In a society where the beauty industry garners tens of billions of annual revenue, it is no surprise that the modern media is relentless in its quest to convince every girl that she is never beautiful enough. From the age-old shame toward body hair to the creation of the modern term “hip-dips” (the term for hips which are not perfectly round, but instead have a small concave “dip” along the sides), the development of money-making insecurities never ceases.
However, within the past few months, one of these manufactured schemes has caused criticism and backlash as more and more women become discontented with the body fads, which appear and disappear rapidly in order to profit on our self-hatred.
What is Buccal Fat Removal?
This new fad is called Buccal Fat Removal (pronounced “buckle”), and began with celebrities such as Chrissy Teigan, (who posted about getting the procedure on Instagram) and the celebs speculated to have gotten the procedure, including Lea Michele, (who made the New York Post’s Page Six column), Sophie Turner, and Zoe Kravitz possibly undergoing the cosmetic surgery.
Buccal fat itself is defined as the segment of fat in the lower cheeks below the cheekbone, and the purpose of the removal surgery is to define the cheekbones and provide a slimmer, more angular face. While on the surface this seems like a very typical cosmetic surgery, the procedure has sparked hot debates in the beauty community, and among women at large.
Unattainable, Unnatural Standards
The first criticism of the surgery is that while it was originally encouraged for women with “fuller” faces, it has been noted that most of the aforementioned celebrities undergoing it already had thin faces and sharp jawlines. In other words, women who are already considered to have met the ideals of today’s beauty have begun to push the mold even further, driving other women to attempt such unattainable, unnatural standards.
Furthermore, many people are outraged, feeling betrayed by people with high social media influence are not disclosing the fact that they have received cosmetic procedures. It’s now normalized for celebrities to undergo plastic surgery and not communicate it to their audience.
Exploring this idea, I spoke to 15 year old Walton High School student Maddie Teilhet, who admitted, “I have no problem with cosmetic procedures, but when celebrities aren’t transparent about what they have done, it can be really damaging for girls that look up to these celebrities.” She further stated that “my friends and I compare ourselves to celebrities all the time. It can be damaging because behind the scenes these celebrities have professional trainers and dietitians.”
Maddie’s experience reinforced the idea that the way celebrities approach beauty can perpetuate negative feelings within their teenage audience. This can include being led to believe a celebrity has achieved perfect natural beauty, making the average person feel inferior, despite the fact that their “beauty” was handcrafted on a surgical bed.
Thinness seemingly becomes more desirable by the day, and the beauty industry is persistent in its efforts to ensure no woman reaches an unspoken requirement written on a pin-needle sized tape measure which reads “You Must be This Small.”
Whether it be low rise jeans, baby-tees, or contouring and concealing hacks, every part of this industry exists to create self-hatred and profit off of empty stomachs and reflective scales.
What’s more, although buccal fat removal is popular for its conventional beauty now, the procedure has the potential to age dangerously.
Premature Aging Risks
An article posted on plasticsurgery.org, the official website of the industry standard American Society of Plastic Surgeons, explores this idea, saying, “’You’re going to remove a large portion of the buccal fat pad, and whatever is remaining will shrink over time. Twenty years from now, you may look too thinned out and prematurely aged… if someone is overzealous… they can very quickly remove more than they should. This puts patients at a higher risk of looking hollow as they age. Atrophy of the buccal fat pad will continue as the face ages.”
In other words, Buccal fat itself has a tendency to slim with age, which means that those who receive removal surgery are prone to having their faces thin even further as time goes on.
With the rapid pace of changing trends, many people pay little mind to the long-term effects of body alteration. The ceaseless hunger for perfection seems to be, for many people, worthy of taking uncalculated, ill-advised risks.
Never Small Enough
The popularity of buccal fat removal surgery seems to have been the last straw for many women, as they realize that in the merciless eyes of society, we will simply never be small enough to be good enough. After taking a step back, it is easy to see frustrating patterns when comparing this new insecurity to others with similar origins, such as hip-dips.
Both buccal fat and hip-dips are insecurities that seem to have spawned out of nowhere, going from something unheard of to problems with million-dollar solutions, such as removal surgery for buccal fat, Brazilian butt lifts or hip-dips. This leads into another criticism of buccal fat removal surgeries, which is that such procedures perpetuate the idea of women’s bodies being trends.
The “heroin chic” body of the 1990s was a fashion and beauty era which glorified thinness to the point of being unhealthy. This led to increased drug abuse and eating disorders, as well as botox and other cosmetic surgeries. Following that and moving into the late 2010s, we saw a shift toward the “hour-glass” body figure, achieved by BBLs, liposuction, and unrealistic diets.
While public opinion ebbs and flows, and what is to die for one day might be a dead trend the next, it is dangerous to offer permanent body alterations as a solution to manufactured self-hatred. Ava Ryan, 15 year old Blessed Trinity student, expressed that in relation to social media, “I have felt insecure many times from seeing girls… with perfect bodies.”
It’s worth noting that Ava did not feel the need to specify what “perfect” meant to her when it comes to appearance, as she assumed we would share a mutual definition of it. Due to the beauty industry’s insistence that one body type is more desirable than another, “perfection” has become one universal image, with no regard to individuality.
Ava elaborated on her story, explaining, “I have not seriously considered [plastic surgery], but I have wanted to change my nose in the past.” Although she never fully succumbed to the idea that cosmetic surgery may be the solution to her insecurities, it was something that crossed her mind as a possibility.
She closed by remarking, “Celebrities who get cosmetic procedures, without being transparent, set unrealistic beauty standards for people.”
Thinner, Thinner, Thinner
With how fast trends change, the buccal fat buzz could be over by the time this article is published. However, even when the talk has died down, the scars of slimming surgical blades will remain below the surface of celebrity smiles. Although the general consensus seems to be that buccal fat surgery is ridiculous, it is impossible to believe that this will be the last we see of it or other body alteration trends just like it.
If society continues as it is going currently, we will continue to get thinner, to get thinner, to get thinner, until we wither away entirely.