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Another cosmetic procedure is gaining popularity on social media: buccal fat removal.
Buccal fat is located in the middle of the cheek and can present as a “baby face” appearance. Removal of buccal fat can make the face slimmer.
The procedure — which involves removing fat from the cheeks to create a more contoured face — has been documented on TikTok by patients boasting the slimming results. Buccal fat removal has also become popular in Hollywood. Most notably, Chrissy Teigen revealed that she had the procedure done last year, showing off her new defined jawline on Instagram.
Dr. Michael K. Obeng, a board certified plastic surgeon and a member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad, tells PEOPLE about the procedure.
Obeng says there is no health benefit to the procedure, but “People like the way it makes them look, that they have a slim face, their cheeks are not puffy, and they have sunken-in cheeks. It makes the cheek bones puff out.” and it gives a natural contour.”
In his own practice, Obeng, who is based in Los Angeles, has seen an increase in requests for buccal fat removal, seeing about four patients for the procedure each month.
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“Some people have puffy cheeks,” Obeng explains. “So if you suck your cheeks in, some people are still puffy there, they have buccal fat. It’s the size of a cotton ball.”
The procedure takes only about two or three minutes, Obeng says, and patients don’t have to be put under general anesthesia for it.
“You make a tiny incision inside the mouth, you take the fat out, and then you sew it back,” he explains. “Then I tell my patients to put ice on it or eat popsicles all day because it cools the cheeks so that they don’t swell, and they don’t bleed.”
“It’s a very simple procedure,” Obeng adds, noting that it’s fast and easy when in the right hands. “You do it at lunchtime, and the person goes back to work.”
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With any cosmetic procedure, there are risks. But Obeng assures that with buccal fat removal, the risks are typically minimal.
“For some people, you might get a hematoma, a collection of fluid when you take it out. You might get an infection. All these things can happen, naturally. But in the right hands, the complications are minimized, if the person knows what he or she is doing,” he says.
Like most plastic surgery procedures, the cost can be steep and varies based on geography and the surgeon. Buccal fat removal has been around for at least 50 years and can be as little as $3,000 and as much as $10,000.
Last year, New York City-based plastic surgeon Dr. Steven M. Levine told PEOPLE that anyone considering getting buccal fat removal should have a consultation with a board-certified surgeon.
“As with most things in plastic surgery, the outcome of the procedure depends on surgical judgment,” Levine said. That involves choosing the right patient for the procedure and deciding how much of the fat pad to remove. As we age, we lose fat in our faces. For this reason, the surgeon and the patient need to ensure that any young person undergoing buccal fat removal is a good candidate for the treatment and won’t regret not having that fat later in life.Older patients with prominent buccal fat pads can proceed with less concern about their future facial changes.”