Fat grafting takes fat from one area of the body and transfers it to another. Fat grafting is commonly done to the buttocks (known as a Brazilian butt lift) and to the breasts. The face is another common location to transfer fat to. But why would you have fat grafting to the face?
Fat acts like a permanent filler.
Facial volume loss happens with aging. The tissue also droops with age. The end result? Volume loss over the temples and cheeks, and lines around the mouth. Fillers can improve these areas, but most are temporary and last a year at most.
Fat, on the other hand, is permanent. About 80% of the fat that we transfer to another part of the body will survive. Meaning no more paying for filler every six months to a year.
Fat also has stem cells.
Stem cells are cells that can turn into many different kinds of cells lines. As a result, fat grafting can have some results separate from adding volume alone. As an example, I like to do fat grafting in tissue that has been treated with radiation to soften the tissue and reverse some of the radiation damage. The end result is better than simply adding additional volume.
Which is better- fat grafting or fillers?
Fat grafting requires a trip to the operating room, which is a lot more invasive than simply having a syringe or two of filler injected. It’s also less precise- fat grafting is good for adding over all volume, but not for smoothing a single wrinkle or plumping up the lips. So why do fat grafting to the face instead of simply adding fillers?
- I can add much more volume with fat than I can with fillers. I will often inject 20ml or more of fat in a session. This would cost $12,000 if we used fillers, and the result with fillers wouldn’t be permanent.
- The stem cells seem to give more of an improvement than simply adding volume.
So fat grafting is a great adjunctive procedure during a facelift since you’re having surgery anyway. But I usually don’t recommend it on its own. If you aren’t at the point where you need an entire facelift, you probably don’t need that much volume added either. And if you do need overall volume added, but don’t want to have surgery, Sculptra is a great option. It stimulates your body to form more collagen, so the results are permanent. Sculptra is injected right in the office, and it’s very similar to fat grafting in terms of cost.
Another caveat- grafted fat increases in size if you gain weight. So you could theoretically end up disfigured if you gained a lot of weight after fat grafting. This is why I always recommend a conservative end goal!
Have questions about fat grafting? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Greer is a plastic surgeon in Cleveland, OH. Her practice website is at www.greerplastics.com.