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Facial piercings are a striking form of body art. If you're going to commit to one, you also need to be ready to embrace the process—not just working up the nerve to get pierced, but also being disciplined in the aftercare. The medusa piercing is particularly delicate, albeit very cool looking.
Intrigued but unsure if you're ready to commit? We spoke to Johnny Pearce of Nine Moons Piercing and Sydney Givens, PA-C and founder of the brand Skincare by Sydney to give you the rundown on what you can expect. Keep reading for everything you need to know before getting a medusa piercing.
Placement: The Philtrum, the indented area above the upper lip
Pain Level: 5/10 (but highly subjective)
Healing Time: About three months
Aftercare: Avoid touching the piercing. Drink lots of water, especially after eating. Keep the area free of potentially irritating skincare products.
What Is a Medusa Piercing?
A medusa piercing is located right above the cupid's bow in the indented part of your upper lip. "While decorative terms for lip piercings (like Monroe, Madonna, Marilyn, and the Medusa piercing) sound cool and catchy, they are technically and professionally all just considered lip piercings," notes Pearce. "However, this particular lip piercing is an exception, as it does actually have a specific title: The Philtrum, named after the anatomical area of the piercing location."
Pain and Healing Time
The million-dollar question: Does a medusa piercing hurt? Unless you have a very high pain threshold, most likely, it will hurt for a few seconds. It depends on your tolerance exactly how much. "As much as I wish I could give you an accurate projection of the pain level, it's simply not possible," says Pearce. "Each individual is completely different and as such, each person will have an entirely different experience."
Healing time can also be variable. According to Pearce, it will likely take about three months. "Some individuals may take slightly longer," he says.
Cost of Medusa Piercing
"When choosing a piercing studio, price can be a clear indication of the jewelry quality and professional expertise you’re about to subject your body to," says Pearce. "At our studio (and most others), the final price will always be determined by the jewelry that you pick out." Piercings at Nine Moons start at $40, plus the price of your jewelry.
"We’re considered a fine jewelry gallery, using mostly solid gold and ethically sourced genuine diamonds," says Pearce. "Our most cost effective piece is starts around $150ish but it can easy reach four figures or more depending on your jewelry taste."
Since a medusa is both a lip piercing and an oral piercing, it requires a bit of special care. "Less is more" when it comes to aftercare, notes Pearce, who cautions against touching the piercing. "No twisting and turning!" he adds. "It’s important to recognize that your body is responsible for healing your injuries, including your piercings. Not to sound like a parental figure, but eat fruits and veggies, get a healthy amount of sleep, go exercise!"
Oh, and drink lots of water, especially after eating. According to Pearce, this "helps to get a lot of residual food debris out of your mouth. It prevents dehydration, which in turn, helps prevent your piercing from swelling more than normal. Drinking water also promotes salivation, and your saliva actually contains a multitude of anti-microbial compounds, enzymes, and healing properties specific to oral injuries."
If your piercer recommends it, you may want to swish alcohol-free mouthwash or saline solution to cleanse from inside your mouth. "Please do not mix salt into water at home as this is not the same thing and can result in very negative effects to your piercing," says Pearce. Instead, he recommends showering in warm water to gently rinse the area if you don't have real saline solution handy.
"From the skincare side, keep the area clean with alcohol and a clean Q-tip 2-3 times daily," says Givens.
With any facial piercing, you'll want to be mindful of your skincare routine. "Most skincare products are applied to the philtrum passively so it’s unlikely any changes need to be made to a daily skincare routine. Don’t apply any skincare products directly to the area," says Givens.
Side Effects of Piercing
- Swelling: You'll probably experience some swelling, but it should subside within a few days. "Philtrum piercings tend to experience a decent amount of localized swelling," says Pearce. It should subside on its own with proper aftercare.
- Crusting: "Philtrum piercings often create discharge during the healing stages," says Pearce. This can result in crust around the piercing. Don't worry—this is totally normal! "Don’t pick at it or forcefully remove anything. Instead you can utilize a sterile saline spray to naturally encourage the debris to come off," says Pearce.
- Gum erosion and tooth damage: This is an oft-overlooked side effect of shoddily done mouth piercings. "If a Philtrum piercing isn’t done correctly, the jewelry will likely cause oral trauma and over time can result in irreversible damage," says Pearce. The good news? "Proper and strategic placement by a seasoned piercer should help minimize the potential negative effects that can be associated with oral piercings." The bad? Neither "gums nor teeth are regenerative, so damage that’s done can rarely be reversed and not easily, without pain, or cost-efficiently," notes Givens.
How to Change Out a Medusa Piercing
At the six-month mark, you can usually go back to the shop to downsize your jewelry. It can take from two to six months for the internal tissue to heal completely, so continue being as gentle as possible with the piercing. "People always ask advice on changing their jewelry at home. The truth is that it’s tricky working on yourself," says Pearce. He recommends handling the piercing only with freshly washed hands, and possibly even a pair of disposable gloves. "Gloves make it easier to grip your jewelry and also help prevent the transfer of bacteria from your hands. Sometimes keeping a piece of gauze on hand can help dry saliva from the area, making removal slightly easier."
Try to avoid alcohol during healing time as well. Occasionally, clear alcohol and wine are OK, but according to our experts, the yeast in beer really irritates these piercings, so it's best to steer clear.
What Type of Jewelry Is Used for Medusa Piercing?
- Barbell: For a new piercing, the jewelry is typically a 16- or 14-gauge surgical steel flatback barbell. This is a longer barbell than what you'll end up with after healing since the piercer needs to account for any swelling that usually occurs. According to Pearce, schedule a follow-up appointment for refitting at four to six weeks. "Leaving an improperly long piece of jewelry in a new piercing can have detrimental effects."
- Labret: Another viable style for a new piercing is the labret, "sometimes referred to as a flatback, post, or stud," says Pearce. "Other abstract styles of jewelry may be worn and interchanged once the piercing is healed, but it is professionally suggested that you wear a labret style during the initial healing process."
What Jewelry Material Is Used for Medusa Piercing?
- Implant grade titanium: Also known as Ti6Al4V ELI ASTM F-136 (or F-136 titanium). "I realize it seems like I fell asleep on the keyboard but that’s just the full name of the implant-grade titanium used in body jewelry," says Pearce. "F-136 Titanium an ideal choice due to its biocompatibility and the fact that its hypo-allergenic. So for those with a nickel allergy or an overall sensitivity to metals, titanium can be a superior option."
- Solid gold: If you're going the gold route, make sure you're choosing something of high-quality. Pearce and other experts agree that 14-karat gold is best for new piercings. The most important rule of thumb according to Givens? "Nickel is the most common allergy. Always avoid nickel."