Pin It
Kristen Dunst in Virgin Suicides (1999) dimples
Kristen Dunst in Virgin Suicides (1999)

The people going to extreme lengths to give themselves dimples

Dimples are prized in almost every culture, but only occur naturally in a rare few – from metal ‘dimple making’ instruments to dimpleplasty cosmetic surgery, we speak to the people taking matters into their own hands

Throughout history and across the world, dimples have been prized and celebrated as a sign of beauty, youth and luck. In Chinese culture, dimples are a good luck charm, and in Haiti, mothers gently press their newborn babies’ cheeks in the hopes of creating them. In the first century, Roman poet Martial wrote about the magnetic nature of dimples, while Shakespeare spends five lines describing Adonis’s “love-made hollows” in his poem “Venus and Adonis”. Today, fans make dimple compilation videos of their favourite k-pop stars.

Dimples are hereditary, caused by the ‘zygomaticus major’ muscle splitting in two beneath the cheek. Tension in the skin when smiling causes the muscles to contract, which is why some are pronounced more than others. Only 20-30 per cent of the world’s population have natural dimples, making them a rare and coveted feature – one which people are going to lengths of varying extremes to get artificially.

21-year-old Preety from the Netherlands has never shied away from her love of dimples. She has been using a ‘dimple maker’ tool for six months and sharing her progress on TikTok, where one of her videos has been viewed an impressive 28.5 million times. “I think dimples are adorable on men and women,” she says. “A smile is the most beautiful thing a person can wear and it doesn’t matter if that smile is with or without dimples. I love the way it looks on me and it just suits me… I just think they’re cute and add beauty to my appearance.” 

Dimple makers are cherry-shaped instruments, with a clip and two small metal balls which are placed on each side of the cheek. While they might sound exactly like something that would be invented as a TikTok sponcon product, these devices are nothing new: the ‘dimple maker’ or ‘dimple digger’ was apparently invented in 1936 by Mrs E Isabella Gilbert from Rochester, New York.

Back then, users were instructed to wear the device for up to five minutes at a time, two or three times a day, “while dressing, resting, reading or writing”. Gilbert reportedly made $12,000 in profit until the American Medical Association claimed that prolonged use may cause cancer and would do nothing to create dimples. Soon after, the desire to own the device died out. 

Ever since, there has been no scientific proof they do actually work. However, Preety claims she’s almost reached the results she wanted to get – even if along the way she’s had to deal with a lot of hate. “I’ve been told in comments on my TikTok lives that I should die, I’m insecure or I won’t ever be happy with myself. I didn’t think wearing a handmade tool to create dimples would cause people to react like that,” she says.  

Aside from the hateful comments and the need for consistency, dimple makers are a cheaper and less extreme option than the alternative: dimpleplasty. Dimpleplasty is a surgical procedure where an incision is made inside the cheek and a small piece of tissue is removed to create permanent dimples. While the procedure may seem niche to the uninitiated, cosmetic doctor Dr Aamer Khan from Harley Street says he has over 50 patients a month having dimpleplasty. 

“It is a rising trend, it’s mostly due to the popularity of celebrities who have dimples, people like Kate Middleton, Miranda Kerr, Harry Styles, Gabrielle Union and Cheryl Cole,” he says of the procedure, which costs upwards of £1,800. “It is seen as an attractive feature. Patients feel that they will look prettier and cuter with dimples.” 

The results of dimpleplasty have left much to be desired for some clients, however. 29-year-old Hannah Levant had the surgery in Beverly Hills in 2021. “As someone who has a lot of very heavy tattoos, dimpleplasty appealed to me to soften my overall look; they’re soft and feminine,” she says. While she describes the process as extremely painful and uncomfortable, she says she was very happy with it for the first three months. Soon, though, they faded, and she now feels like it looks like she never had the surgery in the first place. 

Levant isn’t the only person left disappointed. Content creator Beige Ojai from Maryland was left with a hole in her face after her recovery went wrong five years ago. Like Preety, she describes dimples as “adorable”. “I have a very narrow face and when I found out about dimpleplasty, I was so excited to get it because I thought that it would make my face appear rounder,” she says. “The first couple of days were weird because I got stares from people, my cheeks were so swollen but I was happy and trusted the process.” But not long after the stitches prematurely dissolved leaving a “scary” hole in her cheek. She was prescribed antibiotics and soon recovered. “Depending on your bone structure, how much fat is in your cheeks etc., the results may not be favourable. A lot of people have dimpleplasty more than once for a deeper, more permanent look. My results were not favourable, as there is hardly any sign that I had the procedure”.

While dimples may be cute, the seriousness of any medical procedure should never be underestimated. At nearly two grand, it’s a big dent in the wallet and the risks include damage to the facial nerve as well as the usual risk of infection present in all plastic surgery. And if going under the knife or wearing archaic devices isn’t your thing, be assured that social media is full of convincing dimple make-up tutorials that would make even Harry Styles jealous.

Join Dazed Club and be part of our world! You get exclusive access to events, parties, festivals and our editors, as well as a free subscription to Dazed for a year. Join for £5/month today.