A cheeky, charming traitCheek Dimples & Genetics

Do cheek dimples remind you of a beloved cousin, nephew, or even your own baby pictures? Cheek dimples are those small indentations on some people’s faces that are especially visible when they smile.

How it works

The “smiling muscle” connects each cheekbone with the corners of the mouth. Some people have an extra smiling muscle in their cheeks, which can cause dimples to appear when they smile.

The genetic link

People used to think dimples came from a single, dominant gene inherited from a parent. Now, researchers know this cherubic trait is more complex than people originally thought. 23andMe research studies show that at least nine different genetic variants contribute to dimpling.

child with cheek dimples

Did you know?

Cheek dimples are more common in children than adults. That’s because children tend to have more fat in their cheeks. As children age into adolescence and adulthood, they may lose their dimples as their faces mature.

Explore more

What do your genes have to say about dimples? 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry Service can tell you more about this trait. Pick up our kit and find out how your DNA affects your likelihood of having cheek dimples.

Health + Ancestry Service Kit

Health + Ancestry Service

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Daponte PA et al. (2004). Cheek dimples in Greek children and adolescents. International Journal of Anthropology. 19(4):289-95.

Pessa JE et al. (1998). Double or bifid zygomaticus major muscle: anatomy, incidence, and clinical correlation. Clin Anat. 11(5):310-3.

Preuschoft S. (2010). “Laughter” and “Smile” in Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus).Ethology. 91(3):220-36.

Schmidt KL and Cohn JF. (2001). “Human facial expressions as adaptations: Evolutionary questions in facial expression research.” Am J Phys Anthropol. 33:3-24.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). “Are facial dimples determined by genetics?” Genetics Home Reference.