As if we thought there weren’t enough aspects of our appearance to be insecure about, the end of 2022 had to add another to the list. Now, people all over the world are concerned about the amount of buccal fat they have in their cheeks, thanks to a rising TikTok trend. Basically, after Lea Michele posted a new sultry selfie, people began speculating that she had buccal fat (pronounced “buckle fat”) removal, which she still has yet to comment on.
Regardless of which celebs have decided to undergo the procedure, the buccal fat trend has sparked quite the controversy as the latest plastic surgery trend all over Twitter and TikTok. Some plastic surgeons are recommending it, whereas others are warning young people against it. So what’s the deal with buccal fat, and is it worth removing?
What is buccal fat removal? Details on the latest TikTok plastic surgery trend.
While the last decade has been all about embracing all body types, with people such as Jameela Jamil and Lizzo on the frontlines, 2022 has started to bring back “thin culture." This isn’t surprising, considering the fashion that’s recycled its way into the 2020s: low-rise jeans, cropped tops, and more.
But, buccal fat removal isn't a new trend, at least, according to plastic surgeon Dr. Benjamin Caughlin. While the Chicago-based doctor has been performing this operation for the past 11 years, he credits social media, Zoom, and the "selfie-age" as reasons for the popularity spike in this trend.
Buccal fat is basically a small sac of fat in the deepest layer of one’s cheeks. Typically, when people undergo the procedure to remove the buccal fat (or a portion of it), it’s just a quick 30-minute procedure with little to no side effects.
"If you suck in your cheeks, you can see how that sharpens a jawline and enhances the cheekbones," Dr. Caughlin explained. "It’s all about peaks and valleys ... so if you make the buccal space a little bit more of a valley, it makes the jawline, as well as the cheekbones, pop that much more."
Is everyone a candidate for buccal fat removal?
Buccal fat removal isn’t for everyone, despite what some TikTok trends may encourage. According to Dr. Caughlin, the "ideal candidates have medium to thick skin, round faces, short ramus of the mandible, and a full buccal space."
The Chicago-based plastic surgeon recommends people consider their personal aesthetic preferences when it comes to opting for a more sculpted look.
Additionally, people should look at their parents to determine if the overly sculpted look is the right procedure for them.
Essentially, removing buccal fat is like a natural contouring procedure that accentuates the cheekbones and removes the fat from cheeks that can cause “babyface.” While that may sound ideal to some, it’s easy to forget that our faces change naturally as we age. And while the amount of buccal fat we have never changes naturally, the elasticity and muscles throughout the rest of our faces do change.
"If the parents have a full, kind of pre-jowl or heavy, lower face," one may benefit from the procedure, Dr. Caughlin said. Overall, potential candidates should do their research and find a reputable surgeon that understands the goals of the look they are hoping to achieve, as well as decrease their risk of potential complications.
TikTok users are divided on if buccal fat removal is good or bad.
Like anything in life, buccal fat removal is a gray area. For some people, it might truly make sense if they have more buccal fat than the average person. However, as people age, specifically women, their faces tend to hollow out more and their cheeks contour more naturally. So young people who want to get the procedure done should be cautious.
In a TikTok video, Dr. Steven R. Cohen of Faces Plus Plastic Surgery explained that the surgery is resurging 20 years after its last surge. He said that for the wrong candidate, “this maneuver can lead to something that looks kind of like a deformity later in life."
"It accentuates the aging process. It creates hollowing here,” he added, pointing to the space between his cheeks and his jaws.
On the other hand, Dr. Caughlin, aka Dr. Buccal Fat, loves recommending the procedure. “If you don’t like this contour, if you don’t like this sculpted look, don’t do it, it’s that simple. I think it’s attractive, many other people think it’s attractive … so you gotta define what is hot, that’s really the key,” he said.
But what about the side effects? In a YouTube video, Dr. Gary Linkov said that he stopped doing buccal fat removals because the buccal fat is “intricately intertwined with certain important structures.” Those structures include sending saliva to the mouth and facial nerves that control the muscles.
While some have opted for the contoured look, other young people are now embracing their buccal fat. Who doesn’t love baby cheeks? Viral makeup artist Rachel OCool encourages her followers to create a contoured look that accentuates their round cheeks rather than diminishes them. It may be a trend, but it’s important to remember, trends fade.