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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Wherefore Art Thou Buccal Fat?

Ladies, a whole new thing to hate about your face just dropped!

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Photo: Momodu Mansaray (Getty Images), Screenshot: Instagram (Getty Images)

If something has felt askew in your life lately, it’s not your inner ear, nor is it the mystical pull of the moon. It’s the facial fat distribution of our beautiful, beloved celebrities. The hottest new trend amongst the cosmetically enhanced—both famous and not—is buccal fat pad removal. This procedure de-chubs chubby cheeks, giving the recipient a gaunt, austere, sucked-in face, like a mean ballerina making duck lips.

Mentions of buccal fat bounded to the tops of our social media feeds this week when Lea Michele posted a selfie likening herself to Lucia on The White Lotus. However, most folks weren’t able to see the similarities between her and the Sicilian scam-tress because they got lost in the hollowed crevasse of her cheeks. The discovery of Michele’s seemingly new facial composition caused folks to bemoan yet another addition to the long list of things that could potentially be wrong with how we look. I didn’t even know my buccal fat was something to resent, but now I find myself taking a long, hard look in the mirror and poking my cheeks in with my fingers to see how this sort of procedure would alter my face.

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Long gone are days of the Olsen twins saying “prune” to hollow out their cheekbones and stare into the camera lens like haunted dolls stealing your soul with their gaze—nor are we living through the more recent days of the TikTok suggesting you suck in your tongue to have a more chiseled cheek and jaw. The “fix” for a fuller face in 2022 is less etymological and more surgical.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but tell me more...

Buccal fat is the fat between your cheekbones and jawbone, and its presence tends to make folks look baby-faced and jolly. (For the record, it’s pronounced like “belt buckle” and not the first two syllables of “bucolic.”) Removing it makes a face look more severe and angular, which is very high-fashion and very “in” right now. If you’re tortured by a lack of defined cheekbones, the outpatient surgery provides a simple solution: just remove your cheeks!

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Of course, having fat and skin on your face is normal and, dare I say, good! Having fat in this part of your cheek is not indicative of being over- or underweight; it’s simply a layer of fat that blissfully exists but is now being labeled as passé. For some people, these flaps of flesh are simply no longer sparking joy.

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But why now?

Now, more than ever, it’s essential to look like the terse yet luxurious headmaster of a boarding school. Just kidding. While buccal-fat removal has been around for a while, Dr. Basil Pakeman of Manhattan Surgical Care credits the recent increased interest to folks staring at their face while on video calls all day. “Zoom has made people very conscious of the way they look,” he explained in a phone interview. Without a doubt, if the interview had been conducted on Zoom, I would have missed him explaining that, as I would have been too preoccupied with staring at the screen and into the depths of my own eyes. Dr. Pakeman added that he’s seen an uptick in facial surgeries across the board since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Are celebrities also on Zoom staring at their faces all day? I’d like to think fame frees you from that particular prison, but maybe not. I honestly don’t know exactly why the surgery has risen in popularity amongst celebrities, but my best guess is that it correlates with the overall slim-down we’ve witnessed in Hollywood in the past year.

Who’s had it? 

Officially? Chrissy Teigen is the only celeb to have openly admitted to buccal fat removal. Most celebrities don’t seem to be chomping at the bit to let us know the extent to which they surgically alter their body and face. But that’s never stopped Instagram accounts dedicated to plastic surgery speculation, or us plebes who are overly familiar with the ever-evolving contours of famous people’s faces, to make reasonable guesses about who’s bid their buccal fat adieu.

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In the days since Michele’s buccal-less pout post, social media has named Zoe Kravitz, Megan Fox, Margot Robbie, Eiza González, Bella Hadid, Angelina Jolie, and Demi Moore as just a few of the celebrities who appear to have undergone the procedure. Dr. Pakemen said that Kim Kardashian and Hadid are the most-referenced faces when he’s consulting with patients on buccal fat surgery.

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Personally, ever since seeing Michele’s selfie, I can’t stop wondering whether or not a surgery like this would affect one’s voice? It seems like altering the shape and thickness of the mouth would be difficult for someone belting on Broadway eight times a week.

Of course, we don’t know for sure why Michele’s or Kravitz’s cheeks have all of a sudden gone missing in action. There’s always the possibility that there’s a Bling Ring-style cheek-fat heist pillaging the faces of the famous and beautiful right now. It’s only a matter of time before Gal Gadot sets up her front-facing camera and calls up some buddies to sing Fred Astaire’s “Cheek to Cheek” in memory of the face fat that once was.

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Does it hurt and cost a lot?

In my research, I learned that surgeons use local anesthesia for buccal fat removal, and the patient remains awake while their fat pads are cut from their face. It’s surgery and a showall for the cost of what could be a gorgeous luxury vacation (about $5,000).

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How do you feel about this?

Thank you so much for asking. I understand the societal pressures people (especially women and femmes) face to achieve certain aesthetics. I also understand the benefits and privileges that come from achieving those aesthetics. But for personal and political reasons, I’ve chosen to not step on the never-ending, ever-speeding-up carousel ride that is cosmetic procedures.

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I was particularly overwhelmed while reading through the buccal fat removal subreddit and seeing a number of posts from women in their 50s lamenting the natural loss of plumpness in their faces that comes from the least invasive procedure of all: the passage of time. One wrote that facial fat “becomes so rare and precious as you age” and that she “can’t even imagine how old [she’d] look if [she’d] also had fat removed from [her] face.”

So, to answer your question: I’m cynical about the fact that younger women are surgically removing the fat in their faces, only to plump them back up with fillers 20 years down the line. It’s a losing game.

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Wow, inspiring

Thank you. If you want a copywriter for a motivational poster wary of the physical and psychological effects of plastic surgery, I’m your girl.

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Editor’s note: Jezebel cannot confirm nor deny that any of the celebrities pictured and/or mentioned have had their buccal fat removed.