Cheek implants also pull off what no other current procedure can achieve: “They provide more lift to the soft tissue of the mid-face, as they are firmer and can better support it,” says Dr. Chang. (Of course, a facelift also lifts, but is mostly focused on the jawline and neck.)
If you want more prominent cheekbones or are seeking facial feminization while transitioning, the structural changes offered by cheek implants can be game-changing. In fact, the latest facial gender-affirming treatments typically entail buccal fat removal and cheek augmentation because together they can better create a heart-shaped face, which is considered to be a more traditionally feminine appearance.
The one area where cheek implants fall short: They don’t do anything for your overall complexion. “While cheek implants restore volume, they do not correct wrinkles and folds from sun damage,” says Dr. Boahene.
Not only that, but there are other superficial fat pads in the face that lose volume over time, causing hollows and irregular cheek texture; since cheek implants are placed deep beneath skin, between the bones of your face and layers of tissue, they don’t always compensate for this. Essentially, they’re great for creating the look of defined cheekbones, but don’t always smooth the skin over those cheekbones to address fat loss that happens with age. In such cases, “additional filler may be indicated,” says Jennifer Levine, MD, a double board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon and otolaryngologist in New York City.
What’s the downtime after cheek implant surgery?
Post-op downtime after getting cheek implants is relatively short. Says Dr. Doshi, “In the days following surgery, most patients experience some swelling, bruising, and mild discomfort, which can be managed with pain medication and cold compresses.”
Swelling can last from seven to 10 days, but otherwise there aren’t a lot of visible signs that you’ve just had surgery, so you can generally go out in public and resume normal activities during this time. That said, while swelling will go down by about 50% during the first week or so, it can take six months for it to resolve entirely, says Dr. Chang. The only other real post-op limitation is exercise: You should avoid working out for three to six weeks to allow the implants to “settle” into place.
What are the risks of cheek implants?
As with any surgery, when you’re dealing with an incision in the body, a bacterial infection is one of the biggest risks. “Infection may require removal of the implants,” says Dr. Boahene, adding that infection — whether severe enough to cause removal or not — is not common. (According to a study in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, between 2006 and 2016, only 39 instances of adverse events related to facial implants of any kind were reported to the FDA, 18 of which involved infections.)