Facial Fat Transfer: What You Need to Know

May 18, 2021

If you want to create or restore volume in your face, facial fat transfer is a great alternative to injectables. The procedure can be used to achieve a number of different things, from plumper lips to smoothing out laugh lines. 

Sometimes called “natural plastic surgery,” facial fat transfer is growing in popularity and offers long-lasting results.

But what exactly is facial fat transfer? How does it work, and what are the risks (if any)?

What is Facial Fat Transfer and Why Would I Want It?

Also known as fat grafting or lipofilling, facial fat transfer is a procedure that takes fat from your body and adds it to your face to create volume.

Fat is usually taken from the thighs, hips or stomach and then transferred to the face using a minimally invasive procedure. 

The procedure is a popular option for people who want to:

Modern fat grafting has been around since the 1980s, so this is a procedure with relatively a long history. 

How Does the Procedure Work?

Facial fat transfer is a multi-step process:

  • First, the fat is extracted from the body.
  • Next, the fat is processed using a filter or centrifuge.
  • Finally, the fat is injected into the treatment area to restore volume and smooth out the skin.

The entire procedure takes approximately two hours, depending on how much fat needs to be extracted and how many areas need to be treated.

Recovery is relatively quick with minimal pain. Swelling, tenderness and bruising are the most common side effects. Expect to take 7-10 days off from work to recover.

Because more than half of the injected fat cells will die (up to 60%), surgeons usually overfill to offset this loss. Your face may look overly puffy at first for this reason. 

Results appear in stages:

  • During the first four months, the volume will be at its lowest state.
  • Between months 4 and 9, the surviving fat cells will start to plump up.

It can take 9 months or more to fully realize the results of this procedure.

What are the Pros and Cons of Facial Fat Transfer?

If facial rejuvenation is on your to-do list, facial fat transfer is a great option. But like any other procedure, it has pros and cons that need to be considered. 

Pros

One big advantage of facial fat transfer is that it offers other anti-aging benefits. Body fat is a great source for stem cells, which can help stimulate collagen production in the treated area.

Other advantages of facial fat transfer include:

  • Your own body fat is used, which greatly reduces the chances of an allergic reaction.
  • The procedure can also enhance the results of eyelid procedures and facelifts.

Cons

There are many advantages of facial fat transfer, but there are also some disadvantages that need to be considered.

  • This procedure takes considerably longer than others because it’s a multi-step process.
  • The results are semi-permanent and difficult to reverse.
  • The transferred fat may not survive.
  • Recovery can take a while and may be uncomfortable for some patients.

How Long Do the Results Last?

The longevity of the results really depends on how you react to the procedure. Everyone is different. It’s impossible to know how much of the injected fat will be reabsorbed and how much of it will remain. 

When fat survives, the results are long-lasting. About a quarter of patients will need a touch-up.

Facial fat transfer is a multistep, lengthy procedure, but most patients find that the long-lasting results are worth it.