Marilyn Monroe was a screen queen of her time and continues to be an inspiration for so many people, thanks to her classic style and iconic looks. For people looking to mimic that look, it’s important not to overlook the actress’s signature detail: the beauty mark above her upper lip. While it can be tiresome to remember to draw the spot on every day, it’s completely an option to get it permanently marked with a piercing instead—thus, the Monroe piercing.
Read on to learn more about the iconic piercing named after an iconic woman—everything from pain-level to aftercare—according to experts.
Meet the Expert
- Mercedes Courtoreille is a body piercer at Good Form Piercing.
- James Wang, MD, is a dermatologist and Tiffany Wang is a board-certified PA-C, both of Metropolis Dermatology.
- Alyssia Cunningham, a piercer at Underground Tattoos Stevenage
Placement: Double ear piercings are most commonly found on the earlobe but can be placed anywhere on the ear
Pricing: $25-$50 per piercing
Pain level: “I’d rate it as a three out of 10,” says Workman
Healing time: six-to-eight weeks
Aftercare: Clean both piercing holes twice per day with a sterile saline solution, careful not to snag the piercings on anything to avoid irritation
What is a Monroe Piercing?
A Monroe piercing is a single stud piercing directly above the upper lip on the left side. Named after Marilyn Monroe, the piercing is located in the same spot as her iconic mole. However, be careful not to confuse a Monroe piercing with a Madonna piercing, which is the same stud piercing but placed on the right side of the mouth.
Pain and Healing Time
There’s really no way to tell just how much a piercing will hurt other than getting it yourself, as everyone has a different pain tolerance and idea of what is considered painful. For example, someone may feel the pain is an eight out of 10, while others may believe it to be a two.
“When it comes to getting piercings and tattoos, I have personally found that the more I take care of my body beforehand, the better and less painful the experience is for me,” says Mercedes Courtoreille of Good Form Piercing.
If you’re worried about the pain, Courtoreille suggests eating within three hours of your appointment, drinking a lot of water, trying to keep the day of your appointment as low stress as possible, and getting a good night’s sleep. However, what you can’t change is the location of the piercing: above the lip. It’s important to know that a Monroe piercing is done at one of the thinnest parts of the lip, which means it’s a less painful placement; however, it does swell and tends to be slightly sore for the first few days so it’s not completely painless.
“At the end of the day, even if it was a 10/10, the pain of a piercing only lasts for a moment and then quickly subsidies,” says Courtoreille.
In terms of healing time, Alyssia Cunningham, a piercer at Underground Tattoos Stevenage, says you’ll start to see the swelling go down around the two-week mark. It won’t be fully healed, though—you’ll have to wait much longer for it actually to be fully healed.
“The healing process for [a] Monroe piercing ranges from six to twelve weeks,” says James Wang, MD, and Tiffany Wang, PA-C of Metropolis Dermatology.
Cost of a Monroe Piercing
Any piercing price varies widely from piercer to piercer because of factors like geographical location, experience, and studio guidelines. However, there is such a thing as too good of a deal, so it’s important to do your research rather than choosing the cheapest option.
“If your jewelry costs you $5-$10, there is almost a guarantee that the jewelry does not meet the minimum acceptable requirements for implant grade jewelry and should never go into a fresh or healing piercing,” says Courtoreille.
Good, implant-grade jewelry won’t cost an exorbitant amount, though. Look for a minimum of $15 for a hint that the piercing will be done properly, and expect the potential prices to rise as high as $60. Some shops may also charge a separate fee for jewelry, while others will only do so if you decide to go with fancier metal like gemstones.
Something important to note about Monroe piercings, in particular, is that you’ll have to return to your piercer to downsize your jewelry in the weeks following your piercing. While some piercers may include the downsize price in the initial price, it’s not uncommon to purchase a new, smaller piece of jewelry during the second appointment—typically around $25 or so. All in all, you should assume a Monroe piercing could cost somewhere between $30-$120.
A Monroe piercing’s aftercare routine requires two different routines: one for the inside and another for the outside. For the inside of the mouth, “Proper healing for Monroe piercings requires careful attention to oral hygiene,” says Dr. Wang and Wang, PA-C. Follow your typical daily oral hygiene routine of brushing twice a day and rinse your mouth with water after eating, drinking, or smoking. If you’d like to keep mouthwash a part of your routine, make sure the product is alcohol-free, and don’t use it more than twice a day.
For the outside of the piercing, only use sterile saline solution to clean the site twice per day. Rinsing the area with water once daily is also important to wash away any “crusties” and keep the site clean. It’s also important to avoid any activity that would irritate the piercing, like kissing, drinking alcohol, or smoking, says Dr. Wang and Wang.
“The number one rule when it comes to healing a piercing is simply to leave it alone,” agrees Courtoreille. “Touching and/or twisting your piercing only causes irritation and introduces outside bacteria and debris to your piercing which is an open wound.”
Side Effects of Piercing
- Swelling: It’s completely normal to notice some swelling around the piercing site immediately after getting pierced. If you begin to notice that it’s still swollen a few days later, or if it seems to heal and suddenly swells up again, it may be a sign that something is wrong with your fresh piercing.
- Throbbing Pain: Throbbing pain is pretty unusual in piercings, so if you feel this, you should suspect something’s up pretty quickly. Remember that this is something different than soreness, though, which you may feel around the piercing site for about a day or two after it’s freshly done.
- Pus/Discharge: Another sure sign that something’s off with your new piercing is liquid oozing from the site — especially if it’s green or yellowish. If you see white discharge in the first day or two, that’s typical, but anything after that should be checked out by a medical professional.
- Infection: While prolonged swelling does tend to be the first sign of an infection, several other side effects may signal something’s wrong. If you notice throbbing pain around the piercing sight or pus oozing from the area, you should seek medical help immediately, says Dr. Wang and Wang.
How to Change Out a Monroe Piercing
Something unique about Monroe piercings is that it’s required to get the jewelry changed in the first few weeks following your piercing. These piercings require a downsize due to significant swelling during that period; having properly-fitting jewelry helps keep the piercing healthy and avoid irritation, migration, or oral damage. Definitely don’t try to do this downsizing process yourself — go back to the same piercer who originally pierced your upper lip.
“Going back to your piercer is best because they will know what size of jewelry they originally pierced with,” says Cunningham.
Starting six months after the downsizing process, you can start changing out the jewelry on your own, as you can be certain the piercing has fully healed. While you may feel like your Monroe piercing has healed after a month or two, be sure to give it much longer to ensure it’s fully done healing. At that point, though, it’s quite easy to change out, considering you can easily see it in a mirror.
What Type of Jewelry is Used for a Monroe Piercing?
Labret studs are small, thin pieces of metal with a flat, circular top on one end and a threaded accessory on the other, such as a ball that twists off. Labret studs come in various looks thanks to differently shaped flat tops, a wide variety of available colors, and numerous types—e.g., gemstones or solid metal.
What Jewelry Material is Used for a Monroe Piercing?
- Titanium: The safest option for jewelry metal is titanium, as it doesn’t contain nickel — which many people are allergic to, but which can also generally irritate your piercing. “As with all piercings, metals not containing nickel is best,” says Dr. Wang and Wang, PA-C. “This helps to avoid irritation and allergy to the piercing material.”
- Surgical Steel: If you’re certain that you’re not allergic to nickel and don’t have sensitive skin, you could opt for surgical-grade stainless steel instead. This metal comes in so many different styles and colors that it’s almost impossible not to find jewelry you love.
- Gold: Gold is another good metal option; however, make sure you’re aware of what type of gold your jewelry is made of. White gold, for example, does contain nickel, whereas others like 14-karat yellow gold don’t. It’s also important to check with your piercer and make sure the gold jewelry you’re putting in is 14 karats or more, as anything less than that could harbor bacteria that could lead to infection.