Social media is all about removing buccal fat. What is it and why do doctors warn?

Through social media, many users, in the first place young womenbuzzing about a plastic surgery A technique called buccal fat removal. While the procedure is simple and has been around for years, it has grown in popularity for those who are attracted to the look of narrow and angular facial structure.

The surgery, which is done under local anesthesia, includes incisions at the back of the mouth so that some of the fat in the cheek area can be removed. It is almost impossible to reverse, which is causing some concern among experts.

New York City-based plastic surgeon Dr. Ira Savitsky told CBS News that he’s seen an increase in patients requesting an “irreversible” procedure, something called a bilateral cut.

“The interest in the buccal fat pad really stems from a kind of obsession that people have with having a really defined and resistant jawline,” said Savitsky. “And I think that’s all driven by social media. In this The era of selfies And just pictures in general… People are really starting to notice, more than ever, that the jaw line and buccal fat are very interesting to people.”

The surgery is purely cosmetic and has no medical benefits, said Dr. Rod Rohrich, a plastic surgeon in Dallas, but some people are better off than others.

“In about one in 10 patients who come to me for cheek fat removal is (the procedure) really indicated,” said Rohrich. “Basically, you’re fat in front of your jawline…if you’re biting and wrinkling, if (your cheeks are still) full, you’re a candidate for buccal fat removal, but most people aren’t.”

Blush cheeks before and after vector illustration
Cheek fat removal before and after.

Getty Images/iStockphoto


Savetsky and Rohrich were two of several authors of a 2021 paper on the role of cheek fat in facial surgeries in which they note an increase in people requesting the procedure, writing that “social media has sparked a craze in buccal fat pad ablation.” The madness included Chrissy Teigen posting about his delivery to her millions of followers.

Savitsky said the procedure is often “full of Botox and fillers” because of the ease of the process and the effect it has on the face, especially among “younger demographics.”

However, unlike those temporary improvements, cheek fat removal has long-term effects. Because people naturally lose fat as they age, “what looks good at 20 or 30 may not look good at 50 or 60,” Savitsky said.

“Facial fat is very precious,” said Rohrich. “Removing fat at any point in your life is usually a good idea. …and it’s hard to get it back. Almost impossible, in fact. It’s really important not to remove (cheek fat) if you don’t have to.”

Savetsky said that for plastic surgeons, it’s important to consider a person’s future facial features.

“You can’t be overly aggressive and remove a large amount,” said Savitsky. “It’s very easy to remove too much, so you have to be really gentle and just remove the excess and leave a normal amount behind so the patient doesn’t age prematurely and get an excessively hollow lower face.”

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