Buccal Fat Removal: What is it and Why is it so Popular?

Buccal fat removal is taking over Tik Tok right now, but some doctors are concerned about the trendy procedure's long-term side effects.
Buccal fat removal is taking over Tik Tok right now, but some doctors are concerned about the trendy procedure's long-term side effects.

If you spend much time looking at beauty-focused Tik Tok posts, you may have noticed that buccal fat removal is taking over the platform, with the procedure receiving 109.7M views on Tik Tok (so far). It is taking social media by storm, and many celebrities are rumored to have received the procedure, including Chrissy Teigen and Lea Michelle, who may have kicked off the trend's sudden surge with an Instagram selfie in December 2022 that garnered attention and speculation. There have also been unsubstantiated rumors about Sophie Turner, Bella Hadid, Zoe Kravitz and Dove Cameron undergoing the surgery.

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What is Buccal Fat Removal

The buccal fat pad is a naturally-occurring pad of fat in the cheek hollow area. The size of the buccal fat pad varies with each individual patient and the buccal fat pad in each cheek may be different sizes. Buccal fat pad extraction surgery is typically not performed in people with thin, narrow faces as removal of the fat may cause the face to look gaunter with age, per the American Plastic Surgery Association.

Buccal fat removal is typically done as an outpatient procedure using a local anesthetic to numb the skin on the face and surrounding areas. A surgeon will create small incisions on either side of the inside of the patient's mouth to expose the buccal fat pad, and then remove some or all of the fat. By removing fat from the cheeks, the procedure can create the appearance of more sculpted, defined cheekbones.

According to the American Plastic Surgery Association, ideal candidates for buccal fat removal are individuals that are bothered by the appearance of their cheeks, are physically healthy, at a stable weight and are nonsmokers. The group also recommends anyone considering the procedure have realistic expectations about the potential results. 

Possible Risks

The possible side effects of buccal fat removal are infection at the incision site, injury to facial nerves or salivary duct injury, numbness or sensation changes and asymmetry, per Everyday Health.

Some doctors have expressed concern about the procedure, including Ellen Gendler, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. Gendler told CNN that buccal fat removal can have a prematurely aging effect on patients because the procedure removes volume from the face. As the patient ages and naturally loses volume in their face, the lack of buccal fat could make them appear gaunt and older. 

There is also concern about the permanent nature of the procedure. Although fillers and injectables could potentially replicate the look of buccal fat, once the pad of fat is removed, there's no way to get it back, Gendler said.

"Buccal fat removal is the worst thing a young person could do to a face," Gendler said on Instagram. "Trends come and go, but fat will be gone forever. And as you age, you will wish you had not done something so foolish. And surgeons remember our oath- do no harm!"

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