Why do many talk about eliminating oral fat?

(CNN) — Oral fat removal could be the new Brazilian butt lift, a new cosmetic surgery procedure taking over social media.

In recent weeks, buccal fat removal has become a hot topic on the internet after rumors of several celebrities undergoing the procedure prompted supporters and detractors alike to share their views and experiences.

Searches for “mouth fat removal” skyrocketed starting Dec. 11, according to data from Google Trends.

Here’s what you need to know about the procedure and why it’s so controversial.

Oral degreasing consists of removing fat from the cheeks

Buccal fat removal is exactly what it says on the box: fat removal from the buccal fat pad, a mass of tissue deep in the cheek. The procedure is usually performed under anesthesia. A surgeon will create small incisions on either side of the inside of the patient’s mouth to expose the buccal fat pad, then remove some or all of the fat.

Darren Smith, a New York-based plastic surgeon, told CNN that “you can accentuate your cheekbones by removing the fat that’s in the buccal fat compartment.”

Smith said he typically sees three types of patients interested in buccal fat removal. One of them is “people who just have a fuller, rounder, more cherubic face, who might want to slim it down a bit.” Eliminating buccal fat can lead to a slimmer face, according to Smith.

But the reason buccal fat reduction is currently in vogue is for something else: by removing fat from the cheeks, the procedure creates the look of sculpted, defined cheekbones. A patient interested in this effect “might want to see a bit more definition in the cheekbones,” he said. These patients seek to emphasize the “submalar hollow” under the cheekbone, he added.

When it’s “done artfully, without going overboard, it can look great,” Smith said.

The third category of patients mentioned by Smith is “older patients who do it for facial rejuvenation”.

“The buccal fat pad is subject to gravity and can sag over time,” he said. “In fact, it can contribute to the appearance of a double chin in the lower face. Therefore, in these people, I would often remove it in combination with a procedure such as a facelift.”

Celebrities and social media have sparked increased interest in eliminating buccal fat

Smith says he’s seen an increase in interest in eliminating buccal fat in recent years. “It’s a procedure that’s becoming increasingly popular,” he said.

Last year, model Chrissy Teigen announced on Instagram that she had undergone buccal fat removal. “And ever since I quit drinking, I’m definitely seeing results and loving it,” she said in an Instagram story at the time. “Yes, I did, so what?”

Chrissy Teigen at the 74th Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on September 12, 2022.

Other celebrities sporting sculpted cheekbones have reportedly undergone the procedure, but it’s unclear if they actually did.

And social media is a major driver of interest, according to Smith. “I think social media plays a huge role,” he said. “We see social media setting all kinds of trends as people have faster and more frequent access to the latest celebrity looks and trends.”

Additionally, social media allows patients to share their first-hand experiences of cosmetic surgery. “People are now sharing their experiences more,” resulting in “the taboo of plastic surgery disappearing,” according to Smith.

“People are much more open to talking about it,” he said.

Ellen Gendler, a New York-based cosmetic dermatologist, told CNN she’s seen an increase in patients requesting buccal fat removal in recent weeks.

“Last week I had 20 people asking me about eliminating buccal fat,” he said.

Surgeons urge caution over procedure

Surgeons, beauticians and simple users have also used social networks to call for caution regarding the intervention. Gendler, for example, posted a TikTok on Monday warning patients, especially young women, to avoid removing buccal fat.

“The latest trend in removing oral fat is probably the dumbest trend I’ve seen in a long time,” he said in the video.

Gendler told CNN that because it removes bulk from the face, eliminating buccal fat can have a premature aging effect on patients. Although you may like it at first, as the patient ages and naturally loses volume in the face, a lack of buccal fat can make them look haggard and aged.

And once buccal fat is gone, there’s no way to get it back, although cosmetic fillers and fat injections can be used to replicate the appearance of buccal fat, Gendler said.

“When you remove an underlying structure in a permanent procedure and age around it, you don’t know what it’s going to look like,” he explained.

Gendler urged patients considering buccal fat removal to consider the risks and understand how their results might change over time. “I feel like this is not a procedure you should go through without understanding this very real, concrete risk,” he said.

Smith stressed the importance of counseling patients on the pros and cons of each procedure. “One of my main jobs is to help people make sure they are making responsible decisions when undergoing procedures,” he said.

A talented surgeon will be careful and precise when removing buccal fat, he said. “The great danger of buccal fat pad excision is premature aging of the face,” he explained. “One thing we’ve known for a long time is that volume is what, among other things, gives the face a youthful experience.”

“Really buccal fat pad removal has to be done right, it’s not the kind of thing where you just want to remove all the buccal fat,” he said. “You have to be very careful to dispose of the right amount for the right person.”

Why “it’s not something to do just because you saw it on Instagram”

Others influencers social media outlets have pointed out that the high cheekbone aesthetic that patients hope to achieve with buccal fat removal is just the latest in a series of unattainable beauty standards.

Makeup influencer Rachel Ocool, for example, created a makeup tutorial that emphasizes rounded cheekbones, rather than trying to eliminate them.

“Plastic surgery to remove your chubby cheeks is all the rage,” Ocool said in the TikTok video, which has garnered over a million likes on its verified account. “I’m not letting my guard down!

She then explained “how she accentuates her round cheeks, because they are cute”.

At the same time, some influencers took to social media to document the positive effect the procedure had on their self-esteem.

Jaci Marie Smith, podcaster and creator of TikTok, told CNN that she decided to create a TikTok about her experience of eliminating oral fat.

“There’s a lot of controversy and slander going around right now about eliminating buccal fat,” Smith said in her video. The California designer had his mouth fat removed in January.

Smith said that for a long time she felt like her plump face didn’t match her body type. After learning about the procedure from friends and on social media, she met a plastic surgeon who told her she was a good candidate.

“I’m very happy with the results because I feel like it suits my body type better,” she told CNN. “I feel a lot more myself.”

She chose to speak about her experience on social media because other users said “it makes you look old, it makes you look hollow and hollow, and it looks bad”.

“The whole point of doing this was to educate about eliminating buccal fat and if you’re interested in that, see a doctor you really trust,” he continued.

“I feel like I did this for myself and no one else,” he added.

Smith, the plastic surgeon and no relation to the creator of TikTok, agreed with his message about self-motivation.

“My kind of rallying cry in the world of plastic surgery is that no one needs plastic surgery,” the surgeon said. “But if you’re going to do it, you should do it for your own personal enjoyment.”

“Buccal fat cutting is, like anything else, something you shouldn’t do just because you saw it on Instagram,” he said.