Cheeky Study Finds Beauty Secret in Cadavers

Pushing the boundaries of science, researchers injected dye and latex into 14 cadavers to find the boundaries of four deeply seated facial fat compartments. All in the interest of making you more beautiful, of course.

The research revealed that volume loss in those fat compartments results in the hollow look of aging, the researchers say.

So, could pumping up those compartments make you look like, say, Angelina Jolie?


"Cheeks are vital to what we consider beautiful — from chubby-cheeked infants to Hollywood stars like Angelina Jolie," said study co-author Joel Pessa of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "This research breaks new ground by identifying the boundaries of specific fat compartments that are key to facial rejuvenation involving the cheeks, and as a consequence, the overall look of the face."

But wait, there's more.

"Restoring these compartments also improves volume loss under the eyes, helps eliminate lines around the nose and mouth and gives more curve to the upper lip, all of which restore a more youthful appearance to the face," according to a statement from the center.

By now, you're either looking for a place to sign up or you are chuckling at the cheekiness of it all.

But the study is part of a booming business in "injectable fillers," the artificial and sometimes natural stuff that "can plump thin lips, enhance shallow contours, soften facial creases and wrinkles, or improve the appearance of recessed scars," according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

The study is detailed in the June issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Fat is big these days, and getting bigger. Plastic surgeons did 47,000 fat injections in 2007 and 1.1 million injections with "hyaluronic acid," which the ASPS says is "a natural substance found in our bodies that is well suited to plump thin lips and fill facial creases." It's in skin, cartilage and other tissue, and the FDA approves it as an injectable filler.

Among the targets for all this plumping are men, who, according to a December 2007 study in the journal Dermatologic Therapy, are "more timid" about procedures for facial rejuvenation. "Only with the advent of minimally invasive procedures such as Botox and fillers have men begun to participate in cosmetic treatments," the researchers of that study wrote. What do men want with injectable fillers? Wrinkle ablation, volumization and sculpting facial contours.

Here comes the gross part:

These newly explored fat cheek compartments could change how plastic surgery is done if your desire is to "correct facial aging," assuming you're not yet a cadaver.

"No longer do we remove fat without pre-op analysis or merely lift the cheek," explained UT's Rod Rohrich, lead author of the study. "We must now lift and fill the face to restore a natural youthful, unoperated appearance."

Robert Roy Britt

Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.