How to Trend Fashion Forward with a Cheek Piercing

In 2016, fashion designer Alexander McQueen made headlines when male models walked the runway with safety pins through their cheeks. Since then, cheek piercings, or dimple piercings as they’re also called, have grown in popularity.

However, it wasn’t the fashion show that started the cheek piercing trend. They’ve been around for years—and we mean years! In fact, the skull of a Tanzanian man from over 12,000 years ago displayed evidence of him having bilateral (one on each side) cheek piercings.

If you’ve ever wanted the appearance of dimples without having them; or if you’ve ever wanted to make your current dimples more pronounced, cheek piercings are the perfect solution. However, these piercings aren’t so simple; a lot of aftercare is involved and they do tend to scar.

But what’s a little fashion without any sacrifice? As the age-old saying goes, “beauty is pain,” so keep reading on to learn more about the increasingly trendy cheek piercing.

Philtrum & Cheek Piercings

Where Exactly Is a Cheek Piercing Located?

Your cheeks take up a rather large surface area of your face. One of the reasons why cheek piercings aren’t simple piercings is because of where they’re located.

Typically, cheek piercings are located in close proximity to your parotid duct. This duct is responsible for allowing saliva to enter the mouth and it can be extremely dangerous if it is punctured. Not only that, but there are important blood vessels and nerves in the area as well. Therefore, piercers have to be very careful when they mark and then pierce your cheeks, making sure they avoid any run-ins with important anatomy. Typically, piercers won’t pierce further back than the first set of molars to try to stay as far away from vessels and ducts as possible.

Sometimes, to ensure that they aren’t near any vital anatomy, piercers will either massage your cheek or use a flashlight to identify duct placement.

Dimple Piercings & Stretched Ears

What Jewelry Is Used for Cheek Piercings?

Your cheeks are going to swell a lot immediately after being pierced. In order to account for the swelling, you’ll be pierced with a barbell—and a long one at that! Some piercers have been known to use barbells as long as an inch or more just to make sure there’s enough room for how much swelling takes place. In terms of ends on the barbell, you’re going to want to go with whatever is most comfortable for you. Your options include:

  • Half dome
  • Bead
  • Disc—which essentially turns the barbell into more of a lengthy labret stud

What’s more important is that you pick ends that are the right size. Anything too small will end up getting stuck in the soft cheek tissue. The goal here is to get something that’s not too small where it will get stuck and not too big where it will interfere with your chewing habits.

Why Are Cheek Piercings So Hard to Heal?

Swelling With most piercings, you want to wear initial jewelry for a few weeks to a couple of months to allow for the swelling to go down. With cheek piercings, it’s a whole different story. Typically, you’ll need to wait at least six months to one year to switch out your initial, super long jewelry.

Unlike other piercings that swell and then the swelling recedes so you can downsize, cheek piercings swell, and the nature of the swelling fluctuates. One day they can be completely fine and the next they can swell up so much that you’re happy you have the extra length in your jewelry to accommodate it.  

Cheek Piercing

Potential Interference with Jewelry While Chewing

Additionally, you’re going to want to make sure you’re careful eating while your cheek piercings are still healing. Because of the excess length, it is much more likely that you’ll end up chomping down on the barbell. This not only hurts your poor teeth, but it hurts your piercing and elongates the healing time.

One way to avoid chewing on your jewelry while your piercings are healing is to downsize multiple times. Start with an extremely long barbell for initial jewelry and then downsize incrementally. This may mean you have to budget for the additional jewelry your cheek piercings will require.

Irritation Bumps, Abscesses & Leakage

Irritation bumps are extremely common with cheek piercings. Typically, irritation bumps occur when they are pierced too thin. This means the jewelry isn’t thick enough to keep the piercing in place, causing much more movement and eventually irritating the healing fistula.

Sometimes, these irritation bumps transform into fluid-filled sacs called abscesses. To heal these, a warm compress on the area should suffice. However, if any of the abscess fluid smells foul, you’ll want to go to the doctor as the stench indicates an infection.

Famous piercing legend, and author of The Piercing Bible, Elayne Angel wrote about her horrible experience with healing her cheek piercings. She began to experience saliva leaking from her cheeks. This leakage occurred because cheek piercings do have the potential to migrate and get too close to your ducts.

Small Things, Including Weight Loss, Affect Cheek Piercings

Yep, you read that right. If you lose weight, it will affect the health of your cheek piercings. This is because, as you lose weight, it changes the shape of your face and the suppleness of your cheeks. This can irritate your cheek piercings, causing you to have to go through the upsizing and downsizing process once again.

Dental work, specifically more invasive procedures like tooth extractions, root canals, and wisdom teeth removal can cause these piercings to become extremely irritated and swell up as well.

Septum & Cheek Piercings

Cheek Piercing Aftercare

One of the most important aspects of aftercare for cheek piercings is to not touch them, especially while they’re in the initial healing phases.

For cleaning, a pre-made saline solution, like NeilMed’s Piercing Aftercare Spray. Apply the spray once in the morning and then again at night. Do not use harsh chemicals, like Bactine, Neosporin, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide, to clean your piercings.

While they’re healing, and even after, you’ll want to be very careful about using facial cleansers as well as makeup.

For more information on cheek piercings and aftercare, be sure to check out our handy guide.

The Main Point

While cheek piercings are a handful to heal, they are so worth it. Just think of all the beautiful jewelry you’ll be able to put in them!

Written by Jackie Rachel

Jackie Rachel

Jackie Rachel is a poet and Content Account Manager. She has been getting pierced for over 16 years, while taking the time to learn proper aftercare techniques from the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) members. Always enamored by the jewelry options that exist for body modifications, she one day hopes to assist clientele with picking out jewelry and styling ears.