After years of seeking out plumper lips, fuller cheeks, and augmented jawlines, celebrities are adding more fuel to our insecurities with a little help from a procedure called buccal fat removal.
Though not a new procedure, buccal fat removal went viral this week after Lea Michele posted a new selfie with noticeably hollowed cheeks, sparking discourse about the surgery across social media.
Lea has not addressed the rumours, however, internet users have speculated that a number of celebrities have undergone the procedure including Zoe Kravitz and Megan Fox.
Chrissy Teigen openly admitted to having the procedure done last year.
What is buccal fat and how is it removed?
Buccal fat is the fat pad between the cheekbone and the jawbone. For some, it contributes to a rounder and more youthful-looking face.
While beauty trends typically lean in favour of a youthful look, removing buccal fat gives a sharp and angular look to the face, reminiscent of high-fashion models like Bella Hadid.
According to NYC double board-certified facial plastic surgeon Dr. Gary Linkov in his YouTube video ‘Why I Stopped Doing Buccal Fat Removal Surgery…‘, the buccal fat pad is “intricately intertwined with certain important structures”, including the parotid duct which helps send saliva into the mouth, the facial nerve which controls the muscles of the face, and the maxillary artery.
To remove the buccal fat pad, a surgeon cuts into the cheek via the inside of the mouth. The surgery is often done while the patient is awake and can be very uncomfortable as local anesthesia cannot numb the deeper structures of the cheek.
Why are celebrities getting their buccal fat removed?
It doesn’t take a genius to draw parallels between an increased interest in buccal fat removal and the return of “thin” culture. Though skinniness never went “out” of style, it’s been noticeably on the rise over the past year with the revival of many early 2000s trends like low-rise jeans, micro mini skirts, and crop tops.
The popularity of buccal fat removal also coincides with the Ozempic drug rush— an insulin regulator for pre-diabetic people whose primary side effect is fast and dramatic weight loss. Ozempic made waves on TikTok earlier this year when the hashtag #MyOzempicJourney blew up, and later again when Kim Kardashian dropped a significant amount of weight in a short period of time to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s dress for the Met Gala. Many now call the drug Hollywood’s “worst-kept secret” because everyone’s on it.
While body shapes should never be a “trend”, unfortunately, it seems like celebrities are going to extreme lengths to fit into the illusion of thinness, and buccal fat removal has become part of that illusion.
What are the concerns about removing the buccal fat pad?
As with any invasive procedure or plastic surgery, there are risks to removing the buccal fat pad. This is especially true given how close it sits to highly sensitive structures in the face.
In addition to medical risks like nerve damage and excessive blood loss, one of the major concerns around this procedure is the lack of knowledge about its long-term effects, especially as the face ages.
As Dr. Linkov notes, the buccal fat pad remains relatively consistent throughout the aging process, unlike other facial fat that tends to atrophy. Removing buccal fat can prematurely age someone and impact facial structure, especially as a patient moves into their 40s, 50s, and 60s.
As a result, some patients may end up needing filler in the face to get that volume back.
These risks and concerns have led many plastic surgeons to cease offering the procedure at their practice.
And while angular cheekbones and a sharp jawline might be desirable now, buccal fat removal is a permanent solution to a temporary beauty trend that will inevitably change over time.
This obsession with gaunt faces as the beauty standard is a lose-lose for women in the long run. So all things considered, it’s probably best to keep we keep our buccal fat intact and take up the art of contouring instead.