Five months ago, Natalie, a 27-year-old from Canada, paid C$4,000 for chin liposuction. She had always had a small double chin, she says, but in the past year she had gained weight, and it had grown bigger. The more she fixated on her chin, the more she fixated on the chins of others. “You see people in the media, on Instagram. They have an ideal image,” Natalie (not her real name) says. “You want to achieve that look. And sometimes it can only be done through surgery.”
The procedure went smoothly. Immediately afterwards, “it looked perfect. It was snatched.” “Snatched”, she explains, means “a straight chin underneath. It’s usually used for thin, pretty people.”
Over the past few years, the phrase “snatched jawline” has been gaining traction online. The hashtag #snatchedjawline has more than 210m views on TikTok, where it is used to promote a litany of products that claim to offer a taut, smooth jaw. They include Jawzrsize, a bizarre-looking chewable ball, and Rockjaw’s “mastic chewing gum”, which claim to work out facial muscles (experts generally warn against excessive chewing for fear of dental issues and dislocating the jaw). The phrase is associated with the Tiktok trend for “mewing” (putting the tongue on the roof of the mouth to make the face look more “sculpted”), and with hundreds of face yoga apps, creams, Jade rollers, sling-like facemasks for the jaw and electrical devices that claim to temporarily lift skin using light therapy. None of these products have rigorous, long-term research behind them; some come with no scientific backing at all. They have, nevertheless, flooded the market as the jawline has become a beauty pressure point.
The term is also used, frequently, by plastic surgeons and medi spas promoting liposuction, jawline filler and fat-dissolving injections. Though advertisements for “invasive cosmetic procedures” are banned by TikTok, non-paid videos chronicling procedures are commonplace. Many are posted by twentysomething influencers who have procedures seeking the “snatched” look. Some, like Halley Kate, who has 1 million followers, and Hope Schwing, who has 9.9 million followers, post Tiktok lip-syncs while their faces are still wrapped in post-op compression garments.
While some TikTokers make surgery look like a relaxed process, plenty more document horror stories of fat-dissolving injections – which experts say can be particularly unreliable, particularly when administered inexpertly – that have become infected and left scars.
Natalie’s experience is a reminder that even successful procedures can be a lot to cope with. Her recovery was rough: she barely slept for a fortnight, because she was advised to sleep sitting up, which was impossible. She couldn’t eat normally for about a week and was in pain for weeks. For a month her smile was crooked, another side-effect she worried might be permanent. The worst of it, she says, was when the area under her chin started swelling. She had been warned that this was part of the healing process, but it was still nerve-racking. “The aftercare wasn’t the best – my surgeon wasn’t answering my questions. I had moments when I thought: oh God, I spent all this money, what if it doesn’t work?” Thankfully, her smile has since returned to normal and the swelling is much reduced. “There is a way to go but I can definitely see a difference. I’m happy I did it.”
The term “snatched” originally came from drag culture. The entertainer and drag historian Linda Simpson thinks she first heard it in the late 1980s in dressing rooms, in “conjunction with wigs. It meant a very alert, wrinkle-free look that came from using glue or tape to hold a wig in place, and also pulling back the skin. It was really done for stage because the methods were uncomfortable.”
The term is used for other taut areas of the body, too, including corseted waists, rigid foreheads and sunken cheekbones, and in reference to the sleek, tightly drawn hairdos of the kind that have recently become fashionable again, best known in the UK by the not unproblematic term Croydon facelifts (disparagingly named after a south-east London town). That “snatched” should be adopted by the mainstream does not surprise Simpson. It’s a catchy, reverberative term. Like the Kardashian-fuelled craze for contouring, she says, “it’s savvy marketing. And it’s very model-esque. Everyone wants to look like Bella Hadid these days.”
Hadid, whose face is all sharp angles and contours, is a “snatched jawline” icon. So too are Lily Rose Depp, Kendall Jenner, Anya Taylor-Joy and Ariana Grande, all of whom have very defined jawlines – not just flat at the bottom but with a visible curve beneath the ear at the so-called “mandible angle”.
The “snatched” look is a step beyond “Instagram Face” – the term coined by the New Yorker in 2019 to refer to the puffed-up look that became ubiquitous in the 2010s owing to booming filler use. But 2019 was the Before Times. After three years of Zoom meetings and soaring social media use, beauty ideals have shifted. Selfie poses have shifted with them. Where once influencers held their phones above their heads, to foreground the eyes and cheekbones and generally create a flattering, chin-slimming angle, now many of them turn their heads to the side and position the camera lens just beneath them, to show off jawlines so delineated – from a precise, flat chin to the curve of the mandible angle – that they look like cheese knives.
Along with other recent trends – among them the removal of buccal fat from the cheeks, and the hysteria around Ozempic – the snatched look suggests a depressing, if predictable, shift away from fashion’s brief, limited flirtation with curves, towards something skinnier and bonier. It also ties in with booming surgery and tweakment rates: in the US, from 2020 to 2021, chin augmentation increased by 29% and face liposuction, including chin lipo, rose by 99%, according to the Aesthetic Society. Interest among the young is at an all-time high: in 2022, 75% of plastic surgeons reported a surge in clients under 30, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
“For better or worse,” says the celebrity cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, “there is a trend for slimness, in physique and face.” Part of this, he says, is a reaction to overuse of filler in cheeks and lips (usage mushroomed by 60% between 2017 and 2021, to 5.27m treatments worldwide). “People are recognising, over the last six months to a year, that a little bit goes a long way,” he says. Jawline filler ties in with this new ideal: unlike cheek and lip filler, it is the stealth wealth of injectables, deliverable in “a very non-obvious way”. He finds it appeals to men, who he believes “tend to be more gun-shy when it comes to cosmetic procedures. The jawline is very kind of characteristic to male vanity, like the superhero profile, with the squareness of the jawline.”
There is nothing new about the association of a defined jaw with attractiveness. You have to go back hundreds of years, to the artist Peter Paul Rubens, to find images in which soft rolls of fat beneath the chin are presented as something to be celebrated. In modern popular culture, female beauty icons, from Katharine Hepburn to Marilyn Monroe, who had a chin implant, to Beyoncé to Angelina Jolie have always had defined jaws. And from Christopher Reeve to Henry Cavill, male actors playing superheroes have often had jawlines like anvils.
Double chins are seldom present even in the world of body positivity, says Grace Todd, a 23-year-old influencer whose videos urging the world to “normalize all jawlines” have frequently gone viral. One was viewed more than 2m times on TikTok, but its reception proved that such an entrenched beauty ideal is not is easily dismantled. She received abuse, largely from men and boys, telling her that double chins were ugly. “Even in curve modelling, there’s still very much a standard of: you have to have a sharp jawline. You can have stretch marks, or a bit of a stomach, but you can’t have a double chin. It just goes to show how fickle societal standards are,” she says.
Hollywood has long had its methods of ensuring superstars look more “snatched” than the rest of us, says Alexandra Baranoff, a New York-based makeup artist. Baranoff is a master of highlighting A-listers’ bone structure using the light and shade of contouring. She has very occasionally, in the past, hoicked up faces, using elastics by the temples and jaw, hidden under wigs, “though that would be for something very theatrical”. She worked with Janet Sartin, a New York skincare guru whose clients, in the 1970s, included Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger, using toning machines that “stimulate the muscles and tighten them up a bit – like when a guy does a couple of push-ups before a photoshoot.”
Baranoff still uses such machines before red carpet events. They work, she says, though the effects are very temporary. And of course, she says, older actors have quietly been having neck lifts and chin lipo for decades. What feels new on set, she says, particularly with the rise of less invasive treatments, is the number of “very young” actors embarking on jawline procedures.
Sara Yegiyants, a triple-board-certified plastic surgeon based in Santa Barbara, California, believes the uptick in interest has much to do with rising awareness of the breadth, and apparent ease, of treatments. People see procedures performed, simply and under local anaesthetic, on TikTok and “feel more comfortable in coming in and getting things done”. She is concerned, though, about the rise in interest among very young adults, some of whom she turns away. “There’s a lot of body dysmorphia. I’m looking at the patient and thinking: I don’t necessarily see what you’re seeing; I don’t think we can improve on this without creating distortion.”
That the contours of the “ideal” internet face have already shrunk and shifted shows “that beauty trends are changing with ever quickening speed”, says Martha Laham, author of Made Up: How the Beauty Industry Manipulates Consumers. It is difficult to estimate quite how much social media’s algorithms – in which you type your insecurity into a search bar, and then, for weeks, will be served videos and posts on the same topic – must be affecting our ideas about what is beautiful – even what is “acceptable” – about our faces. “Somehow in your subconscious, it will start resonating, like an echo chamber,” says Laham.
It feels like a cosmic joke that, as we scroll through these images of hard-edged perfection, our smartphones frequently reflect back our own faces, caught on their screens from the worst possible angle. This under-chin perspective – also on crushing view when we accidentally turn our cameras on too soon – is something smartphone users are confronted with several times a day. Little wonder that many people feel bad about their chins. Little wonder that some would prefer to look snatched: taut and tight, from every conceivable angle.