Runway-ready cheekbones and a chiseled jawline are beauty goals shared by most. Prominent, sculpted cheekbones and a slim jaw create a striking first impression and instantly make a person more photogenic.
In the past, obtaining these coveted features was impossible without the assistance of great genes and a strict diet. Today, however, plastic surgeons understand the role that buccal fat plays in shaping the face. Slimming the pads of fat below the cheekbones can balance and refine your facial features, which makes you look leaner. Buccal fat contouring also helps to diminish the formation of hanging, fatty jowls—one of the most dreaded side-effects of aging. If you maintain a healthy weight but still have a soft jawline and cheeks that appear puffy, this procedure might be right for you.
Why do Slim People Sometimes Struggle with Excess Buccal Fat?
Like most aspects of our appearance, the shape of the cheeks and jawline are largely determined by our genetics. The more prominent your jawbones and cheekbones are, the more likely it is that your face will appear slim when you’re at your ideal weight. Prominent cheekbones create shadows over the fat pads that naturally cover the lower cheeks and jaw. By forming a slight hollow just below each cheek, this type of bone structure makes a face look leaner and more defined. When strong cheekbones are paired with well-defined jawbones, buccal fat is almost completely hidden within the sharp contours of the face.
People with chubby-looking cheeks may not necessarily have more fat on their faces than people with sharp cheekbones; sometimes, their cheek and jaw bones are just too delicate to provide enough support for their facial fat. As a result, the pads of fat on their cheeks stick out and lack visible shadows. This is why those with maxillary hypoplasia, a condition in which the cheekbones remain underdeveloped, usually have chubby-looking faces.
In some cases, individuals with puffy cheeks do have substantially more buccal fat than average—fat that remains visible even after significant weight loss. Just like a double chin or pot belly can be inherited from your ancestors, genes that tell the body to store additional fat on the cheeks can be passed down from one generation to the next. These genetically coded fat deposits usually don’t respond to diet or exercise, so surgery is the only solution for them.
Before you decide that your buccal fat is a problem, it’s important to be aware that age plays a role in facial fat distribution, too. All children and young adults have extra fat on their cheeks (coupled with underdeveloped cheekbones that still need time to grow), so it’s common to have a round face during your teens and early 20s. Most people start to lose facial fat by about age 25, and by age 55, so much fat may be lost that the cheeks look gaunt. This is why it’s important not to rush into buccal fat removal: Patients in their early 20s should wait a few years to see if their facial fat starts to recede naturally before they consider surgery.
If you don’t notice your face getting slimmer by age 25, scheduling a buccal fat contouring consultation may be a wise choice. Not only will buccal fat contouring by partial removal give you more striking facial contours, it may also reduce the likelihood that your cheeks will sag over time. As collagen levels drop after age 30, the weight of large buccal fat pads places stress on the skin, causing it to stretch. These fat pads then bulge more, creating heavy-looking jowls during middle age
What Happens during Buccal Fat Contouring?
Buccal fat contouring by partial removal is a fairly simple, straightforward procedure—Though like all plastic surgery procedures, an experienced, board-certified surgeon should only perform it. This procedure can be conducted while the patient is under intravenous or general sedation, depending on the patient’s preferences and the recommendations of his or her surgeon. Most buccal fat removal procedures take between half an hour to one hour to perform, and the patient can return home soon after the procedure is complete.
During buccal fat contouring, a tiny incision is made inside each of the patient’s cheeks. Using an internal incision location eliminates the possibility of external scarring, so no one will know you’ve had buccal fat removed unless you tell them. After these incisions have been made, Dr. Robert Singer carefully removes some of the buccal fat within each cheek. Usually, only a small amount of fat needs to be removed to reshape the face. Finally, Dr. Singer closes the patient’s incisions with self-dissolving sutures.
Recovering from Buccal Fat Contouring
Buccal fat contouring recovery is quick and easy for most patients. Because only a small amount of tissue is removed during this operation, post-surgical swelling and discomfort are usually fairly minimal. (Dr. Singer will provide you with prescription pain medication to prevent soreness.) The majority of our patients return to work five to seven days after having buccal fat removed.
Still, there are a few things you’ll need to be aware of before you enter the operating room: First and foremost, it’s important to understand that even minor swelling can temporarily obscure the results of buccal fat removal. In other words, if you wake up the day after your operation and think your face still looks puffy, don’t panic—you’re just seeing inflammation and tissue swelling. It will probably take about three weeks for your swelling to subside, revealing your new, thinner face completely. For some patients, this is a good thing; having results manifest gradually makes the fact they’ve had surgery less obvious. If you don’t want to discuss your decision to have buccal fat removal with others, you can tell them you’ve been on a diet and explained your slimmer face that way.
You should also understand how to prepare for buccal fat contouring recovery before you have surgery. Having healing incisions inside your cheeks will make it more difficult to eat solid food for several days after your procedure. As such, you should stock up on soft foods (like pudding and yogurt) and liquid meal replacements before your operation. You should also avoid consuming acidic foods or drinks after buccal fat contouring l, and it’s essential to avoid smoking while you heal.
After your operation, you’ll be given specially medicated mouth rinses to use while you recover. Make sure you follow your surgeon’s instructions and rinse your mouth on schedule. These mouth rinses are used to limit discomfort, keep incisions clean while they heal, and prevent infection.
Who Makes a Good Candidate for Buccal Fat Removal?
Buccal fat contouring l is generally recommended for people who meet the criteria outlined below:
- You are age 22 or older. Ideally, you should wait until about age 25 to have this procedure. However, if you don’t want to wait that long, you can book a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon and have him (or her) analyze your facial structure. An experienced surgeon will look at your facial bones and fat distribution and tell you whether or not your excess buccal fat is likely to recede with age.
- You’re in good health. All surgical candidates should be healthy non-smokers. If you have any current medical conditions, or you take medication, you’ll need to talk to your doctor to make sure that surgery is a safe option.
- You have realistic expectations for this procedure. Though buccal fat contouring will slim your face down and give you a more chiseled jawline, it can’t completely change your facial structure. If you want to enlarge your cheekbones, chin, or jaw to create a more oval face shape, you may need to look into complementary procedures like chin and cheek augmentation with implants or fillers. Contouring of the central cheek may be further enhanced by micro-lipo of the central superficial excess fat cheek as well as contouring the deeper buccal fat.
The Benefits of Buccal Fat Contouring
Buccal fat contouring l has advantages that extend beyond making the face more photogenic. Patients who have had buccal fat removed report experiencing all of the following benefits:
1. You’ll see your true facial shape emerge.
Patients who have excess buccal fat for genetic reasons sometimes discover that they have striking cheekbones or a runway-worthy jawline hidden under their hereditary cheek fat. Buccal fat contouring can reveal the real “you” that’s been obscured for years.
2. Your best features will have a chance to shine.
Having a face that’s noticeably “bottom heavy” can distract attention from your beautiful eyes, cheeks, and brows. This is the case because people tend to see our most prominent facial feature first, so if your lower cheeks protrude, people will notice that rather than looking at your eyes or cheekbones.
3. People will notice how slim you are.
Carrying excess facial fat can cause people to assume you’re chubby (even if you aren’t) because others recognize us by our faces primarily, not our bodies. After you have buccal fat contouring, people will think you’ve lost weight, even if you don’t change anything else.
4. Your face will better reflect your actual age.
Depending on what age you are, buccal fat contouring l can make you look younger or more mature. When people in their 20s have this procedure, they find that it gets rid of their “baby face” and allows them to be recognized more easily as adults. When patients in their 30s and 40s have buccal fat removal, on the other hand, they often discover that it takes five to ten years off their appearance. This is the case because, by your mid-30s, your buccal fat stores have fallen slightly or bulged more. When buccal fat sits lower on the face, it emulates the look of prominent jowls, a feature generally associated with middle age.
5. You may enjoy better career opportunities.
People typically associate strong, defined facial features with qualities like assertiveness and strength—traits that are ideal in the workplace. Having a soft face, by contrast, implies passiveness and timidity. Some people, therefore, find that having buccal fat contouring helps others perceive their personalities more accurately, especially in professional situations.
Arrange a Buccal Fat Removal Consultation in La Jolla, California
Buccal fat contouring is an excellent way to refine your facial features and quickly create more striking contours. Alone or in combination with other facial procedures, this operation can give you the runway-worthy cheekbones and jawline you’ve always wanted, without significant discomfort or downtime. To learn more about buccal fat contouring, contact board-certified La Jolla plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Singer to arrange a personal consultation. He’ll be happy to help you sculpt your face so that it better reflects the person you’ve always been inside.