Illustration by Yana Peeva

Buccal Fat Removal Trend and What it Tells Us About Our Society

Why is Buccal Fat Removal trending and what are its implications?

Apr 17, 2023

Once again, celebrities and social media have convinced us that there is something inherently wrong with our bodies that needs immediate fixing. It began with the popular American model, Chrissy Teigen, revealing the reason for the drastic change in her face was the removal of her buccal fat. It then gained popularity once fans started noticing some of their other favorite celebrities such as Bella Hadid, Zoë Kravitz, and Lea Michelle also having increasingly contoured and chiseled cheeks and cheekbones. People started speculating that it was buccal fat removal surgery. Buccal fat is a layer of fat between your cheek and jaw bones that play a role in the shape and look of your face. Buccal fat removal surgery is a new plastic surgery trend that is exactly what it sounds like; to create a more ‘hollowed-out’ look and get rid of rounder or fuller faces. What is wrong with naturally fuller cheeks, and where does the obsession with having ‘sunken’ cheeks stem from?
While this is still an upcoming trend and there has not been much discourse or nuance surrounding this topic, some theories could be made to explain this phenomenon. One theory is that just as the early 2000s fashion is coming back into trend, so are the impossible body standards. Tyler McCall, editor-in-chief of, and Rachel Tashjian, the fashion news director at Harper’s Baazar, both seem to agree that smaller bodies are trending again and that the models are looking “thinner than ever”. This might explain why buccal fat removal seems to be trending right now, as ‘hollow cheeks’ are seen to be caused by a low percentage of body fat. This hyper-obsession and commodification of women’s bodies could, and probably is the origin of this current trend in society.
Models tend to have higher cheekbones, which could cause the illusion of more hollowed cheeks. While having high cheekbones is not necessary to become a model, it tends to be observed in some of the most famous models in the world. Since society has glamorized models and celebrities for many decades; it makes sense that many want to replicate their looks while disregarding the harm caused while attaining them. It has been shown that a large number of models suffer from eating disorders, and an even bigger number of them have been threatened by their agencies to lose weight or they would be fired. A veteran stylist, George Cortina, even stated that “if you don’t see drug abuse everywhere you look in fashion, then ‘you’re wearing a blindfold’”. These statements show one thing, that eating disorders and drug abuse run rampant in the fashion industry, and they have been scarily normalized. Not only that, but many people would follow exercise routines, eating habits, and advice that these models share without even reflecting on the beauty standards and dangerous ideals that are being perpetuated.
When observing buccal fat removal through a wider lens in society, this plastic surgery trend does make sense, and some could have even predicted it. It is once again a commodification of women's bodies, yet a more subtle one. That is what makes it a perfect representation of much wider issues in society which are the effects that rigid body standards have on women and how they view their entire bodies, not just certain parts we have been shown and criticized for our entire lives. It also showcases the internalization of these standards and the harm that they cause. Lastly, it demonstrates the rampant normalization of plastic surgery and the permanent alteration of our bodies to fit into the beauty standard placed on us by celebrities, social media, and ultimately, the patriarchy.
Dana Mash'Al is Deputy Columns Editor. Email her at
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