What is Buccal Fat Surgery and Why is Everyone Talking About it?

What is Buccal Fat Surgery and Why is Everyone Talking About it?

Hermes FW22 Backstage. Acielle/Style Du Monde

The cheek reduction surgery that many celebrities may already have gotten.

Emerging, or rather re-emerging, from the deeper corners of the Internet this month is a lesser-known aesthetic procedure called buccal fat removal, or cheek reduction surgery. 

This news cycle’s revival could perhaps be attributed to Lea Michelle, whose recent selfie showed a significantly more chiseled profile, prompting many to ask whether or not the Glee alum had gotten this seemingly popular Hollywood tweak. 

Is it the new plastic surgery trend?

She’s not the first to have caused a furor on TikTok or the Twitterverse. Many celebs, who have appeared seemingly overnight with more defined jawlines, have caused mass internet speculations of their own. And while most A-listers have chosen not to comment on this issue, model and businesswoman Chrissy Teigen is one star who has candidly admitted to having gotten the surgery in her Instagram story back in 2021.  

For the uninitiated, buccal fat (pronounced “buckle”) is “a naturally occurring pad of fat in the cheek hollow area,” whose size varies with each individual. Sandwiched between facial muscles and situated between the cheekbones and the jawbones, it can, for some people, give the appearance of a softer, rounder face. For those who may desire a more sculpted visage, buccal fat surgery is an option. 

That said, the growing discourse regarding buccal fat reduction could also be linked to society’s ever evolving beauty standards, now especially magnified by social media and the ubiquity of it. 

A highly individualized procedure, The American Society of Plastic Surgeons advises patients to have realistic expectations, and to “be sure to do it for yourself, not for someone else or to try to fit any sort of ideal image.”

Buccal fat do’s and dont’s

Dr. Vicki Belo of the Belo Medical Group explains that it “entails making a small incision in the inner part of the cheek, [after which] the fat is gently pressed and teased out. The wound is then closed with sutures.” An outpatient procedure, buccal fat removal could be done in as little as 45 minutes, with swelling lasting for seven to 10 days, according to the Belo Medical Group.

While the procedure may seem simple enough, with no outer scarring, people should still proceed with caution. “We discourage people who have just a small amount of fat from doing this procedure because we need fat in the face especially as we get older,” Dr. Belo says.  

Conversely, for patients whose “cheekbones are masked due to pronounced cheeks…[or] lack an angular appearance to the face, buccal fat pad removal will reduce cheek fullness and highlight their pronounced zygomatic bone (cheekbone).” It is also recommended that patients be in good physical health, and be a non-smoker.

Though considered as a relatively minor cosmetic procedure, it doesn’t come without risks, and “knowledge of the buccal fat pad and its related vital structures are fundamental to mitigating complications.”

As with any elective surgery, one should always carefully weigh the pros and cons. The results are likewise permanent, so going to a qualified doctor with a lot of experience is a must. 

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