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 £20-40 for our basic minimum, you are looking at a cost of between £60 and £240 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!