A lip retainer is a clear bioplastic piece of jewelry that can be worn in situations that don't allow body piercings. For example, some workplaces and schools do not allow facial piercings to be visible. In these situations, a person might consider a clear lip retainer to prevent her piercing from closing. These retainers are also made specially to prevent material erosion and infection of the piercing. Lip piercings are also sometimes referred to as labret piercings, and lip retainers might be referred to as labret retainers.
A lip retainer provides the wearer with an alternative to allowing her piercing to close, but it is not usually recommended for new piercings. Piercings which are still in the healing stage may cause the surrounding area to swell. Most professionals commonly use piercing jewelery which is longer than normal, allowing space for this natural swelling. Lip retainers do not generally have this feature, which may cause extra pressure and pain to the pierced area. A piercing that is still healing might also be more prone to infection, and removing any piece of jewelery to put a new one in commonly introduces dirt that can create an infection.
Some other materials used as lip retainers include metal studs with the capture ball at the end removed, plastic tubing and wood. Paper clips, straw and acrylic studs can also be used. It is normally not recommended to use anything as a lip retainer that was not specifically made for that purpose. Other materials may cause allergic reaction, tearing or infection of the piercing.
Lip retainers are generally taken care of in the same way as other piercing jewelry. Normal care involves cleaning the piercing around the jewelery at least once a day with mild soap. Cleaning the jewelery separately usually involves anti-bacterial solution specially made for the jewelery or hydrogen peroxide.
Those considering a lip retainer may wish to speak with their piercer. A professional piercer can normally provide information such as appropriate retainer size, material and care instructions. This information may be helpful when deciding on the right lip retainer. It is typically recommended that the individual only use a lip retainer on a temporary basis, as they are not frequently intended for use during extended periods.
Another less common reference to lip retainers may come from cosmetic dentistry. Teeth are the support structure for the lips and cheeks, and the practice of cosmetic dentistry focuses on aligning and possibly rebuilding the structure of a patient's teeth to enhance her lips. Often during this work, a retainer may be worn as prescribed to keep the teeth aligned and enhance the lips' appearance and fullness. The retainer worn during this process is sometimes referred to as a lip retainer.