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Everything You Need To Know About Buccal Fat Removal

It's super trendy. But is it right for you?

January 26, 2023

2023 has barely begun but ‘buccal fat removal’ has already become the beauty buzzword of the year. This procedure, which removes a pad of fat for hollowed-out cheeks, has been getting more attention than Julia Fox on a pap walk. It seems like every celebrity is rumored to have it done, and it’s trending on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. But is this procedure really all it’s cracked up to be? Are people really being honest about the risks and benefits? We’re here with the lowdown–plus some minimally invasive alternatives. 

What is buccal fat removal?

Buccal fat removal is a procedure that removes a fat pad from the inside of the cheek. This is called the ‘buccal fat pad,’ which occurs naturally in the hollow of the cheek. This procedure is done by a plastic surgeon, typically under local anesthesia. To remove it, the doctor will cut an incision on the inside of the mouth with a scalpel. The end result is that your cheekbones look more hollow for a high-fashion look.

What are the upsides and downsides of buccal fat removal?

If your cheeks feel too full for your liking, or you want better facial contours, this procedure could give you the results you want. If your face is exceptionally round and that bothers you, then buccal fat removal can balance out your face shape. However, it has some real downsides. First, it’s irreversible; if you don’t like the results, there’s no real way to fix it. This is because the buccal fat pad is deep in your cheek, in a compartment that fillers or fat transfer can’t fill. Second, our faces become more hollow with the passage of time as our fat deposits shrink. The buccal fat pad is unique because it actually doesn't atrophy with time, providing some much-needed padding as the rest of our fat deposits get smaller. If you have an oblong or oval shaped face, buccal fat removal may not be best for you in the long term, as these face shapes are susceptible to looking drawn with age. The risk of premature aging is a pretty big downside if you ask us. 

Additionally, the procedure can be uncomfortable because it’s difficult to effectively numb the area. The surgeon can numb the inside of your cheek where the incision is made, but not the deeper structure of the face where the buccal fat pad is. This means that unless you opt to go under general anesthesia, you can feel the surgeon pulling the buccal fat pad out of your face. That sounds pretty painful! Plus there are important nerves and blood vessels near the buccal fat pad, so the procedure can cause some complications, including nerve damage or severe bleeding. These complications are not common, but they’re worth thinking about.  

Why is buccal fat removal so popular?

There’s no doubt about it: buccal fat removal is a beauty trend. Chrissy Tiegen has talked about getting the procedure in 2021, sharing her results on Instagram. In recent weeks, buccal fat removal has become a trending topic on Instagram and TikTok, with rumors abounding about a certain supermodel likely having the procedure, and lots of speculation about other celebs. Just like the Brazilian butt lift became all the rage a few years ago (thanks in part to the famous derrieres of the Kardashian-Jenner clan), buccal fat removal is just having a moment in the zeitgeist. Once you start looking for dramatically hollowed out cheeks amongst the celeb set, you won't be able to un-see it. It's the latest trend taking over Hollywood.

But that doesn’t mean you should feel pressured to jump on the bandwagon, or that having fuller cheeks is somehow bad. It’s important to remember that trends are always changing, and doing something because it’s trendy is not a great idea if it’s impossible to reverse. 

What are some alternatives to buccal fat removal?

Good news: if you’re intrigued by the idea of buccal fat removal but you’re not ready to commit, you’ve got options. There are several less invasive, temporary alternatives to buccal fat removal if improved facial contours are one of your goals. This means you can try out other methods to change the look of your lower face before (or instead of) committing to an irreversible surgery.

Jawline Botox: if you’re looking to slim down your lower face area, getting Botox in the muscles around your jawline are a great option. If you feel that your lower face is too wide, Botox can slim down the muscles that contribute to this width. That’s because when Botox paralyzes these muscles, they’ll shrink down with time. Botox injections last 3-4 months on average. As a bonus, jawline Botox will also help you stop grinding your teeth at night. 

Cheek filler: if you’re looking for your cheekbones to have a more dramatic, emphasized look, then you can get dermal filler injected higher up on your cheek. This will create the appearance of more prominent cheekbones, which is what many people are after with buccal fat removal. Injectable fillers last for about 6 months to a year on average, and the downtime is extremely minimal. We especially like this treatment for people with long faces since the fullness in the cheeks helps balance out their features. (PS: if you’re after a more prominent jawline, filler is also a great temporary option.)

Morpheus8: Morpheus8 is a minimally invasive facial treatment that combines radiofrequency heat with microneedling. The microneedling part of the treatment has several needle lengths, which target different concerns. The shorter settings are optimal for service-level concerns like uneven skin tone. At the deepest settings, Morpheus8 has the power to sculpt and shrink fat and boost collagen production–which means it can tighten your facial contours and contribute to a firmer, more lifted appearance. If you’re looking for subtle enhancements to the lower face area, Morpheus8 is what you want. This treatment lasts for 1-2 years on average. We like this treatment because it works in harmony with your body’s own healing processes to rejuvenate skin from the inside out. 

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