Facial aging involves much more than early pioneers of aesthetic medicine imagined. Historically, concerns related to facial aging, including jowls and flattened cheeks, were corrected with facelift surgery. Today, we perform autologous fat transfer to reinstate natural curvature to the areas of the face where it is needed most. Facial fat transfer is performed in our Manhattan office by our medical director, Johns Hopkins trained board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. William Lao.
What Is a Facial Fat Transfer?
Facial fat transfer may also be referred to as fat grafting or fat injections. This treatment involves harvesting fat cells from one area of the body and injecting these cells into areas of the face that have been affected by aging.
Fat transfer to the face meets the need for volume restoration that is lacking in surgical lift procedures. This technique is safe, effective, and provides results that may last indefinitely, changed only by future aging.
Who Is a Candidate for the Fat Transfer Procedure?
Most adults who are interested in restoring the youthful Y shape to their face are good candidates for fat transfer. It is necessary for the patient to have a sufficient amount of fat somewhere on the body. Good health and realistic expectations and beauty goals are characteristics of a good fat transfer candidate. The best results may also be achieved in non-smoking patients because the chemicals in cigarettes diminish the body’s natural regenerative processes involving tissue oxygenation.
How Is Fat Transferred to the Face?
Facial fat transfer can be performed in the office using a local anesthetic and oral sedative to achieve full comfort. Cases in which multiple procedures are performed together may involve general anesthesia. Before commencing with fat harvesting, surgical markings may be made to denote the areas of the face that will receive fat injections.
Fat cells are obtained from the donor area using a small cannula attached to a syringe. Dr. Lao uses a meticulous technique to ensure no defect occurs in the contouring of the donor site. As soon as fat is obtained, it is placed in a centrifuge for purification.
The prepared fatty matter is carefully injected into the proper areas of the face. Each region that received fat cells is molded to achieve the desired contouring. Immediately, fat cells will begin to derive blood supply and nutrients from surrounding cells. Once the newly-introduced cells have their own blood supply, they can readily integrate into their new location.
Before and After Facial Fat Transfer
Where Is the Fat Taken from for a Fat Transfer?
Fat may be harvested from the abdomen, flanks, hips, buttocks, or thighs. If necessary, more than one site may be used to obtain the necessary amount of fat.
Can a Fat Transfer to the Face Be Combined with a Facelift?
Facial fat transfer is a lovely complement to the surgical facelift because each technique works differently. A facelift may be ideal to correct more severe signs of aging such as significant jowling. Further enhancement using fat cells accentuates curves for the best possible rejuvenating effects.
Fat transfer may also be enhanced with additional dermal filler treatment, with Botox or another neuromodulator, or with Kybella. Very thin patients with minimal available fatty tissue may be interested in layering dermal fillers over harvested fat once the full effects of fat transfer can be seen. A thorough consultation and discussion of intended results help us achieve the best outcome for each patient.
What Are the Benefits of a Fat Transfer over Filler Injections?
Fat transfer is completely natural because we take fat from your body and use purified cells to enhance facial contouring or smooth lines and creases. Therefore, there is no risk of adverse reaction to preservatives or any other ingredient that may be present in a dermal filler product. Most patients tolerate dermal fillers very well because the synthetic hyaluronic acid used in these products mimics the hyaluronic acid made by the body. However, a prominent reason why patients choose fat injections over fillers is that the results of fat transfer can last many years versus a few months.
How Long Will the Results of a Fat Transfer Last?
Once fat cells have been injected and integrated into the face, they remain intact forever. Fat cells may expand or deflate over time in response to weight change. In time, the aging process may once again alter face shape from a youthful Y to an inverted V.
Maintaining Results After Facial Fat Transfer
There are no special strategies needed after facial fat transfer to maintain results. The fat cells that survive will remain in place forever. The best way to maintain a youthful face is to take good care of your skin with quality products, daily sunscreen, and periodic visits with your aesthetic physician.
Are There Any Risks to Autologous Fat Transfer to the Face?
Facial fat grafting is a procedure that should only be performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon with appropriate training in the technique. Proper application of fatty tissue minimizes the risk of lumps, cell necrosis, asymmetry, and infection.