The Brazilian Butt Lift - aka the BBL - has become uber popular in the last few years, thanks to social media and the likes of certain celebs (Kim K, I’m looking at you), but, despite its popularity, the BBL is not all peachy. In this article, I’ll take a look at why the BBL is dangerous, what it does, and the alternative bum lift treatments available that don't require surgery.
BBL: A Bum To Die For?
What is a BBL?
The Brazilian Butt Lift - AKA the BBL - is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon takes fat from one part of the patient’s body and injects it into the buttocks. Reasons people get a BBL? A fuller, more lifted bum.
In recent years, the BBL has become big news, with celebs and the likes showing off their seemingly curvier derrieres. And it’s the images of J.Lo and Kim Kardashian and their larger than life butts that have inspired many a follower to boost their bums and undergo surgery.
Essentially, the BBL has become what the boob job was to the 90s. But the procedure, which takes a couple of hours, isn’t always in the news for the right reasons. They’re expensive, costing up to £8,000, results are not guaranteed, there’s significant downtime and post-treatment checks to consider and - the very worst part - three British women alone have died as a result of complications during a Brazilian Butt Lift.
Why is the BBL dangerous? Brazilian Butt Lift Risks
Ok, so while having a nice pert bum might sound great, the fact that a BBL can result in death makes it extremely contentious. So, what exactly makes a BBL dangerous? And is it really worth it?
During a BBL procedure there are a number of risks that can occur. First is haematoma, which is where a collection of blood gathers under the skin. Then, there’s risk of scarring, excessive bleeding, blood clot, allergic reaction, infection, and fat necrosis, which is where the fat tissue dies. And it’s the risk of fat embolism that’s the most worrying. This is where the fat that’s injected into the bum blocks a blood vessel, and this can be fatal. Fat should never be directly injected into the muscle but, instead, the subcutaneous tissue, and it takes someone who is extremely experienced and knows anatomy inside out to be able to do it well, but even then the risks still exist.
In the UK, there are strict regulations around BBLs, and surgeons are only allowed to inject 1-2 litres of fat. And, in fact, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) advises its members not to perform the BBL. But this is not the case in many other countries, where there are fewer restrictions and regulations. And of course, this means that those seeking the treatment often travel to get it. One of the most popular countries to travel to for the BBL procedure is Turkey, and this is where the three Brits mentioned above - Ajoke Bamgbose, Leah Cambridge and Melissa Kerr - lost their lives. So, how many more women have to die as a result of a desire for the perfect bum? It’s truly awful!
Non-surgical alternatives to the BBL
So, what can you do if you want to enhance your bum, get more of an hourglass figure or address your hip dips but you really don’t want to go under the knife? Well, there are non-surgical options available if you really want them. But even these are highly debated in the world of aesthetics. Some healthcare practitioners offer them, some don’t. So, what are the non-surgical bum lift options? And what are the pros and cons?
Dermal Filler Bum Lift
One popular non-surgical alternative to the BBL uses dermal fillers - that’s right - the sort of filler that’s associated with plumping lips and adding volume to cheeks. And that’s exactly what it does to bums too. Confusingly, it’s referred to as the non-surgical Brazilian Butt Lift (or non-surgical BBL), so stay with me.
One practitioner who uses this technique is Dr Giorgia Ratta. She says, “A non-surgical Brazilian bum lift is a cosmetic procedure to boost and improve the appearance of the bum through targeted injections of dermal fillers for body contour.
The treatment can also be used to correct hip dips, body concavities, thighs, and calves. Genefill, which is the brand I use, boosts the bum through a series of injections carried out through a cannula, which minimises bruising and reduces the chance of misplacing the product in areas that would give no result.” And Dr Ratta explains, “The result is a very natural-looking, lifted bum, without the downtime associated with liposuction.” And downtime? Dr Ratta says, “it’s minimal compared to surgery.”
Poly-L Lactic Acid Bum Lift
Another non-surgical bum lift option that's available uses poly-L lactic acid - PLLA - (that's the same collagen booster you find in many thread lifts). Dr Manav Bawa - aesthetic pro and owner of Time Clinic Medical Aesthetics - has recently started using Lanluma in his clinic.
Describing the alternative bum lift treatment, Dr Bawa says, “it’s totally different to the non-surgical BBL that uses lots of dermal filler, which, generally, focuses on projection and volume. One of the main differences is that PLLA stimulates our own collagen to lift and fill in gaps, like hip dips. We use the product to lift and reshape the buttock, rather than just add lots of volume to get a larger bottom. It's much, much safer than putting 50-100ml of filler into the buttocks and also lasts a lot longer - up to two years or more. You get a really natural result, shaping, lift and an improvement in skin quality. Another great thing is that it works well on cellulite too, thanks to collagen stimulation.”
Dr Bawa also explains that “once it’s settled and the product gets to work stimulating the body’s natural collagen, it continues to improve the overall appearance. Most patients need three sessions, spaced about six weeks apart, and it's a very comfortable treatment with no real downtime. It's far safer than other options and is used by medics exclusively.”
Botox Bum Lift
Botox? In your bum? Yup - it’s a thing, apparently. But the procedure, which is claimed to lift the bum by targeting and relaxing certain muscles in order to lift others, isn’t loved by all. In a recent Glowday article about the treatment, Dr Steve Land, from Novellus Aesthetics says, "It’s pointless. I can’t imagine a mechanism whereby Botox in your buttocks is going to make any noticeable difference. Filler, maybe. But not Botox." Hmm, so there you go. Perhaps just one of those treatments that’s all talk, no action.
Vacuum Treatment Bum Lift
Another non-surgical treatment that promises to give you the bum of your dreams is the vacuum treatment bum lift. As the name implies, the treatment uses suction cups on the buttocks to create a seal. The suction of the vacuum then boosts blood flow in the bum, plumping it up. Some claim vacuum treatment gives smoother skin, a toned bum, a reduction in the appearance of cellulite and an increase in lymphatic flow, thereby getting rid of toxins. Butt (see what I did there?) does it actually work, and does it last? Before and after images certainly show that it seems to do something, but there’s very little evidence supporting the treatment, and the results are very short lived.
Risks of non-surgical bum lifts
As I mentioned earlier, not all healthcare practitioners are eager to offer non-surgical butt lifts, and this, for many, is down to the level of risk and the lack of FDA approval for use of certain products on the bum.
Dr MJ Rowland Warmann, Founder of Smileworks, doesn't hold back about why she disagrees with them. She says, “Whether surgical or non-surgical, in my opinion, there’s nothing good about them. The surgical BBLs are just a trend that - pardon the pun - we’re seeing the back of, as more and more people are looking towards a more natural look. The heyday of the BBL is over - certainly the more exaggerated ones.
We all know about the risks of BBL surgery, especially such a high death rate. It’s the highest risk cosmetic procedure in existence and that is one of the reasons UK plastic surgeons are so averse to doing them.
When it comes to non-surgical BBLs - as with all non-surgical treatments - there’s a scale of natural and unnatural. There are companies, like Lanluma, who are making products specifically for this use, and practitioners who are making this their area of expertise, and if you are medically qualified and do it carefully and correctly, great. What we are, however, seeing is - not the careful, natural, scientifically appropriate end but the “arse-end” of the scale - the dangerous end, where unqualified, practitioners, who don’t have a clue, are sticking filler into people’s butts and are often doing that with products that are not designed for that use. It can be dreadfully dangerous when people are trying to emulate the skills of much more qualified disciplines.
A lot of non-healthcare practitioners are trying their hand at BBLs and non-surgical boob filler, but sticking filler into areas where you don’t really know the anatomy could be causing a lot of damage to things like sciatic nerves. And, while they often use standard quality products in the face, many of these practitioners often use s**t quality products in non-surgical BBLs, because they think that as it’s going into the bum, it doesn’t need to be good quality. It’s only a matter of time until we start to see necrotic butt cheeks coming into clinics because it’s such a wild field that isn’t being looked at properly, scientifically and medically.”
Non-surgical BBLs in summary
Ok, so if you decide that the non-surgical bum lift is something you're interested in, what it really comes down to is safety and trust. It's important to remember that these types of treatments are medical procedures, regardless of the fact that they aren't surgical. Always...ALWAYS...do your research, find a healthcare professional who is well-trained in the procedure, and make sure they understand how to treat complications, as they can arise with any cosmetic treatment. Ask them questions if you have them (and you should), and listen carefully during the consultation (which all good aesthetic practitioners will include before treating you) to potential risks.
Looking for a medically qualified aesthetic practitioner near you? Glowday lists thousands of cosmetic pros, ready to help you become the best version of you.