Want contoured cheekbones? Here’s what you need to know about buccal fat removal.

Woman With Contoured Cheeks

Bella Hadid’s signature look—high, strong cheekbones with a graceful, tilting shadow of definition between the cheekbone and jaw—is without a doubt striking and many wish to emulate it. While cheek-sculpting makeup products can add shimmer and shadow to boost your natural cheekbones, if you have genetic “chipmunk cheeks,” you’ve likely felt frustrated with these makeup tricks. Thankfully, there are cosmetic procedures that can help.


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While gossip columns may never decide whether or not Ms. Hadid underwent surgery to enhance her cheeks, I can tell you the best procedure for achieving this look: buccal fat pad removal. Wondering if this cheek contouring procedure will get you the results you want? Here is what you need to know before scheduling a consultation.

1. This procedure subtracts volume from your cheek hollows to create a contour.

Rather than adding volume to your cheeks, buccal fat pad removal chisels your cheeks by subtracting volume from the cheek hollow below the cheekbones.

The goal of the procedure is to create a defined shadow in the mid-face, enhancing the bony architecture of the face and drawing attention to the eyes.

Here’s how the procedure works: I create short 1-2 cm incisions inside each cheek, bypassing muscle and other tissues to reach the fat pad. I gently remove the buccal fat pad, which is usually around the size of a walnut, using surgical excision and/or liposuction.

The goal of the procedure is to create a defined shadow in the mid-face and thus draw more attention to the upper cheekbones and eyes. This helps to enhance the bony architecture of your face.

2. To be a good candidate, you should have significant thickness in your cheeks.

You need to have an excess amount of facial tissue thickness to get a buccal fat removal result that continues to look gorgeous long-term. This is because fat and skin thickness naturally decline with age—so if you start with little excess cheek tissue and undergo buccal fat pad removal at a very young age, there’s a good chance you could look gaunt later in life.

To determine whether or not this is likely to be a problem as you age, look at your parents. If they still have the cheek roundness that you are aiming to subtract, then you may be a good candidate for buccal extraction.

You also need good skin elasticity to get optimal results from this procedure. This means that your skin bounces back quickly when stretched. (As we age, our skin thins and loses this elasticity.)

If you are curious about the procedure, but unsure whether it is right for you, you will likely gain some clarity in a consultation. We will discuss the limits of buccal fat pad removal surgery, and I will tell you whether or not I believe you are a good candidate. If necessary, I’ll present alternatives such as dermal fillers that may be more suitable for achieving your desired results.

3. For eye-catching results, combine buccal fat removal with complementary procedures.

Buccal fat pad removal promises a subtle change, but many patients desire a more dramatic enhancement to their facial contours. To get a result that is greater than the sum of its parts, I often combine buccal fat pad removal with chin enhancement, neck or chin contouring, and/or nose reshaping. Many patients also opt to double down on the midface with cheek enhancement, as well.

To get a result that is greater than the sum of its parts, combine buccal fat pad removal with customized facial contouring.

Procedures that are commonly combined with buccal fat pad removal include:

Buccal Fat Pad Removal before and after
By combining buccal fat pad removal to enhance her strong cheekbones and submentoplasty to create her sculpted jawline, this patient achieved a fully lifted look. In the “after” photo, which was taken three months post-procedure, the structure of her face draws our attention upward to her eyes. See additional photos in our before and after gallery.

4. Recovery is manageable, especially if you choose to have buccal fat pad removal under local anesthesia.

Buccal fat pad removal can be safely performed under local anesthesia, rather than general anesthesia. This choice will make recovery easier, as you won’t experience the uncomfortable side effects of general anesthesia.

After buccal fat removal, you will need to protect the incision sites inside your mouth for about a week and avoid straining the area. This involves using a prescribed rinse and eating a soft or liquid diet, avoiding any sharp foods like chips, nuts, or pizza crust. You may experience swelling and tenderness at first; this usually subsides within about 3 weeks. Regularly applying ice to your cheeks and sleeping with your head elevated will help.

Over the course of several weeks, your tissues will heal around the space left by the fat removal, and you will see the contour below your cheekbone improve. Because your incisions are inside the mouth, you will have no visible scarring.

5. Cheek enhancement with filler or implants is an alternative to buccal fat pad removal.

Both buccal extraction and cheek enhancement have the same goal: to draw attention to your upper cheekbones and eyes. While fat removal subtracts volume below the cheek, enhancement adds volume to the cheek.

If the cause of your rounded cheeks is a lack of upper cheek structure, then cheek enhancement may be preferable to buccal fat removal.

One or the other may be preferable depending on the anatomy of your cheekbones: adding volume above can certainly help achieve this look for patients whose main issue is actually lack of upper cheek structure, with the added benefit of being non-surgical. For other patients who need both volumization above and reduction lower in the face, both procedures can be employed.

I will help you determine the cause of your round cheeks, and in turn, which procedure(s) will achieve your goals.

Choose a detail-oriented surgeon who is passionate about facial artistry

Achieving symmetry with this delicate procedure requires specialized surgical skill. Find a cosmetic surgeon who understands the nuances of buccal extraction and has a refined aesthetic sense, as evident in their before and after gallery.

I have over 15 years of experience offering patients a full range of facial contouring procedures, as well as those for the breast and body. All procedures are performed in my private, fully accredited Las Vegas surgical center. To learn more and schedule a consultation, call (702) 363-0240 or contact us online.

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