Trendy Cosmetic Fix: Removing 'Buccal Fat'

It involves removing fat from your cheeks, and TikTok has helped make it popular
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2022 12:29 PM CST
Updated Dec 24, 2022 11:00 AM CST
People Are Paying Big Bucks to Get Rid of Face Fat
Stock photo of a woman who's had buccal fat removed (left side before, right side after).   (Getty Images/Marina Demeshko)

It's being called this year's "strangest and most secretive beauty trend," though one that's been popping up on TikTok and made its way to the likes of celebrities like Chrissy Teigen. Allow us to introduce you to buccal fat removal, in which the fat from one's cheeks is extracted to give the patient a more sculpted visage. As the Independent puts it: "a person's chin and jawline are made razor sharp, their cheekbones so defined that it's as if they're permanently sucking on a lemon." More on this suddenly talked-about procedure, per the New York Times and Wall Street Journal:

  • Buccal what? It's the fat found in the midsection of your face, making some individual's faces look very full and round. (And by the way, "buccal" is pronounced "buckle.") "There's some people who have a more cherubic face. Some people call it chipmunk cheeks," New York plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Jacono tells the Times. He adds that one's weight has nothing to do with buccal fat—it's basically genetics.
  • The procedure: After numbing the area with a local anesthetic, the surgeon goes in through the patient's mouth and cuts into the inside of the cheek, removing a chunk of fat the "size of a medium grape," plastic surgeon Dr. Alan Matarasso tells the Times. The process is repeated on the other side of the face, and the incisions are closed with dissolvable stitches.
  • Time involved: The whole process typically takes between 30 minutes to an 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," Matarasso says.
  • The cost: That part seems to vary wildly, though none of the options are cheap. The Journal notes the procedure runs between $2,500 and $5,000. The Times, however, says it can cost more than three times that range; Jacono, a high-profile plastic surgeon who gave fashion designer Marc Jacobs a face-lift, says he charges $40,000.
  • The recovery: Experts say the pain and swelling dies down after about a week, and the stitches dissolve. There should be minimal to no scarring.

  • Drawbacks: Other than the expense, risks could include bleeding and nerve injury, as well as facial numbness, infection where the cuts were made, and a face that might not be perfectly symmetrical.
  • Another con: Like anything trendy, the permanency of such a procedure could be worrisome. "When plump and youthful, collagen-filled baby faces are inevitably made conventionally sexy in 2032, those with hollowed-out cheekbones might be wishing for their buccal back," per the Independent.
  • And yet another: The surgery might not age well in everyone. The buccal pad shrinks naturally as we age anyway, so if you have it removed, you might look extra gaunt when you reach your golden years. "We hate our full faces when we're younger, but we really want them back when we get older," Gregory A. Greco, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, tells the Journal.
  • What would you look like without excess buccal fat? A tip to catch a glimpse at a new you, via the Times: "For a rough idea, gently suck in through a straw and look in a mirror. [One doctor] recommends doing your best Zoolander impression."
Much more on the somewhat-reversible procedure here and here. (More plastic surgery stories.)

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