A dimple (also known as a gelasin) is a small natural indentation in the flesh on a part of the human body, most notably in the cheek or on the chin.
Cheek dimples when present, show up when a person makes a facial expression, such as smiling, whereas a chin dimple is a small line on the chin that stays on the chin without making any specific facial expressions. Dimples may appear and disappear over an extended period; a baby born with dimples in their cheeks may lose them as they grow into a child due to their diminishing baby fat.
Dimples are usually located on mobile tissue, and are possibly caused by variations in the structure of the facial muscle known as zygomaticus major. Specifically, the presence of a double or bifid zygomaticus major muscle may explain the formation of cheek dimples. This bifid variation of the muscle originates as a single structure from the zygomatic bone. As it travels anteriorly, it then divides with a superior bundle that inserts in the typical position above the corner of the mouth. An inferior bundle inserts below the corner of the mouth.
Cheek dimples can occur in any person, but some studies have suggested that dimples (cheek and chin) are more common in females. They can be either permanent, or transient (aging makes dimples appear/disappear due to facial development and muscle growth). A Greek study spanning almost 20 years concluded that 34% of Greek adults had dimples whereas 13% of Greek youths (between 7 and 15 years old) had dimples as well, which might suggest that transient dimples are more common than permanent.
Professor John McDonald, citing limited research, concluded that dimples have been mislabeled as genetically inherited and as a dominant trait. It is believed that cheek dimple genes occur on the 16th chromosome, whereas cleft chin genes occur on the 5th. However, the University of Utah considers dimples an "irregular" dominant trait that is probably controlled mostly by one gene but is influenced by other genes.
Having bilateral dimples (dimples in both cheeks) is the most common form of cheek dimples. In a 2017 study of 216 people aged 18–42 with both unilateral (one dimple) and bilateral, 120 (55.6%) had dimples in both of their cheeks. It was originally concluded that 60% of people with one dimple likely have it in their left cheek, but later research concluded that 53% were on the right, however, this may be due to differing cultures. Dimples are analogous and how they form in cheeks varies from person to person. Dimple depth and size can also vary; unilateral dimples are usually large. They are not linked with a dimpled chin: a study from 2010 by the University of Ilorin examined 500 Yoruban Nigerians with both uni- and bilateral cheek dimples, discovering that only 36 (7.2%) had a cleft chin as well.
The shape of a person's face can affect the look and form as well: leptoprosopic (long and narrow) faces have long and narrow dimples, and eryprosopic (short and broad) faces have short, circular dimples. People with a mesoprosopic face are more likely to have dimples in their cheeks than any other face shape. Singaporean plastic surgeon Khoo Boo-Chai (1929–2012) determined that a cheek dimple occurs on the intersecting line between the corner of the mouth and the outer canthi of the eye, (nicknamed the "KBC point" in dimple surgery) but people with natural dimples do not always have their dimples on the KBC point.
Society and culture
Cheek dimples are often associated with youth and beauty and are seen as an attractive quality in a person's face, accentuating smiles and making the smile look more cheerful and memorable. Throughout numerous cultures and history, there have been superstitions based on dimples: Chinese culture believes that cheek dimples are a good luck charm (particularly, children born with them are seen as pleasant, polite and enthusiastic), but can lead to complicated romantic relationships; and a proverb (often incorrectly credited to Pope Paul VI) argues "A dimple in your cheek/Many hearts you'll seek/A dimple in your chin/The devil within". According to Candy Bites: The Science of Sweets, the dent in Junior Mints is based on this belief, arguing that a unilateral dimple is more attractive than bilateral. Richard Steele wrote that a dimpled laugh "is practised to give a grace to the features, and is frequently made a bait to entangle a gazing lover; this was called by the ancients the Chian laugh." He added: "The prude hath a wonderful esteem for the Chian laugh or dimple [...] and is never seen upon the most extravagant jests to disorder her countenance with the ruffle of a smile [but] very rarely takes the freedom to sink her cheek into a dimple" implying that dimples are alluring due to demure women that have them.
The Englishwoman's Magazine from 1866 featured an article named "The Human Form Divine: Dimples and Wrinkles", which associated cheek dimples with youth. On transient dimples, it wrote: "But generally, dimples mark the departure of youth, and fade away at the approach of crow's feet"; "Did you ever see a pretty child's face without dimples in it? Dimples in the cheek—temping dimples—and a dimple in the chin that gave a roguish smartness to the face?" It also briefly acknowledged jealous women without dimples: "[Dimples are] something purely natural and unattainable by art", describing them as "pitfalls for the men". The dimple desire continued through the centuries; in 1936, Isabella Gilbert invented the Dimple Machine, a face-fitting brace which pushed dents into the cheeks to emulate dimples, but it is unknown whether the artificial dimples could last this way. In the 21st century, people that desire the same effect undergo dimple surgery.
The sentiments appear in fiction: authors have described dimples in their characters for centuries to show beauty, especially in women, which has been seen as part of their sex appeal. This is possibly why cheek dimples have been identified with female characters: Anne from Anne of Green Gables envied other female characters' dimples, whereas Wives and Daughters featured a paragraph about Molly wondering whether she was beautiful as she looked in her mirror, which was followed by: "She would have been sure if, instead of inspecting herself with such solemnity, she had smiled her own sweet merry smile, and called out the gleam of her teeth, and the charm of her dimples." Scarlett O'Hara exploited her cheek dimples in Gone with the Wind when she was flirting to get her own way, to the point where Rhett is implied to be aware of what she is doing.
Shakespeare often acknowledged cheek dimples, usually on children, such as "the pretty dimples of [the baby boy's] chin and cheek" in The Winter's Tale or the "pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids" from Antony and Cleopatra; however, Adonis' in Venus and Adonis are mentioned from the point of view of the flirting Venus. There are theories that some of his famous female protagonists had them as well, such as Juliet Capulet, "Jessica and Maria [and] Rosalind."
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'Mrs. Allan has a lovely smile; she has such exquisite dimples in her cheeks. I wish I had dimples in my cheeks, Marilla. I'm not half so skinny as I was when I came here, but I have no dimples yet. If I had perhaps I could influence people for good...'
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But she smiled when she spoke, consciously deepening her dimple and fluttering her bristly black lashes as swiftly as butterflies' wings. The boys were enchanted, as she had intended them to be, and they hastened to apologize for boring her.
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Her spirits rose, as always at the sight of her white skin and slanting green eyes, and she smiled to bring out her dimples.
- Mitchell, Margaret (1936). Gone with the Wind (1944 ed.). p. 223.
'Better stick to your own weapons—dimples, vases, and the like.'
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