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Cheeks 101- A Brief Overview

As both a piercer and someone with cheek piercings, I get asked about these all the time! They are cute, attract a lot of attention, and everyone is curious how they work and how they heal. But, these are also piercings that can be a large commitment, and decidedly aren’t for everyone. So, here’s a little guide to these adorable, unique piercings.

The first step with cheek piercings is getting them. These are not simple piercings however, and should only be done by a piercer with experience in this area. How they are placed is crucial to them healing correctly and well. Generally, they don’t go further back than the first molar. They are ideally placed in a soft spot along the tissue of the check that is naturally free of salivary glands or bloodflow. A piercer may massage your cheeks or use a light to check for proper placement. Be aware that where you want them placed and where they safely can be placed might not be the same, and have realistic expectations. It’s also important to have them pierced large enough to be stable. This means a 12-10g minimum for piercing. The initial barbells will be quite long as cheeks are prone to a fair amount of swelling. You will look like a little chipmunk with antennas in your cheeks, so prepare for that as well. Choosing a time to get pierced when you have a few days off work, and can just focus on babying your new piercings is smart. You may also find many piercers require a consultation and a hold period for these piercings. You may need to come in first and consult to see if you are suitable to have these pierced, and get all the information. Then they may ask you to wait at least 24 hours before doing the actual piercing. This is fairly normal, as these piercing are a big commitment and we want to ensure clients are serious about getting them and healing them. Finding a piercer you know is going to use implant grade jewelry, and has experience with cheek piercings is an important factor. Ask good questions, ask for portfolio photos, and be through. These are piercings you don’t want to leave in the hands of someone inexperienced.

Once you’ve gotten them, the next battle is getting them to heal. While the healing on these has gotten better now that we start them at a larger minimum size, and are stricter about placement, they can still be prone to issues. A key to avoiding these is regular downsizes. Clients should be prepared to spend at least 100$ if not more in shorter barbells and different backings for these as they heal. Because they swell so much, multiple downsizes are required. Downsizing is key to preventing irritation as these heal. Irritation bumps are a very common problem on cheek piercings, particularly when they are pierced too thin. With cheeks, these sometimes can turn into abscesses. Fortunately for most folks these accesses tend to be localized to the piercing, and improve with simple care. Unfortunately for me, before I knew better and it was so common to do these larger, I ended up with a severe abscess on one side that went down to my jaw. It was expensive, and painful, to fix. I sized my cheek piercings up to a 10g as soon as that resolved, and I haven’t had the same issue since. But it’s important to note this is a real risk of having these piercings, and a risk you should be aware of before you get them. While healing, it’s important to keep face wash, skin care, and makeup out of these piercings. For me, I can’t wear foundation even today, and mine are rapidly approaching a decade old. My left piercing gets very irritated if any makeup gets in or around it. That’s not the case for everyone, but again, something important to consider before committing to these piercings.

Once you have them and they are healed, you may not be fully out of the woods. These piercings can be more fragile than most, and small changes can effect them greatly. For example, loosing enough weight to change the shape of your face can send you into the downsizing and upsizing process again, till you find a size that settles down. Dental work, particularly more major work like root canals, wisdom tooth removal, and more intensive extractions can also cause swelling and irritation. These piercings are a commitment, and that means being ready for any extra work that my come along with them even after they are healed.

Honestly, I only want them so I can have cute dimples!

I hear this often and I hate to burst folks bubbles, but if you want dimples cheek piercings are not the route to go. Cheeks can create dimples, but they are rarely even. Usually one side dimples much deeper and more extremely than the other. Some folks only end up with one dimple, or none. If dimples are your goal, seeing a surgeon to create these will leave you with symmetrical, lasting, perfect dimples, without all the heartache and stress of cheek piercings!

Cheek piercings are adorable, flattering piercings that can safely support a range of beautiful jewelry. But they are also a piercing that requires more commitment and care than many others, and should be done only after careful consideration for the amount of work that goes into healing them and having them. That said, should you decide to get them, have realistic expectations as far as placement, healing, and cost! Research a skilled piercer who can preform these well, and don’t compromise. You get one body and one face- take care of it!

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