Facial Fat Transfer
Most people think of lines, creases, and age spots as the telltale signs of aging, but there’s really a more potent sign — areas of volume loss. This occurs because our bodies produce one additional percentage point less collagen every year after our 20th birthday. By our 45th birthday, our skin then has one quarter less collagen to provide structural support. That’s why we develop lines, creases, and sunken areas such as the cheeks.
Dermal fillers are meant to return volume under these areas, pushing the skin back upward and filling the space. But their results are temporary.
At 22 Plastic Surgery, we have a more permanent solution: fat transfer to the face. This procedure removes fat from areas you don’t want it and Dr. Reuben and Dr. Clayton then use it to return the volume to areas of the face, restoring the plumpness that is a tenet of youthful skin.
What is facial fat transfer?
You can think of this as a reallocation of sorts. As humans, we have an interesting relationship with fat. We need it for energy and to support cell growth. Fats also help protect our organs and help keep our body warm, especially on a cold January Utah day. Fats absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones, as well.
But in certain areas, such as the flanks and the lower abdomen, fat is the last thing we want to see. It creates unsightly bulges that can be very difficult to target and remove with changes in diet and exercise. That’s what liposuction was invented to address — those unwanted pockets of fat.
Fat transfer simply reallocates that unwanted fat. Liposuction removes it from an area such as the flanks. The fat it then purified and loaded into syringes. Then the fat is injected back into areas of the face that have lost volume, sagged, and allowed the formation of lines and creases.
Who would be a good candidate for facial fat transfer?
If you’re over 40, you’d probably be a great candidate. No matter what kind of shape you’re in, you can’t do anything about your body’s declining collagen production. That contributes to volume loss across the body, but it is especially obvious in the face.
Good candidates need to have unwanted fat in a donor area in sufficient amounts to use for the transfer. Otherwise, just about everyone over 40 could probably use this procedure at 22 Plastic Surgery.
What are the advantages of facial fat grafting?
There are advantages to having facial fat transfer at 22 Plastic Surgery compared to the use of dermal fillers or even a facelift. Obviously, if you’re not interested in surgery, a fat transfer can provide some of the same rejuvenation, albeit only in the return of volume. This isn’t to compare the results of a facelift and fat transfer, but if you’re not interested in surgery, it can be an alternative.
The real comparison is with dermal fillers, such as Juvéderm and others. First, autologous fat comes from your body so there isn’t any chance of an allergic reaction. Dermal fillers, especially synthetic fillers, can sometimes trigger an allergic reaction.
Second, fat transfer is permanent. Although your body will absorb some of the injected fat, the majority of what is injected will take permanently. Dermal fillers have a limited duration, usually up to one year, before the body eventually absorbs the filler and its volume enhancement fades.
Plus, don’t forget that to get the fat for transfer, it has to be removed from an unwanted area, such as the thighs or lower abdomen. That’s another definite plus with fat transfer, be it for the face or anywhere else on the body.
How does a fat transfer work in general?
These are three-step procedures at our Midvale offices with Dr. Reuben and Dr. Clayton. The process of harvesting and purifying the fat is the same no matter where it is then placed for the third step. The idea is to use the patient’s own fat to return the volume to areas of the face, hands, and breasts. These may have sunken, sagged, or otherwise lost volume due to declining collagen production and other issues involved with aging.
Here are the steps:
Your unwanted fat is harvested from the donor site. Once selected, Dr. Reuben/Dr. Clayton uses tumescent liposuction to remove the fat from the area. First, a saline solution that also contains lidocaine and epinephrine is injected into the area. This acts to constrict the fat pockets, making them easier to remove. Plus, the lidocaine acts as a local anesthetic and the epinephrine constricts blood vessels for less blood loss and bruising.
Once the fat is removed, the fat cells are separated from the blood, tissue, and other fluids. The purified fat is then ready to be injected back into the target areas on the face.
The purified fat is now injected into the target areas with a thin cannula. As Dr. Reuben/Dr. Clayton withdraws the cannula from an injection site, a line of fatty tissue cells is deposited. In larger facial areas such as the cheeks and the breasts, they may create a grid of grafted fat. Otherwise, for areas such as smile lines or the backs of the hands, the line may simply follow the crease in the skin or fill the area next to a raised tendon or blood vessel. In most cases, the grafted areas are then lightly massaged to provide a natural contour.
What are the possible donor sites for harvesting the fat?
Fat cells are fat cells, so you have many options for areas you’d like to use for harvesting the fat you need to transfer. Common sites for harvesting your fat include the abdomen, the flanks (love handles), upper arms, the hips, and the thighs.
What areas of the face can be augmented with fat transfer?
Thanks to our extensive knowledge of facial anatomy, you have many options for where you may want to have fat placed on your face. These are the usually targeted locations:
- Under-eye hollows
- Sunken cheeks
- Areas where fat has left the cheekbones
- Deep grooves running from the nose to the corners of the mouth (nasolabial folds)
- Under-eye lines
Are there risks associated with facial fat transfer?
These procedures are really refreshingly straightforward. We simply remove the fat from areas you do not want it, and we inject it back into areas where you want fat returned. Because of that, they are very low risk. Remember, this is your own fat that is being used, so there aren’t any possible reactions. We purify the fat harvested to make it mainly just the fat cells when we inject it back into your face.
The only real risk, per se, is that not all of the transferred fat “takes.” The fat cells need to acquire a blood supply once injected across the facial areas. We over-inject the areas to allow for this, but there is some variability.
How long will my results from facial fat transfer last?
Once the fat cells acquire a blood supply and survive the transfer, they are there for the long haul. Fat cells can remain in place for the remainder of your life. That’s the great thing about using facial fat transfer in lieu of dermal fillers to return the volume to the face.
Schedule Your Consultation Today
If you're interested in learning more about facial fat transfer please contact us for a consultation at 1-801-937-9650 or fill out our contact us form. We will discuss your needs and concerns, and determine your best course of action.