Thinking About Buccal Fat Removal? Here's Why You Might Want To Rethink It...

Cosmetic Treatments

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Poke around your socials or pop in to see what’s happening on the red carpet, and you’re bound to see it: celebrities with ultra-chiseled faces that look almost too sculpted to be natural. It could just be their genes, of course, but with the uptick in buccal fat removal procedures – and pretty shocking before and afters – it could also be a trendy plastic surgery procedure that removes buccal fat. 

“Buccal fat is considered the type of fat located in the midsection of the face, between the cheek and jaw bones, that tends to give some a more rounded facial structure,” explains Dr. David Shafer, a double board-certified plastic surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue. “Everyone has buccal fat. However, it is more prominent in some than others.”

Buccal fat removal surgery is the process of removing this fat in order to create a super-defined, contoured appearance. It can create a hollow effect on the lower half of the face, which in turn makes cheekbones look very prominent, and overall, the face looks slimmer.

Despite its growing popularity, many plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and estheticians are waving their hands frantically, trying to get people to think twice before going through with buccal fat removal surgery. In fact, a handful won’t even offer the service. Let’s get gritty about why this plastic surgery trend is so controversial and discuss scenarios when this surgery might make sense for someone. 

What Happens During Buccal Fat Removal Surgery? 

@theplasticsurgeryclinic What is buccal fat removal 🤔? #torontoplasticsurgery #torontoplasticsurgeon #drfranklista #drjamilahmad #drryanaustin #plasticsurgerybeforeandaftertoronto #plasticsurgerytok ♬ original sound – The Plastic Surgery Clinic

We mentioned that buccal fat removal involves removing the fat pads between your cheek and jawbone. Dr. Shafer says it’s actually a pretty simple and straightforward surgery that takes as little as a half hour and requires either local anesthesia or an IV. From there, a small incision is made, the fat pad is surgically removed, and then the patient’s sewn back up.

“Similar to any procedure, patients may experience bruising, swelling, and sensitivity a few days post-op. However, because incisions are made on the inside of the mouth, there will be no visible scarring,” says Dr. Shafer. “Once the swelling wears down, patients will be able to see results almost immediately, and results will continue to show in the weeks following the procedure.”

The ease of this surgery and the instant results is arguably why it’s gaining so much momentum right now. The fact that it’s fitting into a currently trending “aesthetic” only adds fuel to the “gotta have it” fire. 

The Potential Pitfalls of Buccal Fat Removal Surgery 

A permanently contoured face sounds great in theory, so what’s with all the fuss? Perhaps the biggest concern with buccal fat removal surgery is that it hinges on a trend, but the results are permanent. What’s more, results might actually end up looking not-so-great as you get older. 

“As a person ages, they tend to lose volume in the face,” says Dr. Oren Tepper, director of reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery at Montefiore Einstein Advanced Care. “So, when they reach their 40s and 50s, this removal can result in a hollowed out, skeletonized and aged look.” In other words, while the buccal fat of our youth might feel “too big” or create a face shape we’re not happy with, the buccal fat of our mature years is crucial for looking healthy and youthful. 

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While buccal fat at a later age is crucial for everyone, Dr. Tepper adds that these cushy fat pads are especially important in slim individuals since it helps them “maintain appropriate and youthful cheek volume and contour to the face.” 

How Do You Know If Buccal Fat Removal Is Right For You?

All of this isn’t to say that everyone should write off buccal fat removal. Like any type of plastic surgery, people who undergo this procedure should be deemed ideal candidates. In the vast majority of cases, this person isn’t a celebrity who wants a chiseled look for a singular red-carpet event, nor is it your everyday person who wants to go with the ebb and flow of beauty trends. 

“I would only recommend this procedure to those with a full lower half of the face,” Dr. Shafer says. He adds, “And it’s important for the surgeon to be conservative and not take out the entire fat pad, as this will leave the patient looking too hollow and may worsen with age.” 

If you’re curious about buccal fat removal, Dr. Shafer strongly insists on connecting with a well-reviewed, board-certified plastic surgeon. Even better if they have a catalog of images you can look through to get a feel for their work. This person can assess your case and determine whether you’re a good candidate for buccal fat removal. 

“Patients should browse online platforms to see their previous work, but be careful of ‘insta-famous’ doctors who are all hype and over-promise results,” warns Dr. Shafer. He adds, “Before having any procedure, it’s essential to set up a consultation to ensure that patients and their provider are on the same page when it comes to results, as this procedure is permanent and cannot be undone.”

Alternatives To Buccal Fat Removal Surgery 

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If you like the idea of a more sculpted look, you can still skip buccal fat removal altogether. Here are a few alternatives that can provide subtle to dramatic results: 

  • Filler: Well-placed filler around the jawline and cheekbones can create the look of a chiseled, defined face without removing any of that precious fat. Best of all, it’s temporary (filler lasts six months to several years), and you can have it dissolved immediately if you’re like, “Nah.” 
  • Makeup: Get your contour game on. A little sleight of the hand with your fave contour and highlight can make for a gorgeous before-and-after moment. Check out our tutorial on how to get the ultimate natural snatch with cream contour.
  • Lymphatic Massage: If you notice you’re looking puffy or carrying around extra water weight in your face, a lymphatic drainage massage can get things moving. You can perform this on yourself or opt for a professional treatment. Check out Huda’s wow-worthy before and after.
  • Boomerang Lift: “I perform a procedure called the ‘Boomerang Lift’ to add volume to the upper cheek area without surgery using fat grafting that lasts up to ten years,” says Dr. Tepper. “The procedure takes less than one hour in the office with patients back to their normal routines in one to two days.” This approach is better for more mature patients who have substantial drooping and want a more dramatic treatment approach. 
  • Gua Sha Sculpting: Give it up for our girl, Gua Sha, a sculpting facial technique that creates the effect of an instant facelift. Plus, we love a self-care moment. 

We’ve got more plastic surgery do’s and don’ts. Read up, so you don’t get botched.