Is It Possible To Reverse Buccal Fat Removal?

There's a saying that goes something like: no one ever lost money making women feel badly about themselves. We've seen this phenomenon grow tenfold thanks to social media. A beauty hack or plastic surgery procedure gains traction and soon, it spreads like wildfire, inspiring new ways for young people to find reasons to change their bodies. Don't get us wrong. In many cases, plastic surgery can help people feel more confident, but when trends like buccal fat removal take off, it's worth pausing.

What is buccal fat? (You say it like 'buckle.') Essentially, it's the fat in our cheeks and near our jaw bones. Why is there a campaign for removing it? Well, there's a current beauty trend that privileges a highly angular, chiseled face and some are opting for this look through buccal fat removal. While that sounds great, there's just one thing to consider. Most of us naturally lose fat in our faces as we age and although having no buccal fat as a 20-something person might look modelesque, as we near middle age, a lack of facial fat can create a gaunt, severe appearance. The other issue? Buccal fat removal is permanent, making the decision that much more weighted. However, there are a few alternative routes to consider if one wants to plump up one's face after buccal fat removal.

How buccal fat removal works

Obviously, buccal fat removal has gained popularity for a reason, as it does work on some people. Part of this is due to improvements in the procedure. Dr. Andrew Jacono explained to The New York Times that older buccal fat removal surgery would take out the entirety of a person's buccal fat, which could produce drastically varied results, especially on thinner people. These days, plastic surgeons only remove "the excess amount" and on people with round, cherubic faces to can create contour.  The procedure is fairly quick and can be done while a person is awake. 

Unfortunately, even with the advancements in the procedure, the long term results with buccal fat removal can still be unexpected. Dermatologist Ellen Gendler told CNN, "When you take out an underlying structure in a permanent procedure and you age around it, you don't know how it's going to look." For thinner people, this can lead to a harsh, flat appearance, and even premature aging. 

So what are you to do if you change your mind after having buccal fat removed? Well, it's complicated. As plastic surgeon Dr Jack Zoumaras told Refinery 29, "Once the fat is removed, you cannot put it back," which means the procedure isn't reversible in the traditional sense In light of all of this, if a person is unhappy with their buccal fat removal results, there are still some things they can do to fix it post-procedure.

Solutions to reverse buccal fat removal

Although it's technically not possible to put back in the fat you took out of your face, there are some solutions should an individual wish to regain some volume in their cheeks again. One of the newer procedures is called Renuva. According to The Zoe Report, the FDA-approved procedure consists of injecting the face with "purified human fat" to stimulate further cell growth and create a foundation of volume. Prior to Renuva, there were temporary solutions like hyaluronic acid fillers, but these are expensive and require continuous upkeep to maintain results.

In more intense cases, there's also the option of skin grafting. Drs. Cohen and Rohrich told RealSelf that surgical fat grafting can achieve the desired results but it's challenging. "[The procedure] is a difficult thing to do [and requires an approach that is] very different from most grafting techniques," Dr. Rohrich said. Part of the problem is how complex that area of the body is; there are glands, nerves, arteries, and lymphatic vessels that all have to be contended with, so it's no minor thing. However, in cases where a patient's facial appearance would vastly improve from fat grafting, it's worth knowing that it is an option.