TikTok’s Hottest Trend: Buccal Fat Removal

At Artemis, we talk a lot about how TikTok is a great platform for discovering what beauty trends are going viral amongst beauty consumers, celebrities, and influencers alike. The latest one to take hold is buccal fat removal. But what is this procedure and why is it trending?

What Is Buccal Fat Removal?

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, buccal fat removal is a surgical procedure that removes the buccal fat pad that serve as a cushion between the buccinator and masseter muscles (the muscles responsible for chewing) located in the hollow of the cheeks to create a more chiseled appearance in the face. This procedure is typically done on those with rounder facial features and not done on individuals who have thin, narrow faces since it can give the appearance of looking gaunt.

To remove the buccal fat pad, a surgeon will ease the pads out by making an incision on the inside of the cheek. It takes roughly an hour to perform, and the recovery typically runs around a week during which the swelling subsides. The dissolvable stitches used to close the incision will break down leaving a contoured cheekbone that has been popularized by celebrities and other public figures.

Buccal Fat Removal On TikTok

As we mentioned above, buccal fat removal represents the latest plastic surgery craze to take over TikTok. In fact, the hashtag #buccalfatremoval has racked up hundreds of millions of views. Photos of celebrities with hollowed out cheeks have caused quite a stir on social media. In the fall of 2021, model Chrissy Tiegen jumped on the trend and went public with her procedure. More recently, a photo of former Glee star, Lea Michele sparked speculation she underwent buccal fat removal. However, she has not confirmed nor denied having it done. Meanwhile, on TikTok, people are posting updates about their own buccal fat removal surgery, jokes, and warnings.

Why Is Buccal Removal Trending Now?

Kirk Lozada, a physician who owns a nasal and facial plastic surgery office in Philadelphia, hosts TikTok and YouTube accounts centering around his office’s procedures including a video showing him performing the buccal fat removal procedure.

“The recent trend of buccal fat in social media and the news has been fun and not that surprising given my experience,” Lozada told the Philadelphia Inquirer in a recent interview. “Like most trends, celebrities and influencers sharing their experience drives a lot of attention and boosts interest: Kim Kardashian with vampire facials, Kylie Jenner’s lip filler, even Chrissy Teigen with buccal fat not too long ago.”

Despite the recent uptick in interest, buccal fat removal is not a new procedure. In fact, it has been around for fifty years. Lozada attributes this uptick to patient education about the procedure. “As opposed to a nose job or lip filler, patients have no idea what buccal fat is and what happens when you remove it,” he said. “Therefore, you have to do some research and will inevitably come across the addictive videos of its removal through the mouth.” Like other trending procedures like lip filler, fox eye thread lifts, liquid nose jobs, and lip lifts, Lozado sees a direct correlation between the increase in demand for buccal fat removal and the fact that it has gone viral on social media.

Are There Risks Involved With Buccal Fat Removal?

Like anything, there are risks involved with buccal fat removal. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the risks include the following but are not limited to:

  1. Anesthesia risks
  2. Infection
  3. Bleeding
  4. Asymmetry
  5. Damage to salivary ducts
  6. Damage to facial nerves that can lead to temporary or permanent facial weakness
  7. Chronic pain
  8. Incision healing issues
  9. Prolonged swelling
  10. Results that are not optimal

What Is The Recovery Like From Buccal Fat Removal

After the removal of the buccal fat pads, the surgeon may suggest that the individual who underwent the procedure stay on a liquid diet for several days, possibly longer. Patients will be given instructions on how to take care of the surgical sites and possibly be prescribed medication to aid in the healing or to reduce the risk of infection. Patients should ask their surgeon when the bandages can be removed when they can resume normal activities, and when they need to return for a follow up appointment. The healing process takes several weeks during which the swelling of the face should go down. It is important for patients who have this procedure done to follow the surgeon’s instructions for aftercare and in addition to seeing them for any follow up appointments.

Why There Are Some Mixed Opinions About Buccal Fat Removal

What some folks aren’t saying on social media is that buccal fat removal is permanent and not reversible. In fact, the long-term effects of the surgery could be counterintuitive. Buccal fat pads naturally shrink with age, so whatever amount of the pads remain helps to give the face a more youthful appearance. Removing the buccal fat pads can lead to an individual looking gaunt as the person ages. However, there isn’t enough research that is long-term on the procedure to say definitively.

Take Away

The decision to have buccal fat removal is a personal one. The pros and cons should be discussed with the surgeon to make sure that in the long run, it is the right choice. If an individual is not a good candidate for buccal fat removal, there are other ways to create a more defined and sculpted cheekbone area with the use of fillers. In the end, social media can be a great resource for folks looking for various procedures to get the look they desire, but it shouldn’t be based on trends—especially since they can come and go.

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