Facial Fat Grafting 101

February 21, 2023 | Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery

Facial Fat Grafting 101

Facial fillers like Restalyne, Juvederm, and Bellafill are increasingly popular to “plump” lips and cheeks, fill in under eyes, and rejeuvenate around the mouth. These fillers, while safe and FDA approved, get broken down by the body over time. It can get expensive and inconvenient to have filler injected every 4-6 months, and some patients are looking for a more permanent solution.

What Is Facial Fat Grafting?

Facial fat grafting or fat transfer is removing a small amount of fat from an area of the body (you decide, usually the belly or thighs) with liposuction. The fat is then reinjected into areas of the face where you desire more volume.

How Much Fat Is Injected?

Small quantities of fat are injected: 10-50 cc, depending on the areas needing treatment.

What Areas Are Typically Treated?

The under-eyes/tear troughs, cheeks, and nasolabial folds are most commonly treated, although the fat transfer can be used in other areas depending on what you desire.

Is This Surgery?

Fat transfer is technically a surgery. It should be done in a sterile manner to prevent infection, so we prefer to do it in the operating room for maximum safety and sterility.

Do I Have to Have General Anesthesia?

No. Because the volume of liposuction is low, it can be done with numbing medicine while you are awake. Numbing cream can be used on your face to make the fat injections more comfortable. Some patients do prefer to have mild sedation or general anesthesia for the procedure, which can be provided.

We often do facial fat grafting along with a facelift – the two procedures together can really help to bring back a fresh and youthful look. In that case the patient would be under anesthesia for the whole procedure.

Is Fat Grafting Permanent?

Once the fat cells are injected, your body grows tiny blood vessels to keep the fat cells alive in their new home. Usually 60-80% of the fat cells survive injection in the face. Occasionally, patients will return for a second session of fat transfer 4-6 months after the first procedure to build on their results.

Any Other Advantages?

Your fat containsstem cells, and patients have noticed improvement of their skin quality in areas where the fat is injected. Scientists think that the stem cells in fat stimulate the overlying skin to become more healthy and youthful. This is the icing on the cake, so to speak!