Buccal fat removal ‘can have major implications’ as you age

I thought buccal fat removal was going to be one of those niche celebrity gossip topics, but it actually moved over to my “main feed” and randoms from college who don’t seem particularly surgically-inclined are talking about getting it. Buccal fat removal is essentially minor facial plastic surgery to get that hollow-cheeked look that celebs like Bella Hadid and Zoe Kravitz are sporting. Not that either of them have copped to it like Chrissy Teigan has, but I think that’s the look people are going for. Just looking at the effects of the surgery, it looks like the kind of thing that might not age well as many people’s faces become thinner as they age. Turns out, experts are saying the same, though the patients are still too young now for the long-term effects to be apparent.

Lately, social media has been buzzing with photos of a handful of celebrities with seemingly slimmer faces and more chiseled jawlines. Many people have assumed (without confirmation) that these changes are the result of buccal fat removal—a procedure in which fat in the cheeks and jaw area is removed to give the face a more contoured appearance—which is likely why you’ve been seeing the term all over your timeline.

If this has only made your more curious about what buccal fat is, why someone would want it removed, and why the heck everyone is talking about it, we reached out to a few experts to clear things up.

What is buccal fat anyway?

In short, buccal fat (pronounced “buckle”) is just the fat that lies between your cheekbone and jawbone. “Everyone has a buccal fat pad in their cheek hollow area,” says Michael Horn, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Lake Shore Plastic Surgery in Chicago. “The size varies from person to person, and one cheek’s pad may be larger than the other.”

Dr. Horn explains that even though skin with a full and plump appearance has become trendy because of its association with youth, some people—like Chrissy Teigen, who admitted to having the procedure done back in 2021—may opt to have their buccal fat removed if they find that if the area is too full.

“There’s been a significant increase in the interest around buccal fat removal in younger patients who are looking to change the contour and slim the lower part of their face,” says board-certified facial plastic surgeon Heather Lee, MD.

Basically, the purpose of removing buccal fat is to slim the cheeks. “Picture pursing your lips together and biting down with both cheeks on the thick skin inside the mouth to give yourself a facsimile of what buccal fat removal will do,” says Dr. Horn.

What happens during a buccal fat removal procedure?

The first thing you need to know is that the entire procedure takes less than an hour, according to Dr. Horn, and you should expect to be sedated or put under general anesthesia. “The procedure involves an incision inside the mouth on the inner area of the cheek,” Dr. Horn explains. “Once the fat is removed from each side, a surgeon closes the incisions with sutures.”

Dr. Lee adds that the procedure has to be done very carefully in order to avoid injuring nerves that control movement of the face, as well as your salivary duct. “The goal is to create a slimmer lower face and to accentuate the cheek bones and jawline,” she explains. “By removing fullness in the cheek area, the contours of the face are highlighted and the roundness of the face is lessened.”

What is the recovery time like?

After your removal procedure, your surgeon should give you an oral rinse to prevent infection, though you might also be prescribed antibiotics to further minimize your risk. Additionally, you’ll likely experience bruising, swelling, and discomfort in your cheeks for up to two weeks after surgery.

“A liquid diet is recommended for a few days post-op, and patients progress to soft foods as the soreness alleviates,” Dr. Horn says. “Ice packs can be used to relieve this.” Because of the swelling, it’s possible that it may take up to three weeks for you to actually see results.

Are there any risks associated with buccal fat removal?

As stated before by Dr. Lee, this surgery could temporarily or permanently injure some of the nerves that control your face and salivary duct if performed incorrectly. As with any surgery, you should also do your research to ensure that your surgeon doesn’t remove too much fat and make your face look too gaunt.

“Since it goes not regrow, there is a risk of removing too much fat and creating excessive hollowing,” Dr. Lee says. “Although that may be what some younger patients are looking for, this can have major implications as they age.”

[From Women’s Health via Yahoo]

The surgery and recovery doesn’t sound so bad. It sounds pretty similar to getting your wisdom teeth removed. But the potential long-term implications are scary. In general, face-altering surgeries seem way more risky to me than body procedures. A botched or unexpected result with a face surgery will have so much more of an impact than a bad boob job or lipo, etc. I just think about what happened to Linda Evangelista and that was mostly her body. That was bad, but bad results on your face seem much worse and harder to live with. I get the result they’re trying to achieve — a slimmer and more sculpted face — and I’ve certainly wanted that myself in the past. My face has slimmed on its own as I’ve gotten older, but it’s still full and I’ve grown to like that because it makes me look 5-8 years younger than I am. It doesn’t grow back and I don’t think it’s reversible, so removing that fat now means it might not be there when people want/need it later. I would hate to start wrinkling or looking gaunt as I age for some irreversible trend that might not even stay popular.

photos credit: Avalon.red and via Instagram

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83 Responses to “Buccal fat removal ‘can have major implications’ as you age”

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  1. Mood:Gudetama says:

    Oh I feel many of these women are going to regret this once they get just a little bit older, like early forties! How much do you want to bet they’ll all get fillers to replace what they had removed in just a few years?
    I’m a distance runner and I’ve definitely noticed an aging effect in my face because of it, a gauntness, that is quite the bummer but I love the mental health effect running gives me so I’m willing to just accept it. I can’t understand choosing to basically age your face faster!

    • Seraphina says:

      My mom and I were speaking to facial surgery in order to look younger and she stated the same: the face continue to age and most look not so good and they do regret the procedures as they age into their 70s.
      Side note: I am a walker and have friends trying to tell me to run -not walk and I say: NOPE my boobs come first – I am fighting gravity and age as it is (of course I am being funny but there is also some truth to it).

  2. Anna says:

    This is all just insane. I’m not against plastic surgery itself, if you hate some part of your appearance then you can fix it but whyyyyy all those women want to look the same? And the worst is that many of them were originally very beautiful, Chrissy Tigen including. And as long as they look great on pictures, in reality you can always see something is not right, maybe apart from a good nose job.

    • Sushiroll says:

      Nah sorry. Chrissy Teigen is hideous, and her personality has a lot to do with it. She’s really hard to look at no matter what she does. Barf.

  3. SAS says:

    Julia Garner was the one I noticed most recently at the Golden Globes! Considering the near-uniform results, it seems like the type of surgery that maybe isn’t easily tailored to your face?

    Sophie Turner, Lea Michele’s and Miley Cyrus’ are all extreme examples. And Chrissy’s round face was kind of her signature! I respect her for being open about it though.

    • Sandra says:

      Oh my goodness for Garner I am holding out hope that it was just excellent contouring. Also I feel like I am the only one that hardly sees any difference at all with Chrissy’s

      I think Dove Cameron’s looks ridiculous, but that may be due to the change in her chin around the same time

    • Kirsten says:

      I hope Sophie Turner doesn’t start messing with her face — she’s gorgeous.

    • LIONE says:

      The absolute worst one is Eiza González. Jeezh!

      But let me get this straight, the trend is: don’t ever think you’re naturally beautiful, get work done? Okay.

      This is why I’m against the whole “I’m allowed to do whatever I want with my body”-thing. It’s not the policing people’s choices-part, but the lack of self awareness about how fragile human psychology is to group-think and self identity issues.

    • Layla Beans says:

      Sarah Hyland just did it too.

    • Snoozer says:

      Oh my gosh, you’re right! I never realised those three had had bucal fat removal but it’s so obvious!

      One point, I think some women have had cheek (and sometimes chin) implants as opposed to buccal fat removal. Like Zoe Kravitz and Lily Rose Depp. That’s what celeb plastic face on IG thinks, they say they can SEE the implants (telltale signs) and I think I can too now.

      • Amanda says:

        Omg, I couldn’t put my finger on what Emily Blunt did to change her face shape drastically in recent photos but that’s it!

  4. Snuffles says:

    Worst beauty trend ever. Do these women realize they all look like Zoolander?

    • mtos says:

      They do look like Zoolander. They all look the same and it’s ridiculous. I mean, people’s face don’t look human after these surgeries. I don’t understand it at all. I know they want to look young and thin and perfect, etc… but this is not a good look. I don’t get it. I’m glad I’m a normal person who doesn’t have to rely on their looks for employment.

    • CocofromCanada says:

      When you have no more weight to lose

  5. SJS says:

    My daughter suffers from trigeminal neuralgia, causing nerve pain behind her eyes, nose and in her jaw. I think anyone considering this elective surgery should research it in order to better understand the risk.

  6. Abby says:

    People have always thought I look younger than I am, which I hated in high school and now at 38 I am happy about. 😆 But I think it’s because I have full apple cheeks. I got them from my mama. Regardless of my weight, my face stays full-ish. I’d love my jawline to be sharper, but I would not want to lose that fat on my face prematurely. I don’t understand the move to do this when contour and bronzer can give such a similar look.

    • Naye in va says:

      Team baby face! I have always had big cheeks as well. It goes a long way too making my age a bit ambiguous

    • SusieQ says:

      I turned 37 last month and got carded for my birthday drink, so I too am Team baby face!

    • Erin says:

      Same, I actually hated it when I was younger and will always remember a kid in 8th grade asking me why my cheeks were so big when we got our school pictures back. I was a very slim kid and teen too but still had the round face. It still bothers me some and would love to have a nice oval face but I’m now 40 and my face has slimmed and I don’t look 40.

      ETA: I remember a girl in my sorority who was Asian and had a similar face and look to Chrissy’s, she was beautiful, and majored in broadcasting talking about wanting to do this because she wanted to be on tv and I had never heard of it and honestly hadn’t since up until these celebs started doing it. This was in the early early aughts too.

    • Doodle says:

      Same here. It was always annoying in my twenties to be mistaken for a teenager – hard to get a date when the guys thought they were committing a crime. But now at 46 people think I’m in my early 30s. It’s pretty nice to have a round face.

    • terra says:

      I sixth this. I’m thirty-five and got carded buying cigarettes for my grandfather last month. My grandmother was carded at bars in earnest well into her fifties, so genetics are on my side, lol. I HATED the baby face when I was younger, but it’s definitely to my benefit these days.

      (My mother is a different story, however, what with her pack-a-day habit, binge-drinking, and near-daily tanning bed usage for three decades. Genes count for a lot, but how you take care of yourself – or not – also plays a giant role. People always thought my Grandma was my mother when I was a kid and it’s even worse now.)

  7. Jais says:

    This just does not seem like a good idea….signed a 42 yr old woman who is advising young people to keep the fat in their cheeks.

    • Mood:Gudetama says:

      co-signed by another 42 year old!!

    • Lurker25 says:

      Co-signed by 47.
      You can’t see youthfulness when you’re young, only what’s sexy/pretty.

      Suddenly you hit an age when youth, just youth by itself, is so tender and fresh in all its zitty glory you want to cry at its beauty. Cosmetic surgery of any kind while young is a mistake,I think, bc you don’t know how you’ll age, what your face will do.

      Eg, I have a huge nose. Long, wide, very prominent, high bridge. I was small and super skinny well into my late 30s and felt like that Mucinex commercial – the one where the guy is just a nose? I read as early 20s to everyone but all I wanted was a nose job for so so long.
      FF 10 years, a kid, weight fluctuations. Suddenly my nose anchors my face. Faces widen with age (yes cheeks lose volume but that’s sagging. Everything thickens and widens – jaw, neck, etc) so my nose looks proportional, the bridge aristocratic, the underlying bone and cartilage holding skin and flesh in my mid face in place.

      It’s not a cute or pretty nose, never was. But I would have traded 20 years of cute/pretty for the next 40 of more procedures to make everything else match my cute/pretty nose, instead of my nose now matching everything else.

  8. Caseysmom says:

    Chrissy Teigen seems so unhappy with herself. I worry for people when they have success, money, children, a spouse that they are seemingly happy with. This constant altering of the face and body points to deeper, unhealed pain. I sincerely wish her the best in spite of some past problematic choices.

    • Erin says:

      She also got that eyebrow hair transplant done remember? She’s don’t so much to her face. If you look at pics of her from like 2009-2010 and now she looks so different and she was beautiful. She naturally had so many things I would pay money to change on myself lol.

    • Rnot says:

      Body dysmorphia is hell.

  9. OriginalLala says:

    Having some fat in your face keeps you looking younger – so basically they are removing fat in their 20s/30s and when their faces start to fall prematurely they will shoot themselves up with filler and fat transfers. More money than brains

    • Shane says:

      I’m 34 and people regularly place my age around mid to late 20s, and it’s probably because I have a round face (like Chrissy’s) with full, prominent cheekbones. I do understand the urge to get this procedure—I absolutely hated my round face growing up and felt like no matter what I did, my face always looked too young and too heavy—but now that I’m getting older, I’m grateful for my natural shape. My grandmother (who has the same face shape/cheekbones, and who is in her mid-70s but could easily pass for early 60s) always said, “you keep the fat, you keep the face,” and that definitely sticks out to me now that I’m not so young anymore. I can’t help but feel like all these women getting this procedure are going to look very gaunt and haggard by the time they’re in their early 40s.

      • Bama says:

        My mom always said “At a certain age, you must choose – ass or face. Choose your face, you’ll look plumper but younger. Choose your ass, you’ll look skinnier but older”.

        I chose face. And it applies to men too!

        My ex-husband choose his ass – he looks 10 years older than his age.

      • terra says:

        My grandmother always quotes Catherine Deneuve! “A 30-year-old woman must choose between her bottom and her face.”

        She chose her face, so despite having let her hair go gray a few years ago people are still always shocked when they find out she’s seventy-seven.

      • SomeChick says:

        Catherine Deneuve chose her face… to the extreme that she always attempted to look expressionless so as to avoid creating wrinkles. what kind of life is that?!

      • terra says:

        @SomeChick, I meant that my grandmother chose her face. I can’t speak one way or another about Catherine Deneuve’s expressions, or lack thereof. She’s more my Grandma’s thing, not so much mine.

        I do agree – staying expressionless out of fear of showing age is no way to live. Also, it’s especially perplexing for an actress, of all things. The POINT is to show emotion. Ah, well, they can’t all be Charlotte Rampling.

  10. Lucy2 says:

    I don’t get it- almost everyone who has had this done looks worse.

  11. Laura-Lee MacDonald says:

    Yet another thing I am glad I did not have access to in my teens and twenties, when my self-esteem was underground. I used to walk around with my cheeks sucked in to try and get more prominent cheekbones (sigh) and this is exactly the kind of procedure I’d waste money on and deeply regret later. Thank goodness I’m old now, and no longer care.

  12. Tulipworthy says:

    Her kids are adorable.

  13. Jillian says:

    Drinks with girlfriends turned into 2 of us animatedly trying to warn the 3rd against getting buccal fat removal last week. It looks bad and crazy on everyone and, yes, it will make you look old prematurely. I just don’t understand this one, don’t mangle your face for a fad.

  14. JustBitchy says:

    See Ivanka before and after.

  15. Emmi says:

    No. No no no. I’m sorry but this is still surgery. Surgery. It shouldn’t be a trend! WTF? Every doctor who does Botox will tell you that no matter how careful and experienced they are, there are always risks and there’s a chance something droops etc. But that goes away. This is permanent. The face has SO many muscles and nerves that can be damaged and that shit’s not reversible. And the problem is that once it becomes a trend, so many doctors – qualified or not – will want to cash in and offer this. That’s when the botched procedures increase. Just leave your cheeks alone, people. This is really where we should draw a line. It’s not actually like having wisdom teeth removed.

    • goofpuff says:

      Even botox is a risk. They inject where they shouldn’t and can damage nerves that won’t go away. Fillers are risks as they can migrate and might not stay where you want them, causing them to build up in areas you don’t want. Any cosmetic procedure done to your face is always a risk as there are so many nerves, muscles, and it is a very complex place. one mistake can change your face forever.

      I wish more people who choose to do the procedures and take them more seriously like a medical procedure each time. Not treat them like a haircut.

      • Twin Falls says:

        I’ve been getting Botox for years (I’m 47) for my 11s between my eyes. Last visit she put a few injections in my chin just to try it. Omg – for weeks I had random twinges and tightening. It was so annoying but I was thankful it wasn’t painful and would mostly likely be temporary. Never again. Wrinkly chin for the win.

    • Dillesca says:

      What isn’t said enough is that despite the relative ease of the procedure and how (again, relatively) cheap it is, there is no fixing this if you don’t like the results. Fat transfers and fillers are much more superficially placed that the buccal fat pad is. Plastic surgery is always permanent, but there is very little that can be done to reverse the effects of buccal fat removal.

  16. smcollins says:

    It fascinates me how common place all these cosmetic procedures eventually become, from nose jobs to boob jobs to facelifts to Botox to lip injections to now this buccal fat removal. It seems to start among the “elite” and entertainment industries before becoming more mainstream with “everyday” people. As long as new procedures keep getting introduced I don’t see an end to this desperate chase. And of course it’s all geared towards women who should all want to achieve these arbitrary standards to make ourselves more desirable and valuable.

  17. one of the marys says:

    All I see are surgeons inventing procedures that no one needs. Plastic surgeons must face a lot of ethical quandaries

    • SAS says:

      Yeah, in some cases they would be clearly able to tell that some significant mental health issues were in play.

      I’m 36 and visited a cosmetic injector this year to consult about Botox on my forehead and filler in my cheeks. She said no to both! She said come back in a year to reassess! On reflection, I was having some other health issues that were making me feel quite down, so I was grateful to her for actually looking at the face that was in front of her, not the “potential” face that I was asking for.

  18. Eleonor says:

    They will inject fat back within few years…to look younger 😑

  19. Doodle says:

    I am so thankful my teenager is more into anime than celebrities. My kid wouldn’t know who any of these people are and I’m pretty sure this procedure would freak them out.

  20. Ladiabla says:

    Count me among the round-faced gals. Now I do wish my cheeks weren’t so big and my jawline was the jawline of my 20s, but this procedure scares me. I think Chrissy looked way better before tbh. Now she looks like everyone else. Didn’t Susan Sarandon have some kind of chin lipo to make her jawline more defined? I think I’d rather do something like that.

  21. Roast says:

    I think anyone who is getting this procedure is already committed to further plastic surgery in the future. Not aging “well” is not an option for them.

  22. Leonelda says:

    This is the first trend where I’ve felt like Hollywood women are completely out of touch with reality. If my friend considered this procedure I would be like, girl, no. Why do you want to look like a hungry skeleton. So bizarre. I truly don’t think any of these women look good post-surgery. But it’s their lives and faces I suppose.

    • Kate says:

      Yes! I looked up some of the celebrities mentioned in the comments and their faces now look anorexic. Like why?

  23. Case says:

    Soooo many celebs are getting this right now. And sometimes, I think it looks fine. But it’s going to age them terribly and they’re going to need fillers to try to fix it. It’s a bit sad. Fat helps with wrinkles and aging! You don’t want to surgically remove every speck of it.

  24. lisa says:

    team fat face over here, my mom always told me one day id be grateful and I am

    reminds me of Joan Crawford in Feud spitting up blood telling her dentist that 40 yrs ago she had the buccal

  25. shanaynay says:

    I read on another gossip site that Kyle form the Housewives of BH, is saying that CT should be on the show. I’d say for me that would be a hard no. I think that would be a horrible idea.


  26. Normades says:

    Why????? It just looks so bad. Harsh and unhealthy. They’re giving themselves what I call ‘meth face’. Just a terrible look and a terrible trend

  27. DiegoInSF says:

    I had my lips done for the first time ever now that I’m 31 and I did not want them overdone, I told my RN, I don’t want the LA face and this was done in LA lol
    She said my natural lips were perfect pillow lips and didn’t seem to believe I hadn’t had them injected before but it really was my first time.
    She also asked me if my cheekbones were natural as they were great, which they are, both natural and great. When I get sick and lose a couple pounds, you can instantly tell on my face, so I’d advise against removing any fat, you want that in the future!
    Chrissy is not very pretty but the surgeries have helped, but she’s still ugly inside.

  28. MsIam says:

    It is crazy what people are willing to do to their faces and even crazier that doctors are willing to do this. I was watching a video by a plastic surgeon and he was pointing out how lip filler, which people consider “routine” can migrate from the lips and create this weird bulge under the bottom lip. I assume it will be reabsorbed at some point but until then it looks like you’ve been punched in the mouth! Just say no to all of this.

  29. FancyPants says:

    Chrissy Tiegen got fat removed from her cheeks? Those pictures look like she is pumping something INTO her cheeks. I wonder what it feels like to her children when they touch her face, because her cheeks look hard as rocks.

  30. Alexandria says:

    I’m actually thinking of doing this BUT I read partial buccal fat removal is the key. Don’t remove the entire lump of fat.

    Round face. Chipmunk. I completely understand why showbiz ppl do this. It’s frustrating to look bigger on camera, and it’s their livelihood.

  31. Libellule says:

    Celebrities that have done this always remind me of Tim Burton characters

  32. Marisa says:

    Lisa Rinna’s daughtersare prime examples. And Dove Cameron. Ooof, and Julia Garner. But also, there are certainly things on my own body I would modify if I had the money!

  33. Erika says:

    I’m sorry but this does NOT look good! It makes your chin look freakishly square and unnatural. Anyone else seeing this?? It’s almost cartoonish!

  34. Katy45 says:

    I know the “right” thing to say is women should do whatever they want if they want to but Now I’m pushing back and saying that women are being pushed (by social media, media) to hate themselves and saying these women are having their self worth stripped away and sold back piece by piece by this industry and companies are making billions off of telling women they are empowering them. It’s a scam. Sucking fat out of your cheeks is stupid to look exactly like every other dollar store kardashian. I’m sorry but I can’t see these surgeries as empowering when it’s all about the money. I’ll keep my wrinkles, grey hair and authentic face.

  35. Frippery says:

    I support whatever treatments or procedures people want to have that make them feel good about themselves (as long as it isn’t hurting others, of course, or something that will actually hurt them). But I personally can’t imagine having a procedure. I would be too scared they would screw something up or that I would hate the results and wish I never did it.

  36. DeltaJuliet says:

    What’s one more surgical procedure to reverse it is a few years?

    **not my actual thought process but I feel like a lot of these people have so many procedures, what’s one more?*

  37. OriginalCee says:

    My sister’s a dentist and she refuses to perform this. Many patients are asking for it and she tells them they’ll thank her in 10-15 years when their faces don’t fall off and they don’t look 15 years olders that they are.

  38. Mel says:

    They’re going to need that fat in their face when they get older. Then they’ll turn around and get fillers that gives them cat cheeks. Sigh… whatever.

  39. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    And I thought photoshopping a thigh gap was pathetic. At least that wasn’t surgery!

    • J. Ferber says:

      That’s something I’d never do. I’d do a face lift and fillers, but not that. Anyone know if Chrissy had a boy or girl? Congrats to the family.

  40. Eggbert says:

    Bad trend for sure. You end up looking alien. Why not just do some more cheekbone contouring with makeup? I also hate the whole Botox thing to make the eyes bigger. It completely changes people’s eye shape and they don’t look anything like themselves (remember when Renee Zellweger had it for a hot minute?).

    When I got filler under my eyes for dark circles the doc kept pushing for me to do the Botox to my eyes but I have always had narrow, small eyes. That’s just my face so no, back off! I fully believe there’s a fine line between trying to look your best and trying to look like everyone else says you should. I miss the days when actresses were allowed to look unique.

  41. Jaded says:

    I’m 70 years old and look maybe 45-50. I credit it to good genes, good diet, exercise and staying out of the sun but I do have a round baby face which has helped. I find it unfathomable that even young women are doing all this crazy surgery and botox and injectibles. It’s a slippery slope that leads to LA face and looking like Madonna. I have chosen to age into myself without surgery or anything other than good skin care and I like the way I look.

  42. Shalla7 says:

    In the grass is greener dept.: I’ve always had very high cheekbones, and I like them–but now that I’m older I think my face is looking gaunt. What was formerly “chiseled” is now “concave.” I don’t really like this new “look” I’m getting as I’m growing older. I envy my friends who have round faces!

  43. Sunnyjyl says:

    My concern is that I’d look like a skeleton in my 70s. I suppose people will be getting fat injections in 30 years post buccal fat removal.

  44. Ladybird02 says:

    My friend got this done along with a face lift in her early forties. Now that she is in her late 50s her cheeks are very gaunt and has 2 rows of deep smile lines do-to the extra skin as her face has sagged. It’s not worth it, she looks way older than she should despite being a beautiful woman.

  45. GoodbyeRomeo says:

    I follow kpop and even really young people do this…I always thought that a plump face was a sign of youth.
    This is going to result in miserable (possibly plumped with fillers) faces later on. I mean, just sculpt those cheekbones…