Pudgy cheeks are out: Buccal fat removal is taking Tik Tok over by storm

Buccal fat is more than just a tweakment. Charmaine Shaharin investigates the newest cosmetic procedure craze that everyone is manifesting to have-but why?

Social media has played to be a major catalyst when it comes to shaping the perception of cosmetic procedures, especially on Tik Tok.  The popular video-sharing app has not only just surpassed Google as the world’s most visited domain but the app itself has created an endless stream of content and personalized algorithms for individuals and their interests along with the latest trends. So, if you’re an individual who happens to be chronically online and aware of the latest beauty and fashion trends, then you most likely come across the term “buccal fat removal.”  

Buccal fat removal is a surgical procedure of cutting a small incision parallel to the corner of the mouth and cheek to remove your buccal fat pad to achieve a chiselled and sharper look. The cosmetic procedure itself has been coined to be 2023’s most popular beauty trend and a peak popularity of 72% in early January 2023 on Google trends. 

Not only that, but it has also earned the likes of celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen, Lea Michelle and Bella Hadid.  

Bella Hadid, Chrissy Teigen and Lea Michele are celebrities that have undegone buccal fat surgery ( Source: Insider, The Sun and Harper’s Bazaar)

According to the statistic website, Cloudflare on Wired, Tik Tok’s new search feature is 40% dominated by younger users to search for what’s currently trending. Nonetheless, a quick search of “buccal fat removal” on Tik Tok will only show young girls showing off their slim angular cheeks or manifesting to get fat globs removed from their cheeks. However, despite all the awareness of body inclusivity, thin culture especially in cosmetic procedures is always promoted in our society even when fat is an integral part of our anatomy. We have now just simply evolved to find other ways to be fatphobic about certain parts of our bodies and Tik Tok is letting that happen. 

“For centuries, humans have been obsessed with their looks and how they are perceived by others, and women for a very long time have held the short straw of being judged unjustly for their looks,” says Dan Saleh, a cosmetic and aesthetic surgeon at Nuffield Hospital, Jesmond. 

“There’s no difference in this generation, only now, social media has heavily influenced the younger generation, especially younger women, to jump on trends which encourage them to get cosmetic procedures without considering the consequences, and it bothers me.

“In my practice, buccal fat removal along with fox eye and lip lift surgery have been the three main surges of cosmetic procedures that I get inquired the most about these patients are usually young women. I usually refuse these women’s treatment due to the risks involved which are nerve injuries and having an asymmetrical face shape. Not to mention, this surgery is unreversible.” 

Dan Saleh’s main practice is in Nuffield Hospital, source: Charmaine Shaharin

“TikTok’s visual proof has also managed to mask the miseducation presented in these videos, especially by healthcare professionals,” says Dan. 

“There’s a fair number of surgeons talking about buccal fat removal on Tik Tok because plastic surgery is an economical business, and surgeons might provide the treatment for monetary gain especially if they are based in America and Korea. If these surgeons are unethical, patients would be at their mercy.

“Luckily, the UK’s legal laws are stricter so it’s uncommon for plastic surgeons to perform certain cosmetics unless strong market forces are demanding it.”

In a case study conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons about the rise of plastic surgeons using Tik Tok as influencers, it’s found that 38% of plastic surgery posts on Instagram are posted by surgeons while 51.2% of plastic surgery-related content is posted by physicians. 

Professional makeup artist, Ehlie Luna, source: Ehlie Luna

In this culture, it’s also almost impossible to view cosmetic surgery as a negative thought as it sometimes can enhance a person’s quality of life.  However, when individuals do it to fit entirely with the narrative of being a trend, like buccal fat removal, it can become invasive.  Ehlie Luna, a professional makeup artist from Los Angeles with 25.8k followers on Tik Tok who makes makeup tutorials on how to achieve a narrow face believes makeup is a saving grace of natural beauty.  

I can tell others to love themselves all day, but I know how powerful media is and how it influences us and makes everything fatphobic, and that’s why I create alternative makeup tutorials for instant gratification,” Ehlie explains.

“Rather than deny that influence, I like to provide solutions. This way more people can participate in the trend in a fun way that washes off.

Makeup is the ultimate playground to live up to society’s beauty standards safely and in my career, I’ve learned also learned when we get rid of the superficial things that can sometimes create barriers to expressing our true selves, people can gain more confidence out of makeup through makeup.” 

“Buccal fat surgery helped me love the part of myself that I loathed”

However, as some individuals are against the idea of modifying your face, people like Tina Haan, a cosmetic nurse practitioner from Los Angeles who had undergone buccal fat surgery and documents her journey on Tik Tok to her 15.9k followers applauds the treatment. “As I aged, my cheeks became fuller and heavier, which sometimes looked like jowls, making me insecure. Buccal fat surgery helped me love the part of myself that I loathed, and although fat is important there’s also fat that I’m sure my body wouldn’t miss if it disappeared,” she says. 

Tina Haan’s before and after pictures of her buccal fat surgery, source: Tina Haan

Buccal fat removal costs of estimated price of  £3000 in the UK and while buccal fat removal is the popular beauty aesthetic trend of 2023, there’s also a chance of it being short-lived, just like how lip fillers are beginning to be obsolete. There’s no hate or shame in wanting to have a cosmetic procedure but to diffuse this situation, we need more prominent voices of the world to change the narrative on female beauty, and most importantly, treat our bodies with kindness and not self-objectifying ourselves to unrealistic and risky beauty standards.  

Before performing any form of cosmetic procedure, it is advised to consult a healthcare professional about the risks of surgery.


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