As its name implies, a simple smiley piercing is a cool oral piercing that is done in the upper lip’s frenulum.
Okay, lots of people have probably never heard the term “frenulum” before, right? It’s the small skin fold between the gums and the upper lip. You have one in your lower lip, too.
Smiley piercings complement beautiful lips and teeth. They are positioned on the frenulum. They have a unique and appealing look, but before you head out to get one for yourself, our article includes the costs, associated pain, after-care, post-piercing healing, infection risks and types of jewelry you can use in these piercings.
Smiley piercings have been growing more popular in our culture since the middle of the 1990s. This piercing gives you an exotic look and a unique facial beauty, and people don’t see it much until you smile.
What is Smiley Piercing?
Smiley piercings are found on the interior of your upper lip. They’re also called frenulum or scrumper piercings.
Why do they call them smileys?
You may have pictured a piercing with smiley face jewelry in it, but that’s not how it got the name. It’s called smiley because people only see it when you smile.
Pros & Cons of Smiley Piercings
As with all piercings of the lips, its pros and cons center on the risks that are involved. You need to carefully consider those, before you proceed with the piercing. It will help you to gather the necessary information, understand the risks and determine how to deal best with them.
- A smiley piercing is hidden, until you smile
- It doesn’t travel through a great deal of tissue
- It heals quickly
- It has a wide jewelry option range
- It compliments your lips and teeth
- It is quite painful
- It doesn’t work well if you have a smaller skin fold (frenulum) in the upper lip
- Pressure can be exerted on the piercing with even slight natural lip movement
- It has a higher chance of migration and rejection
- You may have irreversible tooth and gum damage
How to perform a smiley piercing
Some people, particularly younger people, consider doing their own piercings. Some will find it easy to self-pierce, and others will end up seeking a professional piercer. Many young people do their own piercings because their parents will not sign the regulatory papers needed to have the piercing done professionally.
It’s not extremely difficult to do other areas of piercings on the lips, but you should never try to do your own smiley piercing. Consult experienced piercers so that they can check to see if your frenulum webbing is sizable enough to make a smiley piercing feasible.
Professionals can also offer advice on what gauge and type of jewelry will suit your frenulum best. They will also teach you the proper ways to care for your piercing after it’s done, to reduce the chance of rejection or infection.
Changing a Smiley Piercing
Smileys don’t take a long time for healing, and it usually isn’t a problem to wait a couple weeks before you change your jewelry for the first time. If you change your jewelry too soon, this can cause swelling, infection or irritation.
Here’s the best way to safely change smiley piercings:
- Wash your hands well before and after jewelry changes.
- Unscrew the ball, if the jewelry you’re wearing has one.
- As you remove the old jewelry, follow it through the hole with the new jewelry, so the hole is not lost.
- Screw the balls back and secure the jewelry.
- Use the same size (gauge) jewelry as you already have.
- Your piercer will usually change your jewelry for free, as long as you have the new jewelry.
Hiding Smiley Piercings
A smiley piercing can be hidden and discreet, but the CBRs usually used allow the piercing to be seen when you smile. A smiley piercing is more easily hidden using a bar rather than a ring, even if you have your mouth open.
You may also choose a smaller ring, which makes it harder to see when you smile. If you have more lip tissue, it’s easier to naturally hide smiley piercings. Frownys (lower lip piercings) are even more discreet than smileys, but they aren’t as common.
Smiley piercing images
The images below will show you various ways to wear your smiley piercing.
Horseshoe piercing rings showing ball and spike ends
Pictures 5 and 6 show curved/straight barbells to make piercings discreet.
Smiley Piercing Prices
You may be wondering how much a smiley piercing will cost. The price is dependent on your geographic area, the studio you choose and your professional piercer. In the United States, it depends on where you decide to have your piercing done. The price ranges between $40-$80, and the average in most states is about $50.
In the UK salon Blue Banana, a big name in piercing, smiley piercings cost 20 to 25 pounds. They offer occasional promotions, and it will be cheaper then. In Singapore, where smiley piercings are very popular, the prices range between 30-40 Singapore dollars. It varies somewhat from one studio to the next.
OK, if smiley piercings are done in the frenulum of the top lip, you could probably guess that an anti-smiley or frowny piercing, is done in the frenulum of your lower lip. They are rarely visible unless you frown, or lower your lip to expose the jewelry. A frowny is not as popular as a smiley piercing, but it is preferred by people who like to keep the modifications on their body more a secret.
Frownys have most of the same problems and risk as smileys, including rejection and migration. You also cannot have a frowny done if you have a small lower frenulum.
The jewelry most often used for frownys is a delicate, small CBR, usually of 16 or 18 gauge. You must choose the proper type of jewelry, to avoid gum and tooth damage.
Do smiley piercings hurt?
There is no easy answer to this question, since everyone has a different pain threshold. Most people will try to comfort you by telling you that it doesn’t hurt, but ANY piercing actually does hurt. The amount of pain depends on how and where the piercing is done.
Your frenulum is quite sensitive, which means that it perceives pain more easily. However, since the tissue is quite thin, the needle slips through quickly. You might not realize that the needle has gone through, when in fact it has.
As with other types of oral piercings, the true pain comes after piercings begin to swell. This discomfort can usually be managed easily with basic home remedies, and swelling usually is gone by several days after the piercing was done.
Smiley piercing aftercare
After you have a smiley piercing done, it’s vital that you use proper oral hygiene, to avoid infections. Qualified professional piercers will give you an instruction sheet for aftercare, and explain the steps to you. The steps are the same as they are for other piercings in the lip. Cleaning solutions like alcohol-free mouthwash and H2Ocean may be offered for a small extra fee.
In the first stages of healing, you should avoid spicy, hot foods, smoking and alcohol, since they can cause irritation of the piercing.
Cleaning a smiley piercing
- Wash your hands well before & after you clean the piercing.
- Gargle using antibacterial, alcohol-free mouthwash for about five minutes, two times a day or more. If you must smoke, gargle after you do.
- Rinse your mouth with saline water for about five minutes, twice each day, morning and night. Just use a teaspoon of salt mixed in warm (NOT hot) water. Salt water is helpful in the prevention of infection.
- Buy a new toothbrush each time you have a new piercing done, to keep infection at bay. Be gentle, since the piercing area is tender and the frenulum itself is quite delicate. Don’t exert any more pressure than you need.
Healing of smiley piercings
Unlike other types of piercings in the lips, smileys tend to heal fairly quickly. It should heal within about four to eight weeks. It will take longer for your piercing to heal if you don’t practice good aftercare.
The pain will usually lessen between the second and fourth weeks, and it will be easier to change out jewelry if you wait until that time. Other factors like diet, smoking and general health may shorten or lengthen the healing time.
Possibilities of an Infected Smiley Piercing
There is a chance for infection when you get your lip pierced. It is always among the possibilities. There are some things you can do that will reduce your chances of infection.
Follow your aftercare instructions properly. Don’t forget to rinse with an anti-bacterial, non-alcohol mouthwash and soak with salt water. Remember that anything can cause infection, from food particles to your jewelry itself.
Early infection signs include:
- Pus discharge
- Extreme tenderness
- Throbbing pain
If you notice any of these signs, call your piercer or your physician. Don’t attempt to remove your jewelry, or the piercing will close and trap the pus as it heals.
Here are a couple pictures that show infected smiley piercings.
The main risks associated with smiley piercings are gum recession and tooth erosion. These can be caused by jewelry being positioned badly in the frenulum. Professional piercers have the knowledge to properly place the ball below the gum line. Otherwise, the jewelry will rub the teeth and gums all the time.
Other potential problems:
- If you don’t observe proper oral hygiene, you may incur gum and tooth damage.
- Chewing and brushing must be done with care. Otherwise, you may injure the area of the piercing. You will have to chew more with your molars, instead of your front teeth, too.
- The tissue of the frenulum makes it risky for piercing rejection and migration. The jewelry is not held by a great deal of flesh. Even slight lip movements can stress the upper lip. The jewelry and piercing can move from their desired location. Speak with your professional piercer about options in jewelry that pose smaller risks for migration or rejection. If your piercer says that your webbing is too thin or small, it’s in your best interest to skip the piercing.
Jewelry for Smiley Piercings
For many smiley piercings, their starter jewelry will often be horse shoe bars or captive beaded rings. Standard size is 16 or 18 gauge, with a diameter of less than a half-inch. Some people choose larger jewelry, allowing the piercing to be visible most of the time. Small jewelry is actually best, since this is a delicate piercing.
Studs and barbells may be used for a smiley piercing, too. They’re easier to hide. You need to choose safe materials that won’t react with your skin, so rule out copper. There are many options for jewelry available in local jewelry shops, online shops or on eBay.