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"Angel Fangs" 101

A few years back I covered most lip piercings in my 101 series- from labrets to vertical labrets, even inverse verticals (aka Ashley piercings), philtrums, and vertical philtrums. I also did a quick write-up on some of the more unusual lip piercing placements, covering just basic information about each. Well, in the few years since writing this paired vertical upper lip piercings aka Angel Fangs have blown up in popularity. I am doing more sets than I ever expected I would, and their popularity seems to be staying. It seems fitting then that these now deserve their own full write-up in my 101 series since there is a lot to consider before getting these popular piercings. So let’s get into it, everything to know before getting your paired vertical upper lip piercings!

Anatomy & Placement

Like many other piercings vertical lip piercings are anatomy dependent. These I would say are more anatomy-dependent than most. We want an upper lip that is substantial enough to support piercing and has a defined ridge to support these piercings. The constant movement on a horizontal plane of the upper lip, particularly outside the stable ridge of the philtrum, is often the downfall of these placements- they are very prone to migration and rejection and can leave severe scars when they do. It is very important to ensure that these are being done on folks who have the anatomy to properly support them, with these risks of migration and scarring. If someone’s upper lip is too thin or is very flat and doesn’t have a stable ridge, it’s likely you may not have the anatomy for these.

A very thin and non protrusive upper lip that may not be suited for these piercings

However, just because you have the anatomy to get one doesn’t always mean the placement will be what you want. As I mentioned these have a higher risk of migration and rejection, so where we place them is often where they will have the best chance of success with your anatomy. That may be further in or further out than you expect, or it may sit differently than you expect. I would go into getting these with reasonable expectations that the placement will be determined by your anatomy, and not necessarily the aesthetics you want for these. I find many clients want these further out on their lip more aligned with their canines- but the further out you go on the lip the thinner the lip gets. It’s pretty uncommon to find folks with a full enough upper lip that we can place these quite far out, usually we need to go more inward. It’s always nice when a client is willing to compromise on placement to ensure these are well done for their anatomy and to last a lifetime.

A much more protrusive upper lip with a good, defined ridge for these to be pierced in

Don’t get chapped about it

All piercings have some swelling when they are first done. Oral piercings in particular are known for having quite a bit of swelling. Vertical oral piercings which pass through the lip, are known for even more swelling. Thanks to that, a longer bar will be used for the initial piercing to have room for that swelling and healing. This may feel comically long in initial vertical upper lip piercings, but I promise that length is worthwhile. It’s much better to have a little extra room you don’t need and just deal with awkward bars than have them too short and potentially embed. While the jewelry is long in a vertical lip it can make eating and drinking awkward, and you have to be careful how you eat and bite to avoid biting down on the jewelry. But, once things are less swollen you can downsize that bar, usually in the first few weeks. After downsizing, healing tends to be smooth sailing.

Beyond that, oral piercings that go through the vermillion border of the lip usually cause some quite chapped lips while they are healing. Despite that, it’s not safe to use any chapstick, oils, or balms on your lips as they will get into the piercing and cause irritation. So what do you do about the chapped lips? Hydrate! Staying well-hydrated and drinking plenty of water will hydrate your lips from the inside and help the chapping subside. Once things are fully healed you can wear chapsticks, lipstick, and all the things again, but during healing, this often causes more irritation than anything else. Likewise, avoid picking and biting the dead skin which will only irritate it further. Licking chapped lips in winter picking just makes them worse. Try to hydrate, and leave the chapped skin alone to heal!

Some initial vertical upper lips- note the room for swelling!

A note on sizing

With vertical lip jewelry sizing becomes very important. Jewelry that is too long can snag and damage your teeth and make eating difficult. Jewelry that is too short can sink in and stretch out the piercing and cause irritation along the lip. This is a piercing that needs to be a really comfy fit! Due to the movement in this area, many clients find 14g jewelry to be more stable long term and hold up better against the movement. Some folks may not have anatomy to support these at a 14g however, and may have much more success with 16g jewelry. It’s very important to see your piercer for sizing with any jewelry changes, and not just for initial piercings.

Migration, Rejection, and Scarring

Generally, migration and rejection are not major concerns with oral piercings. However, with vertical upper lip piercings, it’s a major concern. Due to the anatomy of the upper lip, the amount of movement and shift this tissue has, and horizontal pressure placed on these piercings due to movement, these are very prone to migration. There is constant movement along the horizontal plane of our upper lip, and since these piercings rest outside the thicker and more pronounced ridge of the philtrum, they suffer more due to this movement. That, coupled with natural catches and snags during healing is a poor combination. This can result in the piercings shifting in location and no longer sitting evenly. It can also result in them migrating downwards and potentially even rejecting through the lip. This, of course, leaves some very severe scarring.

To be honest, even if these don’t migrate, upper lips are notorious for leaving pronounced scars, and these are no exception. Larger, deeper, or more pigmented scars are all common from these piercings. Along the lip line, many folks report having hard lumps of scar tissue that they feel when they talk and eat. If you are choosing to get these pierced, you are also consenting to having potentially quite severe scars once these are removed. Now there is a lot we can do these days for scar treatment, but these treatments can be expensive and involved. Anyone considering getting these pierced should make sure they are very comfortable with having scars left over from them.

Jewelry Considerations

Vertical lip piercings wear curved barbells, as this is what’s perpendicular to the tissue! Straight barbells will put pressure on the tissue and can often cause migration and irritation. Likewise, hoops will sit very far from the lip and can be caught or snagged, and if they fit snug can cause migration and irritation.

That said, curves still afford a bunch of cool jewelry choices from small delicate ends, classic beads, and discs, to larger more decorative pieces. But keep in mind whatever you wear will come in contact with everything you eat and drink. The fancier and more decorative an end the more there will be to clean off after meals and snacks. Some folks don’t mind the extra work, and others stick with simple jewelry for ease. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Fancy pieces can be fun for trips and events and simple ends may work well for day-to-day wear.

For many clients, the goal of this placement is wearing spikes on the bottom to give the true “fangs” effect. That being said in order for spikes to be comfortable and practical, a piercer must take great care in how they place and angle these. Done incorrectly, the spikes will dig into the lower lip and cause issues during talking and eating, or be pushed too far forward and cause migration. These are very challenging piercings to execute correctly and finding a very experienced piercer is key. Too angled out, the horizontal movement can cause migration and the spikes won’t rest flat. Too vertical, and the spikes will dig into your lower lip and cause issues. The shape and anatomy of the client’s lips and mouth, and the amount of movement they have during talking, eating, and emoting will all affect how these must be placed and angled for success.

Now I can’t discuss these spikes without discussing initial piercing considerations. Many folks come in expecting to get these spikes right away, and are disappointed when I say no. See, I personally will not start these with spikes on the bottom. And that is because, with their high risk for migration, rejection, and severe risk of scarring, I want these piercings to heal as well as they possibly can. And spikes are going to be much harder to heal with. Coupled with initial long bars spikes are much more likely to get caught and snagged. It’s very easy to catch and snag these while eating, drinking, and taking shirts on and off. And a good snag could jump-start migration. Beyond that, the spikes have a flat base where they assemble into the post. This area is really easy for food and debris to build up on, and can be more difficult to keep clean than a rounded ball. For these reasons, I’ll put spikes on only a few months into healing once I know these are stable and they have been fully downsized. Some piercers may feel comfortable starting these with spikes, and I fully respect that choice! I’m just a bit more conservative.

Spikes may also get in the way of eating, drinking, smoking, and intimate activities. Clients should be prepared to potentially need to feel comfortable swapping the spikes for beads themselves for daily wear.

Healing Expectations

Like I mentioned initial jewelry for these is going to be pretty long, and this can make the initial healing process a bit of a challenge. Between these long bars, swollen lips, and getting used to the sensations of the piercings, eating and drinking is the most awkward challenge initially. Straws can help with drinking- if you place them between your teeth to drink. Try to avoid your typical movement of using your lips for suction as this will bump the jewelry and potentially be quite unpleasant. With food, eating things you can cut up and place in your mouth with a fork or spoon is much easier than trying to take big bites out of things. There are no hard off-limits food, but use common sense. If spicy food is something you eat daily, you’ll likely be fine to consume it during healing. However if not, the sting of capsicum in your fresh lip piercings is going to be an unpleasant one. If food feels awkward and difficult to eat, avoid that food in favor of more comfortable meals.

Once you get through the initial healing and swelling, you can head back to your piercer for a downside and that’s going to make the rest of the healing process much easier. From that first downsize onward most folks find these much easier to manage. Now when it comes to downsizing you may not be done in one. Vertical oral piercings very commonly get more than one downsize, and vertical upper lips are no exception. You may be back for two or even three downsizes as these heal. And it may not be at the same rate- one side may go down in swelling much faster than the other. This is totally normal, and though it may be frustrating to be lopsided it’s better to downsize as soon as either side is ready rather than leave them long and risk catching or snagging them.

Even though these piercings don’t go inside your mouth you still want to practice good oral hygiene and brush and floss regularly with an alcohol-free non whitening mouthwash and toothbrush. If you use electric toothbrushes you may find the sensation of them against the beads is a bit unpleasant, and you may find it easier to use a manual toothbrush while this is healing.

I honestly think these are super cool, super cute piercings and I know if they were around when I was a young adult I 100% would have gotten them done. I love seeing new and more adventurous piercing trends get popular and I love the creativity of jewelry with these. I hope this blog post helps prepare you for the reality of getting and healing these piercings. Happy healing!

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