Updated on 22/09/23 with a brand-new FAQ!
Cheek piercings are one of those things that you rarely see in person, but are one of the most eye-catching sets of piercings a person can own. Cheeks are often considered a “piercer’s piercing” due to their complexity and difficult nature. Here at Rogue we love cheek piercings, with two sets already living in the studio and more on the way! However, they are not a beginner piercing. Heck, they aren’t even a tricky piercing. They are one of the most difficult piercings to have, heal and maintain. Here’s a deep dive into what makes them so tantalising, beautiful, and laborious.
The first thing to consider with cheek piercings is their placement. There is a lot going on within the cheeks themselves, not to mention taking into account the dental deliberation on top of that. There are four main things to think about when choosing the placement of cheek piercings.
The Vascular System
All the blood vessels that feed the lower part of the face originate from the External Carotid Artery (ECA), which sweeps up from the neck across the point where the jawbone meets the skull just underneath and forwards of the ear. The ECA then splits into the Maxillary artery, and also into the Transverse Facial artery and the Buccal artery. These are the main blood vessels that pass through the cheeks. Clearly, we cannot pierce through these! Your piercer will use a strong torch and inspect your cheeks to find where these arteries lie and work around them.
The Muscular Map
In terms of muscles, there is a lot going on in the cheeks! Cheeks contain a number of different muscles, but the main ones to consider are the Buccinator (Fantastic name!) and the Risorious. These are major muscles, and placement has to be very precise in order to work well with them. Muscles are made of long fibres, and when you pierce through a muscle, the whole fibre that you pass through will atrophy. This may change the shape of your face slightly after you have your cheeks pierced. Most cheek piercees will experience some thinning of the face and a slight ‘sunken’ effect, even once the piercings are removed.
These muscles are constantly flexing and moving when you talk and eat, which is why cheek dermals or anchors are not a suitable alternative to proper cheek piercings. Surface piercings must be placed in an area of low movement if they are to have any chance of healing, and cheeks are simply not that place. Cheek dermals may seem like an attractive option especially if you are concerned about dental damage, but the chances of them lasting more than 2-4 months are slim.
The Nervous System
The nerves involved with cheek piercings start at the Trigeminal Nerve which sits at the temple, and split out into the Opthalmic, Maxillary and Mandibular nerves. The ophthalmic and maxillary are not super relevant and are sensory nerves only. However the V3 Mandibular nerve runs directly through the cheeks and is both a sensory and motor nerve so your piercer must be very careful when selecting placement. The Mandibular nerve is the one that controls the muscles that allow you to chew food. We always recommend heading to a highly experienced piercer for cheek piercings.
Cheek piercings have an irreplaceable look. There is simply nothing like them. They are almost universally flattering on both men and women, and the jewellery choices for them are almost endless as you can go as big and bold as you like! There is no such thing as a ‘dainty’ cheek piercing because they are so naturally bold. Cheek piercings are the perfect statement piercing and they send an instant message to the people who meet you that you aren’t the standard. Cheeks can also host some of the most gorgeous Gold ends and look incredible with large gemstones. Cheeks will also always have that punk side to them, no matter how fancy their jewellery. We love them so much!
Cheek piercings are a lifestyle piercing, meaning you will probably have to change aspects of your life in order to manage them properly. This means no makeup for up to a year amongst other things. Because they are such a commitment, we require a full consultation beforehand and an at least 24-48 hour cooling off period.
Cheek piercings are a huge financial investment. We charge what we charge in order to filter out those who are getting cheek piercings on a whim, and on top of that you have to consider the cost of multiple downsizes and upsizes over the lifetime of your piercing. When we say multiple downsizes, we mean between 3 and 6 pairs of shortening bars to allow you to heal properly without causing dental damage. When each pair is £70 for our basic minimum, you are looking at a cost of about £210-£420 minimum on basic jewellery alone! We often will take payment for these downsizes in advance to make sure the client is willing to outlay the cost of proper care.
Cheek piercings are not something that we will perform on everyone that enquires about them. They are notoriously hard to heal, can get stuck in seemingly endless cycles of swelling, and leave large scars directly on the face. Cheeks are problematic because they do sit in the middle of a large muscle group and are a wet-dry piercing that has one side in a moist mucous membrane and another faces out from normal skin.
Swelling is very extensive, and takes many months to fully dissipate. You will look like a chipmunk for a good month at least! Cheeks are what we would consider a piercing for only the most experienced people and this usually means almost exclusively other piercers and intense piercing enthusiasts. You need to be incredibly confident in your ability to care for and heal these piercings, and need to be able to be adept at diagnosing issues and correcting them at any time of day or night. If your cheeks suddenly swell at 2am and risk embedding, you need to be able to get in there and sort them out yourself. This swelling and irritation can come back at any time, for seemingly no reason! Great care and attention must be taken in order to heal cheek piercings properly. They can take upwards of 18 months to settle somewhat.
The piercing industry would not be the same without cheek piercings. They are a status symbol, a sign of dedication, and a statement that you aren’t part of the crowd. We love them very much and would hate to see them slowly die out. Our head piercer Aiden has over 10 years of high level experience, and has pierced many sets of cheeks over the years. We can’t think of anyone better to place your trust in. These are definitely piercings worth travelling for! If you aren’t within travelling radius, we can also direct you to your nearest studio that we know and trust.
If you are a piercer who has no experience with piercing cheeks, we strongly recommend finding an experienced piercer, who has pierced multiple sets of cheeks, to shadow so you can learn to perform them safely. These are not something you can learn without a lot of education and practice first! This post is merely scratching the surface, and is not aimed to be training material of any kind.
We hope this hasn’t discouraged anyone from getting cheek piercings, but education is incredibly important and we need to be both honest and realistic. We love them and hope to pierce many more in the future!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get cheek piercings at Rogue?
There are two stages! Firstly, you must book in for an in-person piercing consultation with Aiden – This is non-negotiable. Once we have assessed your antomy, discussed placement, and talked you through all of the issues that may arise, there is a minimum 24hr cooling off period. This means that if you book in for your consult on Tuesday at 10.30am, then the earliest we will be able to perform your cheek piercings is Wednesday morning.
Once you are ready, you can book in for your piercings at any stage after this cooling off period.
You require an in-person consultation – I live really far away. Can we do it online, or can I skip the consultation and just book in directly for the piercings?
Unfortunately not. The consultation is a vital stage in the process for both ourselves as a responsible piercing studio, and you as a client. The consultation gives us the opportunitely to perform a fully in-depth anatomy check, where we can ensure you are suitable for the piercings and give you an idea on the ideal placement for yourself. This may vary from where you imagine your cheek piercings to go – Knowing this in advance will help you to decide on wether you want to go ahead with them or not.
The consultation also allows us to meet you, assess your committment, and discuss all of the trials and tribulations that you will experience with your cheek piercings. It is not a question of if you will have issues, but when. Giving you all the information about what to expect in advance, and answering any questions you have, is key to ensuring that only people who are truly committed to the cheek piercing journey are going to go ahead and get them pierced.
The 24 hour cooling off period is also key, as it gives you the time to go away and truly digest all of the information we will give you and allow you to make an informed decision on what works best for you.
I want cheek piercings so that I can get dimples – Is this ok?
Nooooo! This is such a common question, but its something that we cannot professionally recommend. As stated in the body of this blog, the scarring from cheek piercings is unpredictable at best, and fairly gnarly at worst. There is a high chance that one of your cheek piercings will dimple and scar more heavily than the other, leaving you fairly lopsided once you remove the jewellery. There are so many better ways to get natural looking and symmetrical dimples that aren’t the expensive and taxing process of cheek piercings.
Can’t I just get dermals instead?
Nope. The cheeks are soft, 3-dimensional planes of tissue that experience high motion and have a 100% risk of full rejection. There is also the risk of damaging the soft tissue on the inside of the mouth with the dermals that can increase risks of abcess. We do not offer, nor do we recommend finding a piercer who will offer, cheek dermals.
Why Can’t I wear plastic jewellery to minimise risk of dental damage?
Plastic jewellery is not body safe. It is soft, easily chewed up, and is a magnet for bacteria. This scratchy, contaminated surface is going to be immensely damaging to your piercings! We recommend wearing snug-fitting Titanium jewellery, usually with an M&M shaped disc/ball on the inside to minimise the contact that your jewellery has with your teeth. Although soft plastic sounds like an attractive alternative, it is a death knell for happy cheek piercings. Don’t risk it.
Finding a Piercer
We have had many messages asking us for recommendations for piercers! Unfortunately we cannot possibly respond to all of these, so please use the below resources to help you. It is vital to contact the studio in advance, have a consultation, and ensure you are happy and confident in their ability. Please make sure you do your due diligence and find a highly experienced piercer.
UK – Midlands, Central, Wales: Rogue Piercing (Us!)
UK – The North – Holier Than Thou (Manchester)
UK – London and the South – The Circle (Soho)
USA and Worldwide – Please use the APP Find a Piercer map.