What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Buccal Fat Removal? If We’re Looking Back At The Era Of Filler, It’s Likely That Even The Plastic Surgeons Don’t Know

The standard of beauty in every culture is different, and over time it starts to change. Celebrities used to blow up their faces with filler, but recently they have dissolved their filler, and are removing fat. But once again, we don’t really know how much risk this will carry.

By Hannah Leah3 min read
Ann Haritonenko/Shutterstock

If you weren't sure about what the newest beauty and cosmetic trends were, just look at the celebrities who have the most money to play with. For years, it was all about having big boobs, a big butt, and full lips, but this is changing. Celebrities are removing their implants and letting their filler dissolve and instead are taking drastic measures to look as small as possible. If you noticed significant weight loss in Kim and Khloe K, it’s not only diet and exercise contributing to this, but also medication and implant removal. But the newest trend is buccal fat removal from the face. 

What Is Buccal Fat Removal?  

This newest trend is simply the removal of fat from the cheek area. The American Society of Plastic Surgery explains how the procedure “removes the buccal fat pad, 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 more gaunt with age.” The problem with this new fad is that we don't yet fully know of the long-term risks, and people who are already thin are getting the procedure done.

Long-Term Side Effects Are Still Unknown

One of the main issues with this procedure is that it wasn’t popular until recently, so we don’t really know what the long-term side effects are. The International Open Access Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgery published a study titled Buccal Fat Pad Excision: Proceed with Caution, and concluded, “Buccal fat pad resection as an aesthetic improvement of the midface has been described, but follow-up regarding loss of subcutaneous fat with aging and late secondary deformities have not been published in the literature. Further research in long-term patient follow-up, including patient satisfaction and the encouragement of reporting postoperative complications, is warranted.” The study highlighted three areas where we just don’t know enough: what will happen with the further natural loss of fat in the cheeks with age, whether patients will still be happy with their buccal fat removal in the long term, and the post-procedure complications or side effects.

These gaps in information make it very difficult, if not impossible, for a patient to make a well-informed decision about something as important as their face.

The Line Between Skinny and Skeletal

The entire purpose of getting this procedure done is to define the structure of your face and to appear thinner. While this might sound appealing, there are problems that come with it. Your facial fat is actually more precious than you realize: As you age, your face naturally changes, and you lose fat in your face. So, when someone gets the fat pads removed from their cheeks, there is a risk of looking older, even corpse-like. Along with premature aging, many of the celebrities getting buccal fat removal are already thin people, so once they have this done, they tend to look overly thin and frail. 

This newest cosmetic procedure trend also sets up an unrealistic beauty standard for people who admire these celebrities and think that's what’s considered beautiful. You can be at the peak of health and still have some fullness in your face. Of course, if you lose some weight, there will be changes to the face, but those will be natural and healthy changes. If you’re feeling like your face is overly puffy, here are a few simple lifestyle changes you can make that might help to depuff your face:

  • Dip your face in cold water. Cold water will constrict blood vessels, cut down on redness, and hydrate the skin. Taking cold showers in the morning actually holds many health benefits. 

  • Stay hydrated and lower your caffeine intake. Being dehydrated can lead to puffiness in the face. So increase your water intake and drink less caffeine to avoid water retention in the face. 

  • Sleep on your back. Side and stomach sleepers might experience face puffiness. Slightly elevating your head and sleeping on your back will prevent water retention in your face. 

  • Use a green tea eye cream in the morning. Caffeine, especially too close to bed, can cause bloating and disrupt your sleep cycle, but you will benefit from a green tea eye cream in the morning. Topical caffeine can help depuff your under-eye area.

  • Use a cold face roller. Freeze a jade roller overnight, then massage your face with it in the morning to depuff your face.

  • Do face yoga or lymphatic massage. This will help improve your lymphatic system and circulation, which will reduce fluid retention in your face and neck. 

Normalize Normal Faces

The media wants to shout about body positivity and fatphobia, yet they highlight celebrities with unrealistic body standards who have utilized medication and cosmetic surgery to look as skinny as possible. Can’t we just normalize looking healthy? Why do we have to be one extreme or the other? Celebrities like Lizzo try to say that being fat is healthy and beautiful, while on the other hand, we have celebrities like the Kardashians and TikTok stars who don’t eat, take diabetic medication for weight loss, and spend thousands upon thousands to look unrealistically thin. 

If we stay active and eat well, our bodies and faces will respond accordingly. Fill your body with the nutrients it needs to feel and look good. And stop comparing yourself to everyone else. There was a time when an illness caused me to lose weight. I was only 110 pounds, and I might’ve looked skinny, but I felt sick and frail and had no muscle. Once I got back to a healthy weight of around 130-135 (healthy for my height and age), people told me how much healthier and better I looked. Naturally, my face is fuller at 135 than at 110, but it’s healthier. 

Closing Thoughts

Some faces are rounder and fuller than others, and that’s okay. And as you age, you will thank that young and healthy facial fat for supporting you. 

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