with saline solution and the inside with diluted alcohol-free mouthwash twice a day
What is an Ashley Piercing?
“An Ashley piercing is a single piercing that goes directly through the center of the bottom lip, exiting through the back of the lip,” says Kynzi Gamble, a professional piercer at Ink'd Up Tattoo Parlor in Boaz, AL.
An Ashley piercing is a bit more involved, as they’re pierced according to your anatomy. Consult with a piercer before getting it done to ensure it looks the best it can. “Placement should always take the anatomy of the lips and teeth into account to make sure it is safe to pierce,” says Thompson. “This means looking for any veins in the path of the piercing as well as not damaging gum lining or teeth.”
If it is safe to pierce, the piercer will first clean the area before marking where the piercing will go. Some piercers may use forceps to hold the lip in place, though others may choose to freehand it. Either way, once the mark is approved, the needle is pushed through the lip, and the chosen jewelry is installed.
According to Joshua Zeichner, MD, associate professor and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Ashley piercings should only be done by a piercer who has experience with lip piercings, as it’s easy to get it wrong and cause trauma to the skin.
“It is important that the person creating the piercing is intimately [knowledgeable about] the anatomy of the lip as not to damage any blood vessels or nerves that run in the area in question,” says Zeichner.
Pain and Healing Time
While every piercing will hurt at least a bit—it is a needle being pushed through your skin, after all—exactly how much pain you’ll be in depends on your individual pain tolerance. Thompson says that, on a scale of one to 10, an Ashley piercing is somewhere around a five or six. “While the piercing isn't necessarily painful, there is a lot of swelling associated with it,” says Thompson.
“Average heal time for an Ashley piercing can be anywhere from 12-16 weeks,” says Gamble. During that healing time, you’ll have to get your jewelry changed out. “Your piercer should be using a longer barbell when it's initially pierced to allow for swelling,” says Thompson. “A few weeks after your initial piercing, the client will see their piercer to have the post shortened—downsized—for a flush fit for the remainder of the healing period.”
Cost of an Ashley Piercing
The cost of a piercing will vary depending on several factors, including the piercing shop, the piercer’s experience, and the region you’re in. However, Gamble says not to go for whichever location is the least expensive and instead choose a professional and well-respected piercer. “I would say a range is anywhere from $40-80 around my area,” says Gamble. “But be careful going to places with very cheap pricing—you get what you pay for!”
Aftercare for an Ashley piercing is a bit more complicated than, say, an ear-piercing, as you’re dealing with an oral piercing. Because part of the jewelry is in the mouth, it’s important to keep the area clean. “Since this piercing is inside the mouth where food and beverages go, it's important to rinse your mouth out after every snack or meal,” says Gamble.
To best rinse your piercing, Gamble recommends alcohol-free mouthwash diluted half-and-half with water. Swirl it around the piercing site twice a day and clean the outside of the piercing site with a saline wash. Be careful never to touch or bite your piercing while it’s healing either, as this may cause the wound more trauma.
Side Effects of Piercing
Infection: “Creating a [piercing] that goes from the outside to the inside of the lip can increase the risk of developing infections,” says Zeichner. “Having a piercing on the inside of the lip can practically be difficult as food can get stuck around the piercing itself.” If you notice prolonged swelling, redness, burning, itching, or intense pain, seek medical attention, as it may be an infection.
Scarring: If your jewelry is irritated during the healing process and more trauma is caused to the skin, you could form a scar. These could mess with the piercing site but ultimately aren’t harmful. Keloids can also form if irritation goes unnoticed or untreated. These are build-ups of scar tissue around the piercing site that aren’t painful but can get quite large.
Swelling: It’s common for lip piercings to swell, and with Ashley piercings, you can expect it. Ashley piercings should be changed out as soon as they’re fully healed, as the bar a piercer uses tends to be longer than necessary to accommodate that swelling. Don’t panic if you see swelling or if your jewelry ends up feeling a bit looser at the end of the healing period — it’s not only normal but properly healing!
How to Change Out an Ashley Piercing
Gamble suggests downsizing your Ashley piercing as soon as It's healed to allow for a more permanent fit. “It's good to start these piercings with a bit of a longer labret bar to allow for swelling, but as soon as it's healed, it's important to change out your labret stud to a shorter fit to allow for more comfort and prevent it from rubbing against your teeth,” says Gamble.
Once you’ve downsized, though, you’re more than welcome to change it out yourself. All you have to do is screw off the top of the jewelry and screw on a new one—the fixed back of the jewelry shouldn’t be removed once placed by your piercer.
What Type of Jewelry Is Used for an Ashley Piercing?
Labret stud: A labret stud is jewelry with a fixed, flat back and a threaded, removable accessory, like a ball, on the front. Labret studs are typically used for lip piercings but may also be seen on-ear or nose piercings. They’re pierced by marking the area, then passing a needle through the skin before installing the jewelry.
What Jewelry Material Is Used for Ashley Piercings?
“Make sure to use an inert metal, … which are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in the skin,” says Zeichner.
Surgical stainless steel: Stainless steel is one of the most common jewelry metals, but it does contain nickel, which could cause an allergic resection. It’s considered otherwise safe, though, so if you know for sure you don’t have a nickel piercing, it may be one of your best choices.
Gold: For fans of gold jewelry, it’s important to make sure you choose a metal that is 14 karats or higher. If not, the metal could be a bit too soft and may harbor bacteria.
Titanium: If you’re worried about an allergic reaction or irritation, opt for the safest option: titanium. This metal doesn’t contain any nickel, it won’t tarnish, and it’s lightweight, so you don’t have to focus on when to change it next out.
Pure Sterling Silver: Sterling silver is another popular choice, though it may be best to talk to your piercer about it first, as if it’s not the purest form of the metal, it may harbor bacteria because of being too soft — like gold.