Buccal fat pad removal: What is it and am I a candidate?


Some people may feel the roundness in their cheeks creates a fullness to their face they don’t like. Having a cheek reduction can alleviate the sense of fullness or “chubbiness” of your cheeks. But is it right for you?

What is the buccal fat pad and why would you remove it?

Located between your cheekbones and jawbones, the buccal fat pad is a submuscular (located below the muscle) fat pad that is surrounded by a capsule. Buccal fat pads grow from ages 10 to 20 years old, and can shrink or shift over time. They are often resistant to weight loss however. Because a large buccal fat pad can give the appearance of a round face, removal of these fat pads is done to slim the midface volume down, to create a sculpted contoured slimmer cheek. 

What are the consequences of buccal fat pad removal?

The procedure is relatively simple, but it has the risk of damage to the buccal branch of the facial nerve. Also, there are no long term studies evaluating the effects of the buccal fat pad removal on facial aging. The shrinking or shifting of the fat that occurs with aging makes the removal of these fat pads in young women controversial because when removed, they cannot be effectively replaced. Over time with aging, the cheeks can appear gaunt and hollow. Instead of completely removing them, it is best to opt for partial removal to reduce the fat pads. 

Alternatives to buccal fat pad surgical removal?

You can try other modalities to slowly over multiple sessions dissolve the fat – such as with radiofrequency or deoxycholic acid injections. These controlled and more cautious options, although they will take longer time and require more patience, can also prevent the surgical risk of over-hollowing the face, as well as residual skin laxity that could further accentuate the jowls.

Allure website screenshot

Read more about Buccal Fat Pads and Buccal Massage in this Allure article featuring Dr. Kim.

What does Dr. Kim think?

Buccal fat pad removal is not for everyone. Before any surgical decisions, I always recommend that patients go consult with at least three different surgeons. If you are experiencing a wider and rounder face, another much safer modality is injection of a neuromodulator like Botox into an overactive and enlarged masseter muscle. This is a quick and simple injection, repeated a few times a year, that is very often used and successful at slimming the sides of the face and creating that desired more contoured look.

Come on in to my office and make a consultation to discuss what options will be best based on your skin needs.