Fillers vs. Fat: Is Fat Injection Right For You?

woman considers fillers vs fat injections at hess plastic surgery in fairfax virginia

As the body ages, it’s completely natural to lose volume in your face and develop wrinkles. If you’re looking to boost the contour of your cheeks, fill in sunken eye troughs, or treat fine lines and wrinkles, then you’ve probably heard about or even tried dermal fillers like JUVÉDERM®, Bellafill®, or Restylane®.

But you may not be familiar with fat injection—also called fat grafting and fat transfer—a process that strategically transfers fat from thicker areas of your body to your face, providing a near-permanent volume boost for the injected areas. If you love the look fillers provide but are tired of repeat office visits—and have a fat pocket or two you wouldn’t mind losing—it may be time to consider a fat injection procedure.

How does fat injection work?

Fat injection is a highly customizable and long-term solution for facial volume loss. It can be used to provide a subtle, youthening volume boost (when the procedure is done with very small amounts of fat, it is known as nanofat grafting), or for more dramatic changes—if, for example, you hope to create a high-cheekbone look.

If you love the look fillers provide but are tired of repeat office visits—and have a fat pocket or two you wouldn’t mind losing—it may be time to consider a fat injection procedure.

Here’s how it works: fat is liposuctioned from the hips, thighs, stomach, or any other suitable area of the body with available fat. After the fat is liposuctioned, it is processed in a centrifuge that separates the fat from other fluids, creating a smooth, liquid formula of tiny fat particles. This formula is then strategically injected back into facial tissues, such as the cheekbones, under the eyes, or in other areas where wrinkles are present.

Why should I choose fat injection?

Fat injections fill in deep folds, smile lines, and wrinkles, often producing superior results to hyaluronic acid-based dermal fillers. Fat injection can be used to:

  • Add volume to the cheeks for a more youthful look
  • Smooth out facial wrinkles and creases
  • Help firm and tighten skin
  • Reduce the appearance of crêpey skin on the face and neck
  • Rejuvenate wrinkled hands
  • Fill in scar tissue
  • Freshen skin around the eyes
  • Restore or improve temple, cheek, brow and jaw contours

Unlike hyaluronic acid fillers, fat injections are 100% biocompatible with your body, which eliminates the risk of your body rejecting the fat or experiencing an allergic reaction.

How long is the recovery period?

Typical recovery time for fat injection is about a week, but this will vary depending on the amount of fat removed for the procedure. In particular, you may experience a bit of swelling at your fat injection sites and feel soreness in the area where liposuction was performed for a few weeks.

Results that can last a lifetime

Dermal fillers are significantly cheaper than fat injections but require regular follow-up treatments. This is one of the greatest benefits of fat injection—it’s a permanent or nearly permanent solution (we’ll talk more about how many treatments are required in the next section). Fat injection results are also instantaneous and sculptable, giving your surgeon the ability to hyper-contour certain features.

Is fat grafting a one-time process?

Fat grafting can be a one-time procedure, but getting ideal results may require a touch up. While Dr. Hess’s micro-injection process has a very high success rate when compared with other methods, up to 40% of injected fat may not “take” the first time around (though it doesn’t always seem like it, the human body is great at metabolizing fat!). For this reason, Dr. Hess likes to perform an initial set of injections and then schedule a follow-up appointment to assess his patients’ progress.

Am I a good candidate for fat injection?

Fat injection is a good solution for a wide array of people. Patients with tissue damage or reduced facial fat volume are great candidates for fat transfer, as are most adult patients who want to fill in sunken cheeks and eye troughs, reduce wrinkles, fine lines, and acne scarring, or improve the appearance of crêpey skin.

Do you need to be overweight to have a fat transfer?

Despite the procedure’s name, you don’t have to be overweight to have a fat transfer. Most patients—even slim ones—have excess fat stored somewhere on their body. Facial fat injections only require a surgeon to liposuction a very small amount of fat.

What if I’ve already had dermal filler injections?

Dermal filler patients can still get fat injections—in fact, it can be a great first step since Juvéderm or Restylane injections can help you preview your desired results. As we mentioned previously, Dr. Hess often recommends patients try a dermal filler before undergoing a fat injection to make sure they like the look of added facial volume.

If you have fillers in place now, you can simply wait for your results to fade or have them reversed. (Unlike fat injections, dermal fillers are hyaluronic acid-based and can be dissolved by injecting an enzyme that breaks down the filler.)

Are there any risks associated with fat injection?

Any surgical procedure involves some risk of infection but this can be greatly mitigated by choosing a board certified plastic surgeon who operates in an accredited surgical facility. You can expect to experience minor swelling, tenderness or bruising at the liposuctioned site for the first 2 weeks, but this should soon subside. Bruising, pain, and changes in sensation or motor function may also occur, but these side effects are typically minor and temporary.

Contact Dr. Hess’s Fairfax office to schedule your consultation

Dr. Christopher L. Hess is a board certified plastic surgeon based in Fairfax, Virginia with extensive experience in facial rejuvenation and fat transfer techniques. To schedule your personal consultation with Dr. Hess, contact us online or call our office at 703-752-6608.

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