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How Do I Treat an Infected Lip Piercing?

Dan Harkins
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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No matter how your lip is pierced — like a birthmark in the Monroe style, the Medusa through the middle of the upper lip, or a Labret stud through the lower lip — a painful infection is a distinct possibility. Treating an infected lip piercing requires a regimen of cleaning and maybe a switch to a slightly smaller gauge of piercing or type of metal. It also will require the discipline not to tinker with the piercing until the skin around it has fully healed.

A regimen of cleaning with warm water and antibacterial soap will greatly improve the chances of avoiding an infected lip piercing. It also will speed recovery if an infection has already taken hold. Another common treatment is regular soakings of the lip in salt water, inside and out. A cleaning saline solution likely is available from your piercer, which should be applied after every meal and before bedtime until the piercing is healed. Some solutions contain peroxide or Bactine, which are particularly fierce against bacteria. Even with this type of solution, though, it could take up to two weeks or more for a lip piercing to heal — even longer if it becomes infected.

Applying an antibiotic ointment to the lip piercing is a way to keep it moisturized while fighting any bacteria present. Though the impulse may be great, the piercing should not be manipulated in the hole until healed. Do not spin or rotate it, as this could inhibit the healing process and introduce bacteria from your hands.

If an infected lip piercing becomes painful, regularly bleeds or starts producing copious pus, medical attention is advisable. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics and prescription-strength ointments and solutions to better address the infection and your pain. Do not let the doctor talk you into taking out the piercing unless medically necessary, though; that could lead to an abscess and leave a mark that will not go away.

While treating an infected lip piercing, it is important to improve your body's chances of fighting disease. A balanced diet and rest can improve immune function. Refraining from smoking and consuming alcohol immediately following a piercing will also minimize the bacteria and irritation to which the piercing is exposed. Cleaning your bedding, towels and any other fabrics that will come in contact with the face is another way to decrease the chances of infection, as is abstaining from the use of irritating chemicals such as alcohol-based perfumes and lotions.

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Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his journalism degree, he spent more than two decades honing his craft as a writer and editor for various publications. Dan’s debut novel showcases his storytelling skills and unique perspective by drawing readers into the story’s captivating narrative.
Discussion Comments
By anon947084 — On Apr 24, 2014

Is it OK to clean it with peroxide?

By stoneMason — On Jan 07, 2013

@fBoyle-- No! Don't do that, that's a bad idea!

The alcohol in regular mouthwash will irritate the piercing and possibly make the infection worse. Plus, it will burn a lot!

You can however use an alcohol-free antiseptic mouthwash to clean the infected part inside your mouth. Just as the article mentioned, saline soaks are also great. You can get that stuff at any pharmacy and it's sterile, so it's best for cleaning infections. Aside from that, you need to wash your hands often if you touch your piercing with your hands.

If your piercing keeps oozing greenish colored pus, is swollen, red, very painful and you start having other symptoms like fever, swollen lymph nodes or fatigue, it's very serious. You definitely have to see a doctor and take antibiotics in that case like @alisha mentioned.

Hopefully, the saline soak and mouthwash will do it for you. Good luck!

By fBoyle — On Jan 06, 2013

Can I treat a piercing infection that's inside of my lip with mouthwash?

I think it will kill the bacteria right?

By discographer — On Jan 06, 2013

It's much easier to prevent a lip piercing infection than to treat one. I got a Medusa last month and to prevent infection, I cleaned it religiously with warm salt water twice a day. I also applied antibiotic cream throughout the day.

I was also really careful while eating and drinking to make sure I didn't get any food particles and bacteria on it. I always drank through a straw so that the glass didn't move the piercing.

Once a lip piercing is infected, it's hard to treat. My cousin had this problem and she ended up having to use antibiotics.

Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his...
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