Is internalised fatphobia the reason I still contour every day?

Is internalised fatphobia the reason I still contour every day?

Pressing powder bronzer under my cheekbones, along my jawline and across my forehead before blending (badly) became part of my everyday makeup routine. Almost 10 years later, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say it still is. Even though I write a column about body acceptance, my internalised fatphobia means that I still try to slim my face with bronzer every day.

Millennials grew up absorbing a societal fear of fat by osmosis. Fast forward to 2024, and ask any Gen Z-er if they contour, and they’ll look at you as though you’ve said Blank Street Coffee is overrated or that Elon Musk is misunderstood. This fervently progressive generation of tweens and twenty-somethings challenge unrealistic beauty standards and embrace their so-called ‘flaws’. TikTokers, quite rightly, post videos mocking how we did our makeup back then, with foundation lips and streaks of tangerine contour. Natural makeup trends reign supreme, and some even serve as an antidote to the inauthentic, artificial contouring of yesteryear. Makeup artist Mary Phillips recently popularised ‘underpainting’, a technique of lightly contouring before applying foundation on top for a more natural look, feeding into the ‘clean girl’ minimal makeup aesthetic preferred by her clients Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner (and 200 million people on TikTok).

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Of course, it isn’t just millennials who are affected by society’s obsession with thinness. Even the TikTok generation aren’t immune. There are Discover pages full of videos on ‘How to lose face fat’, ‘POV: you finally find out how to get rid of your face fat’, ‘Me: hating my round chubby face’, ‘Getting a leaner face is the fastest and easiest way to get more attractive and confident’. Some of these pages have hundreds of millions of related posts.

So, given our fatphobic culture, is it any wonder a slew of wealthy celebrities with access to the world’s most esteemed cosmetic doctors have chosen to have their buccal fat surgically sucked out? If I’m being totally honest, I’m sure I would be tempted. And I imagine the millions of people consuming ‘how to lose face fat’ content on TikTok would be, too.

Most recently, Sophie Turner denied rumours of buccal fat removal. In an interview with Vogue, the 28-year-old actor shared how the hyper-fixation on her body when she first hit the mainstream – and the cruel comments online if her weight fluctuated even slightly – caused harsh self-criticism. “When you’re bulimic, your face tends to bloat,” she said. “So when I finally did get better in my early 20s, my face went back to normal. Then, suddenly, all the comments were about whether I’d had buccal fat removal or not. You can never win.”

Sialadenosis, or ‘bulimia face’, occurs when the salivary glands become swollen from repeated exposure to stomach acid as a result of purging. The parotid glands – which sit behind our buccal fat pads – swell, causing puffy cheeks. As someone who, like Sophie, had bulimia as a result of poor body image, it makes me sad to think of 21-year-old me, desperately trying to slim down a face which may have been extra-bloated as a result of the eating disorder she was keeping a secret from everyone around her.

After a decade of desperately trying to bronze, buff and blend my buccal fat away, perhaps it’s time I took a leaf out of the Gen Z book of progressive beauty. More importantly, I hope the millions of women and girls consuming content on ‘getting a thinner face’ know that the size of their buccal fat pads doesn’t define them. Just like it doesn’t define me.

For more from GLAMOUR’s Website Director and Body Talk columnist, Ali Pantony, follow her on Instagram @alipantony.

For advice or information on the topics mentioned in this article, contact Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity, on 0808 801 0677.

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