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Facial Fat Transfer

Facial Fat Transfer by Dr. Taylor Pollei

Portrait of a young female with full features after facial fat transfer

A facial fat transfer, also called fat transplantation, is a procedure that involves removing a small amount of excess body fat from the abdomen, back or thighs and injecting it into certain facial features, such as the lips, temples, jawline or chin. This procedure is effective in treating sunken areas, lines, wrinkles, creases, and scarring.

Signs of Aging in the Face

When the face ages, the forehead expands as hairlines retreat, ears become a little longer because the cartilage in them grows, and the tip of the nose may droop because the connective tissue supporting the nasal cartilage weakens.

In addition, the fat that makes the face look full and healthy eventually loses volume, clumps up, and shifts downward, making features sink and the skin loose and sagging.

The face loses volume in two ways: primary soft tissue loss and hollowness. Primary soft tissue loss relates to the areas of the face where the fat and soft tissue under the skin shrink. Hollowness refers to what is left behind as a result of fat and soft tissue moving downward. This typically occurs in the middle of the face and in the cheeks.

Benefits of a Facial Fat Transfer

A facial fat transfer effectively treats sunken areas, lines, wrinkles, creases, and scarring. In addition, a fat transfer helps improve the skin quality by making skin appear more even in tone and refreshed.

Portrait of a female smiling after a facial fat transfer procedure
Woman wearing a bathrobe and towel admiring her skin in the mirror after successful facial fat transfer

Unlike injectable filler, fat transfer is permanent because it is a true tissue graft. Fat is harvested through liposuction, a technique that involves making an incision two to three mm long into the abdomen, outer thigh, inner thigh, or lower back. Because the fat is taken from the patient’s own body, there is no risk of allergic reaction or rejection.

What to Expect During a Fat Transfer Procedure

A facial fat transfer may be performed as a standalone procedure, or in combination with other facial rejuvenation surgeries. The first step involves obtaining fat by liposuction. Next, the excess fluid from damaged fat cells is removed so that the injection only contains concentrated fat. The prepared fat is then transferred into syringes for injection.

Injections are performed using fat grafting cannulas, which are small and gentle on the fat cells. The fat is then injected into multiple sites to help disperse it into the tissue and keep it from pooling in one area. The fat cells that survive in their new location — somewhere in the 70% range — will remain there permanently and not change in size (unless the patient experienced significant weight loss or gain).

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