The Dangers of TikTok’s Most Popular Procedure

On your TikTok FYP, you may have started seeing #BBL or #BBLjourney pop up.  Trending into the billions, #BBL has caught the attention of many – including critics.  And for good reason.

BBL stands for “Brazilian Butt Lift,” popularized by Kim Kardashian and others. When receiving a BBL, the surgeon takes fat from one part of the body through liposuction, transferring it to your hips, thighs, and butt, giving you that voluptuous fat-bottomed look.

Like many social media users, TikTokers are showing their before and after pictures, not only showing off their bigger booties but claiming the surgical procedure gives them the #BBLeffect. Sarcastically coined by TikToker Antoni Bumba, the “BBL effect is the unbothered confidence of those who have elected to bolster their buttocks,” essentially creating an unattainable savage diva effect.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Although many TikTokers are finding laughs in the #BBLeffect, poking fun at a cosmetic surgery that can change your attitude, the numbers don’t lie about this procedure’s skyrocketing popularity.

Citing the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Business Insider stated that in 2020, 40,000 butt augmentation surgeries were performed, raking in $140 million in revenue, with these surgeries increasing 90.3 percent between 2015 and 2019.

Additionally, with these surgeries dropping in costs, nationally from $5,507 to $3,329 on average, the procedure is more affordable. However, these lower prices haven’t prevented droves of patients from traveling to other countries, such as Mexico, in pursuit of cheaper procedures.

So, why the concern with TikTok boosting BBL posts?  Read on to learn about the potential dangers of this social media frenzy.

What Are the Dangers Associated with BBL?

With all surgical procedures, dangers can exist.  From going to an untrained surgeon to practices resulting in death, a BBL is not something to take lightly.

But couple that with the fact that TikTok is glorifying (and trivializing) plastic surgery to its primary audience—teens and children—it’s unsettling to say the least that young women are seeking to undergo surgery that alters their physical appearance when they’re not even done growing.

Potential Health Risks

When cosmetic surgeries become overly popular, you may find a host of unqualified, unlicensed practitioners willing to perform the procedure with unregulated standards of care in non-approved facilities, clearly putting profits above health and well-being.

Some physicians (not surgeons) can take an online or weekend class, learning how to perform a BBL. However, not going to a board-certified plastic surgeon can cause a higher risk of harm to willing patients, such as death, heart or pulmonary fat embolism (PFE), or irreparable physical damage.

A national medical malpractice law firm highlighted a traumatizing illustration of the dangers of a BBL when a 40-year-old woman died from a butt augmentation. According to the firm, the patient died during the surgery when “a vein deep in the patient’s buttocks was injured causing the fat being injected for the buttock lift to enter the bloodstream.  The medical examiner also found fat clots spread throughout the patient’s organs, heart, and lungs.” In this case, the surgeon was not board-certified in a specialty and did not carry any medical malpractice insurance.

In other cases, physicians may use fillers or silicone instead of fat.  Although both have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are federally approved for breast or aging procedures, not butt augmentation. Using these products can give you undesirable results or may create significant complications, including death.

Other risks of BBL procedures include infection, bruising, stretch marks, blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, excessive blood loss, and complications from anesthesia or liposuction.

The Industry’s Response

In response to surgical abuses and the highest death rate of any cosmetic surgery, the American Association of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, International Society of Plastic Regenerative Surgeons, International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and the International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science formed the “Task Force for Safety in Gluteal Fat Grafting [the BBL Task Force] with the goal of conducting studies to develop specific safety guidelines.”

Representing board-certified plastic surgeons, this task force issued an advisory to surgeons in 2018, “urging discussion of these risks with patients and providing additional recommendations for the safe performance of the procedure.”

If you’re interested in getting this procedure but want it done safely and correctly, read on.

What Should You Consider Before Getting a BBL?

As recommended by the BBL Task Force, before signing up for a BBL procedure, consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon with experience in doing butt augmentations. Be sure to ask questions during this consultation, knowing how the surgery may impact your body. Ask about the surgeon’s fat injection techniques, understanding all the in’s and out’s of the surgery. Finally, ask about what risks or complications may occur and what you should do if they appear.

Your physician should also advise you on what to do pre-surgery and post-surgery, with safety as a priority. Additionally, your surgeon should discuss any medications you’re taking and how to handle these doses before and after the surgery.