At-Home Buccal Massaging Is Easy—Follow These 6 Steps for Sculpted Cheekbones

There's no denying buccal fat removal is trending. For proof, scroll through TikTok, where the hashtag #buccalfatremoval has amassed over 180.9 million views. The procedure, which involves removing fat from the cheek area via a small incision, has been the topic of endless discussion. According to double board-certified plastic surgeon Jeffrey Lind MD, we have social media sites like TikTok to blame for our buccal fat fixation. "Social media plays a huge role in the popularity of this procedure, like many surgical trends today," he says. "We are in the selfie age, and people are paying a lot more attention to how they look on camera. There have also been celebrities who've announced they had the procedure done, which leads to everyday individuals looking to seek out plastic surgeons."

While buccal fat removal is hands down the most effective option for getting sculpted cheekbones, are there other options out there? Where does that leave those of us who'd like to avoid undergoing a permanent procedure? These are the questions I asked myself after seeing one too many sculpted faces looking back at me on social media. 


(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

Personally, I love the sculpted look, but I'm not willing to see a plastic surgeon to get it. My cheeks are worth embracing (at least I think so), so I don't want to commit to something permanent. Instead, I'm looking for something that will allow me to define the contours of my face at my own leisure. That's where facial massage comes in.

I've seen countless Instagram and TikTok videos on buccal massage. Practioners claim it can lift and define cheekbones for a naturally contoured look. Needless to say, my interest was piqued, so I reached out to esthetician Britta Plug, who co-founded Wildling Beauty. Since she's an expert in all things related to facial massage, I figured she could walk me through a safe and effective at-home routine to lift and define my cheekbones. Ahead, get a step-by-step guide to buccal facial massage. 

Step 1: Jaw Release

The first step in an at-home buccal massage is to apply face oil or a similar product to your face to give the skin some slip. Both Plug and I use Wildling's Empress Balm of Gilead Barrier Repair Oil ($82), a phytonutrient-dense facial oil rich in vitamin C. 

From there, you'll move on to jaw release. If you're anything like me, you clench your jaw constantly. This causes the jaw muscles to tense up, and when the jaw muscles are tense, it can create unnecessary bulkiness to the point where it visually pulls the appearance of the face downward. 

To release tension and slim the appearance of the face, Plug recommends using the oddly shaped tool above. It's something I use regularly to help manage jaw pain from TMJ. Use the narrow tip to "explore" the masseter muscle on the outer jaw, moving it in small circles to release tension. I recommend feeling your jaw muscle before and after using this tool. At the start, it might feel tough and rope-like, but after using the tool for a couple of minutes, it might feel softer and smoother.

Step 2: Prepping the Lymph Nodes


(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

According to Plug, you work on two levels during a buccal facial massage. The first is on superficial tissue. Here, you're encouraging lymphatic drainage or the process of moving and draining the fluid that circulates your body and carries cell and tissue debris. "If we're holding excess fluid, it tends to pool and pull the face down," she says. The second is the deeper layers of the face, including fascia, or connective tissue, and muscle. This can release tension and, as Plug puts it, "help the cheekbones pop." 

When it comes to lymphatic drainage, it's important to prep the lymph nodes by "pumping" or pressing and massaging them gently. This gets them ready to process and drain fluid and thus facilitates a slimmer, more contoured appearance. Plug recommends massaging the skin lightly just above the collar bones to start. "It can be with your hands or with a tool. Just feel along the top of your collarbone where your fingers naturally dip in. It's a really gentle massage where we're just moving the skin. This is a major lymphatic point—perhaps the most major. This is where the lymphatic fluid re-enters the bloodstream. It's called terminus. For any kind of lymph drainage work—whether it's on the face or the body—this is the first place we want to open up and activate, stimulate, and prep." All it takes is 10 circles or so. 

From there, move your fingers or massage tool to the area behind the angle of the jaw and under your ear. "We're going to do the same thing there," Plug says. "Just these gentle circles. This is also a vagus nerve point, so it helps to put the nervous system into relaxation mode. It gets us back into our body, into parasympathetic, into rest and digestion. That's entirely necessary for lymphatic drainage. The lymph isn't going to be flowing or draining when we're tense and in fight-or-flight mode." After another 10 or so circles there, you will have prepped your lymph nodes so fluid can drain and flow downward. 

Step 3: Connect the Dots

Once any jaw tension has been released and the lymph nodes have been prepped, it's time to reach for a gua sha tool. Plug and I use Wildling's Empress Platinum ($159), a stainless steel gua sha tool that clears heat from the skin and can help calm inflammation. 


(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

Plug instructs me to gently glide the tool from the first point, which is the area behind the angle of the jaw, to the second point, which is the top of the collar bone. When you reach the second point, lightly shimmy the tool back and forth. "That alone is going to be really nice for lymphatic drainage," Plug says. "It should be light enough where you don't really feel it on the neck muscles because we're working with the superficial layers right below the surface of the skin." To put it another way, Plug says a lighter touch is best when it comes to lymphatic drainage. "For facial work, it should be like frosting a cake."

Step 4: Carve the Jawline


(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

The next step is to define the jawline by flipping the tool over to the U-edge and gliding it from the chin to the ear. Plug tells me you can angle the tool to "carve" under the jawbone. "It's a little more chisel-y, and you're going to be hitting the lymph nodes inward from the jawbone there," she says. "Hook on like it's train tracks and come all the way up. We're bringing all this fluid up to the lymph node we were activating. If you want, you can do a little press and shimmy. Now we're really prepped to go into the cheek." 

Step 5: Cheek Work


(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

"We want to make sure we're working below the cheekbone," Plug says. "That's the area we really want to tighten, tone, and drain, so our cheekbones pop." Flip the gua sha tool over to the grooved edge and hold it flat against the skin. Then, starting under the front of the cheekbone, glide it out toward the ear, essentially working in the area where you would apply contour. "You want to go below the cheekbone and hold the tissue with the opposite hand. It's different than the other edge. It's grippy. That's really tightening and toning. It really starts to work the fascia more."

From there, bring the tool back down the neck for drainage. "It's kind of a combo of doing the drainage and then the extra firming, toning, sculpting effect with this edge," Plug says. "I find it knits [the fascia] together and has a firming effect when you work with the connective tissue in that way."


(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

Flip the tool back to the U-edge and hold it up to the nasolabial fold, or the line that runs from the edge of the nose down to the corner of the mouth. Bring the tool up toward the temple for a lifting effect. "We really worked on releasing and de-puffing below the cheekbone," Plug says. "This is like the cheekbone lift." Make sure you're never doing more than 10 swipes in one area, and use light pressure.

Step 6: Intraoral Massage


(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

This is the part of the massage I was most excited about. I'd seen these intraoral massages all over Instagram and TikTok. People claim that working from the inside of the mouth can sculpt and define the cheekbones like nothing else. Of course, my interest was piqued. Plug warned me it might feel intense. "It's an area we don't work a lot. There's a lot of tension [that] we've never gotten to if [this is] our first time working inside the mouth," she says. 

After thoroughly washing my hands, I inserted my thumb into my mouth, keeping the rest of my fingers on the outside, resting on my cheek. Then, I moved both my thumb and my fingers in circular motions. Once I got the hang of it, I moved my thumb to the inside of my masseter muscle, using a little more pressure to release tension. And Plug was right—it was intense. After just a few minutes, I could tell my jaw muscle was releasing tension. "We're just releasing and smoothing everything out," Plug says. "Of course, when we release the muscles, we have better lymph drainage. It all kind of works together."

The Result


Before My At-Home Buccal Massage
(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

Before my at-home buccal massage, my cheeks and jawline looked rounded and puffy. They lacked definition, and the hollow of my cheeks was almost nonexistent. I felt like the bottom half of my face looked heavy. I wanted a more sculpted and lifted appearance. 


After My At-Home Buccal Massage
(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

I had visible lift and definition in my cheekbones after my at-home buccal massage. Overall, my face looks slimmer and more sculpted. Because I loved the results so much, I asked Plug how often I could safely practice this massage, and she said it could be done daily as long as your skin isn't reactive. "When we build on it, and we do it regularly, we just get more and more snatched," she says. "We're repeatedly draining that fluid and working with that tissue. It's a cumulative effect."

However, you don't have to do it daily to see results. Plug says committing to a 15-minute massage three times a week is enough. You can focus on these buccal massage steps alone, or you can incorporate these steps into a full-face gua sha routine. Either way, you'll see aesthetic benefits.

The best part is that an at-home buccal massage is an option for everyone, even those who see an esthetician for a professional buccal massage. Plug says at-home facial massages can be good to do between appointments to boost results. "It keeps that stagnation from building up. In that way, you're getting even better work done when you go in for your treatments."


(Image credit: @kaitlyn_mclintock)

While I definitely saw a visible difference in the lift and definition of my cheekbones, the results weren't drastic or permanent. If you're looking for more significant and longer-lasting results, consult a board-certified plastic surgeon. As Lind says, the benefits of facial massage are improved lymphatic drainage, which is temporary. "To truly get a lifted or sculpted face, one would need to have volume added in certain areas, have volume subtracted in certain areas such as through buccal fat removal, or one would need to have the deep structures of the face lifted in a permanent manner such as with a facelift. The face is very complex, and each area must be addressed separately with different methods. Massage will not address any of these." 

For a noninvasive route, Lind suggests turning to Morpheus8. "Morpheus8 uses radiofrequency energy combined with micro-needling to tighten the skin and mildly reduce fat," he says. "However, it is important to note that surgical results, in general, cannot be replicated by nonsurgical treatments." 

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Kaitlyn McLintock
Associate Beauty Editor

Kaitlyn McLintock is an Associate Beauty Editor at Who What Wear. Although she covers a wide range of topics across a variety of categories, she specializes in celebrity interviews and skincare and wellness content. Having lived in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, she recently relocated back to her home state of Michigan where she works remotely. Prior to Who What Wear, she freelanced for a variety of industry-leading digital publications, including InStyle, The Zoe Report, Bustle, Hello Giggles, and Coveteur. Before that, she held a long-term internship and subsequent contributor position at Byrdie. When she's not writing, researching, or testing the latest and greatest beauty products, she's working her way through an ever-growing book collection, swimming in the Great Lakes, or spending time with family.