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Up until a few months ago, most people had never heard of of buccal fat — pronounced "buckle" — but now it's being talk about extensively. Google searches have spiked, and TikTok videos about buccal fat have garnered more than 200 million views in recent weeks.
While Chrissy Teigen has openly discussed her buccal fat removal surgery on Instagram, there are other celebrities who are rumoured to have gotten the procedure done for a more chiselled, defined face.
With so much fodder about this controversial procedure, I had to get the low-down from an expert. So I spoke to Dr. Waqqas Jalil, a Toronto plastic surgeon who specializes in aesthetic and reconstructive surgery.
What is buccal fat removal?
Buccal fat is a fat pad located in the cheeks, just below the cheekbone, which can contribute to the fullness of cheeks.
Buccal fat removal, commonly known as cheek reduction surgery, is a cosmetic procedure that has gained a lot of traction lately, especially among younger adults who are looking for a more chiselled facial appearance. Removing the fat will allegedly highlight your bone structure.
"Many patients are requesting this procedure because of celebrities in the news. Unfortunately that can mislead them into thinking they are candidates -- or worse, give them unrealistic expectations of what the procedure can achieve."Dr. Waqqas Jalil
"It should be noted that this procedure aims to reduce, and not to remove the entire fat pad" said Jalil. "If done this would cause poor results — and may even cause a patient to prematurely age or look gaunt."
How is buccal fat removal done?
The procedure is performed under local anaesthesia or general anesthesia, according to Jalil. The size of the buccal fat pad varies from patient to patient so the procedure itself is custom to each patient.
"Following this a small incision is placed on the inside of the mouth where the cheek is the fullest and the appropriate amount of fat is dissected and discarded," added Jalil.
Is buccal fat removal right for you?
Patients who describe their cheeks as "chipmunk-like" are often the ones who seek out this treatment.
The most significant benefit of the buccal fat removal procedure is a more defined and angular face. However, Jalil warns against buccal fat removal.
"Many patients are requesting this procedure because of celebrities in the news," he explained. "Unfortunately that can mislead them into thinking they are candidates, or worse, give them unrealistic expectations of what the procedure can achieve."
Jalil also added that people with minimal to zero fullness in cheeks are even starting to request this procedure — which is a problem because the results can make them look older.
Patients also need to keep risks in mind — which can include asymmetrical face, infections, injury to nerves, scarring and bleeding. The surgery may enhance other signs of aging over the years.
"The most important thing you can do as a patient is to find a provider who has the experience and knowledge of the necessary nuances to this procedure," added Jalil.
According to Jalil, buccal fat removal is not appropriate for everyone.
While the procedure can give subtle and desirable effects — it only works for those who are the best candidates for it. Minute-long TikToks don't give the full 360 view of what the procedure entails, and it's important to speak to a qualified plastic surgeon who can determine your facial structure and needs.
Lastly, have realistic expectations about the results, understand the risks and benefits before undergoing the surgery.