We’ve all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect,” but when it comes to getting the body of our dreams, we could tweak that saying to surgery makes perfect… for social media, where the BBL (aka Brazilian butt lift) has been queen supreme for years. On TikTok, #BBL has over 5.5 billion views for before-and-after posts, pre-op routines, and even some horror stories. And while I stan slim + thick as much as any other body type, the girls are going crazy for it just as it might be falling out of favor in the mainstream.
What is a BBL?
The Brazilian butt lift was created by a Brazilian doctor (shocker) named Ivo Pitanguy in the 1960s as a specific type of “fat grafting.” For an average price of $5,000 in the US, surgeons liposuction fat from a plump part of the body like the stomach or lower back, then transplant it into the butt. Granted, up to 50% of the transferred fat dies off since it’s tough for cells to survive the harsh extraction process (and if you’ve ever seen one of Dr. Miami’s clips, you know it is very harsh.)
In all, it takes 3-4 hours to complete, but the healing period is much longer. Patients are asked to not sit or lie on their behind for at least 2-4 weeks to ensure proper blood flow, must wear a corset-like compression garment (aka a “faja”) for up to 3 months, and need to undergo weeks of painful massages to promote faster healing and lymphatic drainage.
I’m in so much pain but I’m so happy with my shape 😭🤍 I’m still very swollen & if plastic surgery ain’t for u that’s ok its for me #bbl
♬ SHOTS x HEADS WILL ROLL – Jaden✨
Why is it so popular?
If you asked us this question in 2002, we’d have no idea. A big butt was the last thing you wanted back then, which that “fat a*s” scene in Mean Girls made very clear. So did Crossroads and every other movie where hot was synonymous with a size 2. In the mainstream, curves were simply out of style circa Y2K. Of course, the Y2K look was out of style in 1980, because with every generation, there’s a new fad for the most coveted body type. 1920s boy body, 1950s hourglass, 2010 thigh gap. (Cassey has an amazing visual of the trend shifts here.) At the end of the day, our bodies go in and out of style just like hair scrunchies (which are totally back, by the way), and it’s usually a celeb signaling the aesthetic shift. Ours this time around? Just millennials’ favorite internet breaker: Kim Kardashian.
Her infamous ass on a pedestal image dropped in 2014, and the next year, someone underwent a backside nip or tuck every 30 minutes. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons dubbed 2015 “the year of the rear,” and from then to 2019, the popularity of Brazilian butt lifts grew by 90%, which is insane. I even heard BBLs mentioned in Latto’s new song, Wheelie, and a Genius search says Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, and Kanye West (makes sense) have all rapped about the phenomenon, too.
And a phenomenon it is, because the Aesthetic Society reports that over 61,000 people got a butt augmentation (which includes implants and fat grafting) in 2021, bringing in a whopping $246 million. But it’s not just surgeons cashing in. As cities like Miami and Atlanta become go-to hubs for the procedures, a new class of entrepreneurs has launched specialized recovery centers and transportation services to meet the skyrocketing demand for competent post-op care.
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What’s the downside?
The risk is high. Like, extremely high. All cosmetic procedures have their dangers, but the BBL is by far the worst with 1 in 3,000 cases leading to death. (For reference, the mortality rate for liposuction is 1 in 50,000.) Now, what exactly makes them so hazardous? Apparently our butt has a ton of blood vessels, and if a stray clump of fat worms its way into a vein or artery, it becomes a fat embolism. These embolisms can be fatal if they wind up in vital areas like the brain or lung, and the amount of fat transferred, the skill of the surgeon, and pre-existing conditions all affect the likelihood of developing one.
According to Cosmopolitan, these potential consequences convinced plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn to stop providing the service altogether because he “didn’t want any chance a young woman would die on operating table.” Dramatic, I know, but the fear is warranted. And trust me, I want a big butt soooo bad. I scroll through Meg Thee Stallion’s IG page just wishing I could reach into her post, grab her body, and paste it onto mine. In those moments, I think I’d do anything to get that “perfect figure.” (Which is a lie, because I have quit every booty glow-up challenge I’ve ever started. I have commitment issues, okay?! Just ask my ex.)
I’m not even opposed to surgery. I swear I’m always one day away from getting a boob job because puberty never hit my chest. But even though I literally dream of it, just knowing BBLs are one of the riskiest operations you could volunteer for has me quadruple-thinking the option.
But wait, what did you say earlier about the BBL “falling out of favor?”
Oh, that? That’s just my guess that by the time this BBL craze finally settles and everyone’s had their operation, there will already be a new “it body” of the moment. Why do I think this? Kim Kardashian crash dieted to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s old dress. (Very flimsy) rumors are flying around that Khloe Kardashian had her butt implants removed— even though she recently denied ever having implants in the first place. Also, in a recent poll of 1,000 Americans, the “ideal” measurements for a woman was 36-26-36, notably slimmer than Kim K’s alleged 38-26-41. This is just a prediction for the mainstream since different cultures have different beauty norms, but it’s likely that the BBL will fail the test of time just like the thigh gap that ruled my middle school Pinterest boards.
What if I want a BBL anyway?
Then get one! This whole spiel isn’t to say a BBL isn’t right for anyone. I know my body and my wants, but your body and wants are completely different, and no one should ever shame you for doing what you believe is best for your overall wellness. Want to be a BBL baddie? Vet your surgeon’s credentials with a fine-tooth comb, and book your post-op care at a well-reviewed facility (or call a friend you literally trust with your life).
I have just one other pre-op step, and that’s to make sure this is something you actually want for your own happiness. Body trends come and go, so if your primary reason for getting surgery stems from external influences, take a beat. That “perfect” image of ourselves usually changes over time. Right now, a BBL might seem like the best thing, and if after some introspection, you still think it is, please go forth and book that appointment! But if it’s not, just remember that self-love is the best way forward, because what matters way more than a BBL is Y-O-U.