High cheekbones. We all want them, but why? Scientific research has found that prominent cheekbones might be linked with higher levels of estrogen and may even be an indication of trustworthiness. Regardless of the reason, there’s no doubt that defined cheekbones are ‘in.’ While we may not all be as genetically blessed as Kendall Jenner or Bella Hadid, there are a number of ways we can define our cheekbones.
What Are High Cheekbones?
‘High cheekbones’ is a phrase we’ve probably all heard of at some point. In theory, we get it. But do we really understand what it means to have defined cheeks? Also referred to as the malar bone or zygomatic bone, the cheekbones are the facial structure that supports the cheeks. When the bones sit closer to the eyes, they are considered to be ‘high’ cheekbones.
On the other hand, if cheekbones are closer to the tip of the nose, they are considered to be ‘low’ cheekbones. While high cheekbones may be considered a desirable feature, they don’t define beauty. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, and Kate Moss are just a few insanely gorgeous celebrities who have lower cheekbones.
Best Procedures to Define Your Cheekbones
While a good contour kit can create the illusion of higher cheekbones, there are a number of in-office procedures that offer temporary and permanent solutions. Below, two board certified plastic surgeons break down the best options.
1. Dermal Filler
The same filler that you use in your lips and under the eyes can also be used in the cheeks. Cheek fillers are injected with the goal of lifting and plumping up the area to give them more definition — though a little goes a long way. “Use no more than one cc of filler on each side and check in a mirror,” says Gerald Imber, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New York City. “Overdone cheekbone filler can be dissolved by injection, but it is not a precise process, so overfilling should be avoided.”
To better control the placement of the filler, Kian Karimi, MD, a board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Los Angeles, uses a micro-cannula for over 90 percent of his injectable fillers. “This allows me to get into different compartments of the face precisely and safely for accurate placement of fillers,” he says. “Since the micro-cannula is not sharp, it minimizes the risk of injecting fillers into blood vessels, which can lead to scary complications.”
Filler results are immediate and can last one to two years (or more), depending on the product used. Patients may experience some swelling and bruising for a few days following the treatment. Dr. Imber says filler is the preferred option for patients who are “trying out” the look. “The filler dissipates over the course of a year, and one can then course more permanent fat grafting,” he explains.
2. Fat Grafting
Speaking of fat grafting (a.k.a. fat transfer), the procedure is often considered a natural alternative to cheek implants and a more permanent solution than dermal filler. “It is, in fact, a totally natural substance,” Dr. Imber shares. Instead of using a foreign substance to augment, the doctor removes the patient’s own fat from another part of the body — usually from the stomach or thighs — and injects it into the cheeks. There is no risk of rejection with the treatment, and it is Dr. Imber’s “first choice” for cosmetically defining the cheekbones thanks to its permanence, natural result, and minimal downtime.
The two-step procedure first involves extracting the fat from the donor site through liposuction. The fat is then purified and injected into the cheek. A percentage of the fat is reabsorbed into the body, so your doctor may ‘overfill’ the area to start. “Using fat can affect a more gradual augmentation of the entire cheek area and a significant portion is permanent,” Dr. Imber explains. It should be noted that weight gain or loss can impact results, so maintenance may be necessary.
After the procedure, most patients experience swelling, bruising, and redness on the face and at the donor site for a few days. Full recovery can take up to six weeks, but most people are able to resume daily life after 48 hours.
3. Thread Lift
A thread lift procedure involves placing PDO threads subcutaneously to lift the skin. It is commonly used on the midface, jowl, and neck to target aging and is a great option for the cheeks when there is sagging without volume loss. Dr. Karimi describes the ideal candidate as someone with great cheekbones who is experiencing “smile lines.”
Each thread contains small barbs along the surface, which help it grab and lift the targeted area. When the needles are withdrawn, they cause the tissue to gather over the thread, lifting the skin. New fibrous tissue will soon form around the PDO threads, which help keep them in place and hold the tissue.
“If someone does have volume loss then we recommend a combination of threads and fillers,” Dr. Karimi says. “This allows us to lift the cheek in a natural way and not depend on fillers to try to lift a cheek, which can lead to an overfilled or unnatural appearance.” For the most natural-looking thread lift, Dr. Karimi uses NovaThreads Infinity Threads. They last at least a year.
4. Cheek Implants
Cheek implants, also known as cheek augmentation, is a permanent augmentation procedure that increases the cheek’s volume and projection. “Cheek implants, when perfectly seated in place, look entirely natural and are permanent,” Dr. Imber says. “They are solid silicone substances added on top of the cheekbone, and their preformed shape mimics the bone.”
While it is a surgical procedure, most patients are in and out of the surgery room within an hour. After the general or local anesthesia is administered, the plastic surgeon will make a small incision beneath the eyes or in the mouth to create a small pocket for the implant. Once the implant is inserted and secure, the doctor closes the incision and applies a compression or bandage to help reduce the swelling.
While Dr. Imber notes the potential benefits of cheek implants, he prefers other augmentation methods. “The problem is they often slip or aren’t seated properly,” he cautions. “These days, I opt for fat grafting or filler.”
As with all cosmetic procedures, there is an art to finding the right proportion for cheeks. Dr. Karimi likes to follow the “Goldilocks Principle” (i.e. not too much and not too little). “There are practitioners that will pull out rulers and calipers, but I think a good conversation with the patient to understand goals and then augmenting one's own natural cheek and enhancing their beauty is the way to go,” he says. “A great injector will know how to balance this and produce beautiful, natural, and reproducible results.”
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