It is almost 2023 and yet somehow we are still finding new and highly specific ways to make people feel bad about their bodies. The latest? Buccal fat. More distinctly, buccal fat removal is trending all over TikTok and consequently leaving lots of us to wonder “should I get my buccal fat removed too?” Also, “what the heck even is buccal fat?”
Why Is Everyone Talking About Buccal Fat Removal? (And Should I Get It?)
First, the basics. Buccal fat, pronounced like ‘buckle’, is a small pad of fat in the midsection of the face (between your cheekbones and jawline). Folks who have more buccal fat tend to have rounder face shapes, and the amount of buccal fat you have is determined entirely by genetics and has nothing to do with your overall weight or BMI. Buccal fat removal is a fairly simple cosmetic plastic surgery that involves removing some of that fat in an effort to create a more contoured look with better defined cheekbones.
So why are we all suddenly looking at our cheeks and wondering why we would bother contouring with bronzer and blush when we can get a permanently snatched look by going under the knife? It all started with the above Instagram post from Lea Michele. Fans were quick to note that the actress’s cheekbones look far more pronounced than in earlier photos, leading some to speculate whether she’d had surgery—launching a bajillion Google searches for “what is buccal fat removal.” (In Lea’s defense, there’s been no confirmation that she’s actually had plastic surgery, only conjecture.)
Buccal fat removal is not a particularly new procedure, although it’s definitely new to the general public. For many, the first they heard of it was in September when Chrissy Teigen confirmed in an Instagram story that she’d had some of her buccal fat removed. Now it appears that TikTok is flooded with people sharing their own buccal fat removal stories. For those interested, there are some definite pros and cons to consider before you jump in on the trend.
One pro is that it’s a very simple surgery with a fairly easy recovery. As Dr. Alan Matarasso, the vice president of development for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons told the New York Times, the procedure uses a local anesthetic and swelling is usually gone within a week. “This operation takes less than a half-hour. I can do it on a 20-year-old person at 8 in the morning, and they can be sitting at their desk at 9:15 with basically no discomfort and feeling like it was less involved than going to the dentist.” That said, not everyone is a good candidate for buccal fat removal.
If you already have a thinner face or small amount of buccal fat, removing it can make your face look overly gaunt which in turn can make you look prematurely older (definitely not the look most of us are going for). In fact, a natural part of aging involves losing fat in the face, meaning your facial silhouette will thin out over time. So it’s important to think ahead and consider how that ‘ideal’ contoured look will evolve ten, 20 or 30 years from now. Dr. Samuel J. Lin, MD and board-certified plastic surgeon, described the ideal candidate to Byrdie as “a younger patient in their 20s to 40s with overly full, round or chubby cheeks who seeks a more balanced facial appearance. The candidate would also ideally be a non-smoker and in good physical health.” And while buccal fat removal is technically reversible, inserting fat back into the cheeks is a significantly more involved, potentially multi-stage, surgery—a definite departure from the original half-hour, out-patient process described by Dr. Matarasso.
So, if you’re someone who has self-described ‘chipmunk cheeks’ and are looking for a more permanent way to slim your face, it might be worth booking a consultation with a plastic surgeon. However, based on the criteria laid out by the pros, it sounds like there are a lot of people who would likely be advised against getting their buccal fat removed. And as always, the trends they are a changin’. Sharp Angelina Jolie-esque cheekbones may be “in” right now, but who’s to say that blushing cherubic faces won’t become the ideal sometime soon?
Bottom line is, if you’re considering buccal fat removal, be sure to talk it out with a reputable professional before committing to anything. And maybe take a step back from all those “before and after” TikTok videos to see if no longer being inundated with influencer posts has any effect on your desire to go under the knife.