[By Tania Hui]
As a child, I was proud of all the compliments I received for my lovely chubby cheeks. From my doting kindergarten teacher to the candy shop lady, I had always enjoyed that extra bit of love when they pinched and gently tugged at my cheeks to tell me how cute I looked. However, fast forward that to today and all grown up at 32, those chipmunk cheeks no longer seem to be that adorable after all. In fact, it is most annoying that no matter how much I diet and exercise, the chubbiness on the face just wouldn’t go away. From the neck down, I’m a healthy size 6 but if you look at my face, I wouldn’t be surprise if you think I’m a size 16.
Chipmunk cheeks definitely mask the attractiveness of one’s face as the fullness obliterate any contour that the cheekbones got to offer. One of the features of a beautiful face, both in women and men, is a juxtaposition of the cheekbone area to the cheeks in which the former should be fuller than the latter to form a smooth S-shaped curve when the face is in ¾ view. Known as the ‘Ogee curve’, this defines some of the most gorgeous faces of our era, both in the East and West. If like me you are ‘cursed’ with resolute predetermined genetic predisposition, there is no need to continue to live with the frustration of chipmunk cheeks as RSB explores with plastic surgeon, Dr. Tan Ying Chien from The Sloane Clinic on the best way to banish these revolting fatty cheeks for good.
RSB: Hey Dr. YC, thank you for giving RSB the chance to pick on your expertise! So what are the things to consider if I want to have my chubby cheeks corrected surgically?
Dr YC: Hi Tania and readers of RSB, thank you all for having me! (Warm smile).
As with all surgical procedures, patient selection based on their suitability is very important. Firstly, I will rule out any underlying condition such as water retention, liver disease and eating disorder such as bulimia with hypertrophy of the saliva glands which might be the cause behind those chubby cheeks. Secondly, I’ve got to make sure that the fullness of the face is not contributed by other factors that can be treated with non-surgical modalities.
RSB: Can you elaborate on this?
Dr YC: For instance, if the patient is obese or overweight, I would advised her to go on a proper diet and exercise regime as general weight lost is what she need to correct her facial fullness, partially if not fully. At times, fullness of the lower face can be contributed by over-developed muscles of the jawline otherwise known as the masseter muscles. In such cases, the aesthetic issue can be corrected easily with careful placement of Botox injections to shrink down the muscle bulk, and perhaps add on a touch of Chin Filler to give the desirable ‘V-shaped face’. Those with jowls and loose skin will definitely benefit from treatments such as Ulthera and Thermage, which utilizes Ultrasound and Radiofrequency waves respectively to lift and tighten saggy skin to improve the definition of the jawline and thus the general contour of the face.
RSB: So for cases like mine with both my mum and granny having full cheeks way past 40, what’s in for us?
Dr YC: It is simply not aesthetically pleasing when the cheeks are overly full. In such patients, Buccal Fat Pad Removal can be an immediately and profoundly satisfying procedure. This is a 30 minute procedure done under local anesthesia via a small intra-oral incision. Most patients gave the feedback that the surgery feels just like a simple dental procedure. Pain is fairly minimal and mild to moderate swelling is expected for up to a week. However, this downtime can be minimized and shortened effectively with medications and the application of ice-packs. By the first month post-surgery, gratifying improvement can be seen and most if not all patients will appreciate the subtle changes that make a huge difference in reality.
RSB: What are the risks and complications may I ask?
Dr YC: Buccal Fat Pad Removal is a seemingly simple but highly delicate procedure that should be performed conservatively to preserve natural looks. A qualified surgeon with extensive training in facial surgery is a key element to its eventual outcome. There are a few compartments of buccal fat and usually, only fat from the outer segment of the main compartment that contributes to the bulk and fullness of the cheeks is removed. Care has to be taken to remove just enough but not too much to prevent looking overly gaunt later in life. Bear in mind that the natural history is for fat to atrophy and shrink down with the passage of time and volume loss is one of the main concern of aging that affects everyone above the age of 40.
RSB: Thanks for the insight, Doc! One last question. Out of curiosity, will the chubby cheeks return if one put on weight after the procedure?
Dr YC: Weight gain will definitely contribute to the fullness of the face but they may not be as full as they once were! If you choose to have this surgery and your face naturally thins with age, you may look gaunt and unhealthy. While there is no crystal ball to show us what we look like as we age, your parents can be a fairly good guideline. If either or both of them still have chubby cheeks at their age, yours are probably not going away anytime soon. In this scenario, buccal fat pad removal is a great option to restore the balance and thus beautify your face.