Can a cosmetic procedure influence an entire subculture? TikTok’s ‘BBL effect’ proves so

By Malavika Pradeep

Published Jun 23, 2021 at 09:30 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

We previously talked about gen Z’s increasing obsession with baby Botox. Administered in smaller doses than traditional Botox, the non-surgical treatment essentially embraces an impending anti-ageing beauty boom among the demographic. But what happens when an invasive cosmetic procedure initiates recipients into a whole new subculture altogether? Introducing the ‘BBL effect’, one of the costliest TikTok trends that everyone can ironically get ‘behind’ free of cost.

What is BBL?

Sorry to burst your bubble but ‘BBL’ is not the acronym for ‘Be Back Later’ like it is speculated. The TikTok-native term translates to ‘Brazilian Butt Lift’—a surgical procedure in which fat is removed from various parts of the body and re-injected into the hips and buttocks. Using a combination of liposuction and fat-grafting, the procedure results in added volume, defined curves and an overall lift to the lower contours of the body.

Performed under general anesthesia, a BBL usually starts with a cosmetic surgeon outlining the planned areas of liposuction—a procedure that involves making incisions in the skin and then using a tube to remove fat from the body. The fat here is usually taken from the abdomen and lower back of the surgery’s recipient. Once the fat is collected in a specialised system that separates live fat cells from liposuction fluid, it is then injected back into the marked areas of the butt. About three to five incisions are made again for fat transfer, which are later closed up with stitches. The surgeon quickly follows up by applying a compression garment against the operated areas to minimise the risk of bleeding.

In terms of the aftercare, one factor is a given: you won’t be able to sit on your butt for about two weeks following surgery. You’ll also be advised to sleep on your side or on your stomach until the area has completely healed. Strenuous exercise is also advised against for several weeks. Experts in the field divide the recovery process of the procedure into three stages: the first few days, first several weeks and first several months.

Over the first few days, the recipient can generally go back to work. But a desk job would essentially require them to be either seated on a donut-shaped seat or a pillow placed under their thighs to avoid direct pressure on their buttocks. During the first several weeks, most of the swelling reduces and the bruising starts to heal. This is the ideal period for them to return to gyms and travel on any kind of public transport. The last stage is where the remaining swelling evens out and the transferred fat settles.

According to a recent survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of BBLs performed globally has grown by 77.6 per cent since 2015. Dubbed as “the fastest growing cosmetic surgery in the world,” BBLs can range anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000. This demand, however, is considered to be ill-favoured, given the list of side effects associated with the procedure.

Between 2011 and 2016 alone, there have been 25 deaths related to the surgery. In 2017, a plastic surgery task force revealed that three percent of plastic surgeons who performed the procedures had witnessed the death of a patient. Overall, one in 3,000 BBLs have resulted in death, making it one of the world’s most dangerous cosmetic procedures at the same time.

So, what is the ‘BBL effect’ on TikTok?

Pioneered by a New York-based creator, Antoni Bumba, #bbleffect is a TikTok trend playing on the iconic Point Of View (POV) narrative. Users here can be seen channelling the cosmetic procedure into an entire subculture—with a highly specific mannerism, behaviour and fashion sense.

“POV: Someone with a BBL goes to the gym,” a video title reads, as the TikToker proceeds to lift a pair of weights emphasising her butt in the workout. She then engages in a highly superficial activity of pout-sipping a drop of water from a glass tumbler—all the while fixing her hair behind her ears with ‘those hands’. Those hands, you know, the ones you pull when your nail polish is air-drying. Your fingers would avoid touching each other while your nails social-distance from everything on Earth. It’s almost as if you’re constantly waiting for someone to take and kiss the back of your hand while exuding a royal aura.

Another video features a TikToker role-playing a Pope after getting a BBL done. Sitting cautiously on the couch, the user is seen flipping their cape instead of hair and sifting through the pages of the Holy Bible before staring into an aesthetic distance. Although there is a significant amount of backlash in the comments section, the video goes on to show the versatility of the procedure in itself.

@antonibumba

shoutout @shaayyne for being paparazzi

♬ -
@antonibumba

it’s a state of mind.

♬ -

From restaurants to community pools and graduation ceremonies, recipients of the BBL are alleged to have faced an evolution in terms of their attitude and fashion style after the procedure. Their character is now a bad bitch incarnate—constantly fixing their hair, fluttering their lashes and brooding into a distance while holding three-ply masks two inches away from their faces. All of this, done to the same chaotic TikTok audio ‘Knock Knock’ by the 19-year-old Atlanta rapper SoFaygo.

Although the trend was started by Bumba, many have jumped on with their own spin-offs—including the contrasting POV of “someone who doesn’t have a BBL.” Often spotted heading to beaches and pool parties, a non-BBL recipient on TikTok is someone who refuses to take off their pants in the sun or hides behind hand towels. The TikTok trend has also inspired #lipfiller POVs, currently at 1.1 billion views and counting.

Be it to mock or merely manifest the cosmetic procedure, TikTok’s ‘BBL effect’ is out there and multiplying as we speak. Neither is the trend exclusive to women on the platform nor is it necessary to go under the knife to jump on it. And even if you are “someone with a BBL,” you’re more than welcome to head over and share your experience. TikTok is bound to listen.

@tirsdagen

pov: someone who doesn't have a bbl goes to the beach #bbleffect #fyp #foryou

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