The internet is ablaze with talk of buccal fat removal yet again. The trending treatment became popular during the pandemic-era “Zoom Boom” for helping to slenderize faces and get rid of that “chubby cheek,” “baby fat” look that some find hard to lose even after weight loss. Chrissy Teigen has been forthcoming about having it done and now many online fans are speculating that other celebs like Lea Michele, Amelia Grey Hamlin, Erin Moriarty and Zoë Kravitz have also had the surgery, fueling online searches this week for the term “buccal fat.”
While it’s not our place to speculate on who has had what, it is our place to explain the popular aesthetic trend and who is and isn’t a good candidate for it.
What It Is
To put it simply, buccal fat pads are the fat between your cheekbones and your jaw bones. Arcadia, CA, plastic surgeon Arthur Y. Yu, MD says as part of a facial-contouring procedure, many times these fat pads are removed with surgery to remove “baby fat” and give the face a more slender look. He will often perform the procedure alongside jawline reshaping or a facelift in the appropriate patients.
“As we get older, buccal fat may begin to migrate anteriorly in some people, causing a wider look,” he explains. “With time, the fascia overlying the fat pad becomes thin, and the fat pads become more and more prominent.” Buccal fat removal is essentially a cheek reduction and consists of making an incision inside the mouth and removing the fat pads.
Who Is a Good Candidate?
According to Dr. Yu, if that fat pad has fallen it can make your face appear fuller over time. “Whenever we think that protrusion of the fat is destroying the proportion of the face, it may be time to have the fat removed.”
Who Should Avoid It
Although he gets the request from patients often, Campbell, CA plastic surgeon R. Laurence Berkowitz, MD says he does not advise patients under 25 to have this procedure done. “You should wait till you’re about 25,” explains Dr. Berkowitz. “By age 25 and on we will go from looking like an adolescent to an adult, and the shift to the central face will start to show. My advice is to be patient as you don’t want to lose additional fat after you’ve had it taken out.”
“I do not believe this procedure to be wise for anyone,” cautions Scottsdale, AZ facial plastic surgeon Kelly V. Bomer, MD, who believes many patients my regret having it done as they get older. “I have never done it and will never do it. Volume in the face disappears as we age and I work to restore it while maintaining natural expression and an aesthetic look. It is best to leave this baby fat in its natural place when younger and use contouring with makeup when a more defined look is desired.”
Results Over Time
The main reason why aesthetic experts say to proceed with caution is that as we continue to age, we may want to retain as much of that precious facial fat as possible and New York facial plastic surgeon John Kang, MD warns it’s not for everyone. “When a patient comes with subtle or minimal fullness, we usually warn that they risk eventually appearing gaunt later on in their life because many do lose their fat in this deep buccal space as they age. We ask the patients to look no further than their parents to see how much fat their parents have lost with aging.”