Although breast implants emerged in the 1890s, bum implants weren’t a thing until 1969, after Dr. RJ Bartels was credited with having performed the first butt implant in history. Originally, the procedure involved placing the butt implant closer to the surface, rather than deeply embedded between muscle layers — a procedure that offered more stability compared to earlier attempts.

After years of research, surgeons discovered that fat transfer augmentation is a rather safer method than implants. In this procedure, fat is removed from another area of the body, usually, the abdomen, waist, hips, or thighs, and is purified and then reinjected into the buttocks — no prosthetic implants are necessary. This technique originated in South America and has since become known as the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL). 

The dangers of BBL

According to The Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, there were approximately 20,300 buttock augmentation procedures done in 2017, a figure that, according to The Aesthetics Society, almost doubled in 2020. BBL remains the fastest-growing cosmetic surgery in the world, even though there are dangers associated with it. When done incorrectly, it could lead to loss of life, and the estimated death rate from fat embolism may be as high as one in 3,000. 

Doctor Ugwunna Ejikem highlights the risk involved with the procedure. He explains that with a BBL, the major risk can occur during and after the surgery. According to him, excessive bleeding, infection, over and under correction (applying the wrong amount of fat in the butt and hip area) leads to fat embolism. Fat embolism occurs as a result of gluteal blood vessels becoming damaged during the procedure, allowing fat into the bloodstream. This is the major cause of death in BBL procedures.

And apart from the deadly procedure, there are real-life stories about how terribly painful the recovery process is. In a real-life scenario, a fashion influencer popularly called Omohtee shared her experience when she undertook the surgery. 

BBL affecting clothing designs

When an entire collection is designed for a specific body type, the vast majority of customers are left out. Making curvy bodies the idealistic body type is extremely harmful, especially for Black women as most are fuller-figured as recent study suggests that the parameters of a healthy waistline may be slightly larger for African women versus the ideal size for white women

Not every woman is bestowed with an hourglass shape naturally. Speaking with a fashion designer from Ghana, Enyonam Nyaho-Datti, she explains that in the design industry, smaller designer brands look up to the big brands. So when big brands adopt a particular style, the smaller ones tend to follow suit. Nyaho-Datti also explains that as a budding designer, she has also been influenced to design certain outfits to fit the “BBL style”, like adding false hips to fit customers without hips.

A typical BBL fashion collection consists of outfits with slits and holes all over the dress, tiny pieces of fabric strung together, and clothing items showing underboobs with cutouts. She calls for diversity from top designers because they have the most influence.

This new fashion trend makes customers feel pressured to acquire a BBL body in order to fit into the latest styles. Fashion is dynamic; some years ago, the thin body type was a major trend and women aspired to be slim. While in recent times, other unrealistic beauty standards are prompting women to go under the knife. The fashion industry seems to be promoting this and subtly encouraging the trend with its recent collections. There’s no guarantee that 10 years from now, body trends will not pivot and go back to the 2000s.

When a certain shape has been conditioned in our minds as the perfect body type, it’s hard to appreciate that everyone looks different from the “ideal and accepted body shape”.

A fashionista, Festina Laryea said, “I think it’s good to feel good in our bodies. However, for those without extra flesh like myself, I think we’ll do with the New Trendy BBL designed outfits that are designed for the same purposes. Until then, we may fantasise about the figure 8 bodies until we are able to get there. And just so you know, maybe we could get serious with our squats, you never know.”

Setting unrealistic beauty standards for women is regressive as it creates leeway for self-esteem issues and body dysmorphia for people who would try to emulate unattainable standards. Those perfectly formed bodies shouldn’t be the benchmark by which women attain beauty standards in the fashion industry.

It is important that we start having conversations geared towards this new fashion wave and help curb issues that emerge from the culture and influence of BBL fashion. Fashion expert Anita Nyavor says that this trend is heavily influenced by social media. Nyavor believes fashion is dynamic and every trend has its setbacks, and she says ultimately, women cannot keep bending over to beauty standards set for them.

A psychologist, Ngozi Abukueze, highlighted how insecurities could emerge from the new fashion trend. “Well, insecurities will emerge mostly by comparison. You’re looking at different ladies with their hourglass figures. Flat tummies, big bum, etc, then you compare with what you look like. It just makes sense that feelings of inadequacy set in, as society will pay attention to the hourglass and ignore you.

“They step into a room, all heads turn, you step into a room, you’re barely noticed. Social media even makes it worse. They get all the attention, likes, retweets, comments, gifts from random strangers, etc. You get almost nothing. All of these foster deep insecurities, low self-esteem, etc. You have to be conscious and intentional about loving yourself to not fall into it.”

Setting unrealistic beauty standards for women is regressive as it creates leeway for self-esteem issues and body dysmorphia for people who would try to emulate unattainable beauty standards. Those perfectly formed bodies shouldn’t be the benchmark by which we attain fashion standards in the fashion industry.

With the BBL culture exerting a certain level of influence in the fashion industry, it’s important to be more conscious of what designers are putting on their runways. Also, designers need to know that they are also contributing some negativity by not taking into account all women who dress themselves up for work or just for fun. We call for diversity. 

If BBL fashion is any indication, it’s our ideal form being changed unrealistically thanks to unrealistic beauty standards, allowing for the emergence of a new set of insecurities. It’s imperative that we have this discussion and remind ourselves that keeping our bodies the way they are is the trend.