As we age, the structure of our skin starts to diminish, which can lead to wrinkles, sagging, and hollows. Facial fat transfer, or fat grafting, uses your body’s own fat to contour the face. At Cassileth Plastic Surgery in Los Angeles, our experienced facial plastic surgeon Dr. Catherine S. Chang specializes in nano fat grafting, also called microfat grafting, to restore youthful contours and plumpness. This procedure, also known as autologous facial rejuvenation, can replace lost volume, reduce the appearance of fine lines, and improve the skin's overall texture. Facial fat transfer can be used as a minimally invasive procedure on its own, or combined with a facelift, neck lift, or brow lift.
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First, living fat cells are collected from areas that have plenty—and that patients typically wish were slimmer anyway. It is important that the fat cells stay alive, so a specific low-trauma liposuction technique is used to preserve the integrity of as many as possible. Once processed to remove unwanted material, these fat cells are then strategically injected into the areas marked for facial fat transfer. There, the cells will establish a new "home," re-connecting to the blood supply and providing long-lasting volume.
Facial fat transfer addresses the fine lines and wrinkles that develop as time depletes the face of collagen and natural, healthy fat. This gradual loss of volume loosens the skin, causing it to sag and making it easier for creases and folds to form. Volume loss can also create flattened areas and hollows in the mid-face, leading to a gaunt or sunken look instead of an appearance marked by pleasantly soft and rounded contours. Adding volume back to these key areas makes the face look younger and less severe.
Volume loss can also contribute to the look of dark under-eye circles. Facial fat grafting can revitalize the temples, tear troughs, and cheeks, with fullness helping to restore a more alert and rested look.
A consultation appointment at our office is the first step in facial rejuvenation. Your plastic surgeon will listen to your goals and answer any questions, as well as perform a physical exam to determine if fat grafting is right for you. If you are a candidate, you and your surgeon will decide which donor site (area of the body) will be used to harvest fat for transfer and you will be given detailed preoperative instructions.
The fat for facial fat transfer is typically taken from the thighs, flanks, or abdomen. After processing, it is injected in tiny droplets with either the same type of needle used for dermal fillers or a tiny, blunt needle known as a micro-cannula. This specialized, meticulous injection technique allows for precision control, delivering a more customized youthful shape and contour. Fat grafting is typically an outpatient procedure and depending on the type of fat grafting procedure and any accompanying procedures, general anesthesia or local anesthesia may be used.
Facial fat transfer patients can expect to take some downtime for recovery in two places: the donor area and the fat injection site. Both areas will show some bruising after the procedure, as well as feel tender. The length of healing and recovery time depends on the specifics of the procedure.
Since the volume is visible right away, patients will notice new contours as soon as their facial fat transfer procedure is done. There will be some "settling," with swelling resolving and the natural-looking contours and final results becoming increasingly apparent in the days after the treatment.
If you would like to restore a youthful look and replace lost volume in the face, this procedure may be right for you. Ideal candidates for facial fat transfer are in good general health, non-smoking, and committed to a healthy skin routine. 2
Injectable dermal fillers, such as Restylane® or Juvederm®, are non-surgical cosmetic treatments that use a hyaluronic acid based gel formula to smooth away wrinkles. Fillers are a great option for many cosmetic goals, but fat grafting can be more beneficial for patients who are seeking a comprehensive rejuvenation with longer lasting results.
Your surgeon will identify the best donor site for you. This can vary for each patient, but common donor sites are the abdomen and thighs.
The micro cannula used for injections will not leave scars on your face. The liposuction procedure to harvest fat from the body involves very small incisions that may result in minor scarring. Our surgeons use advanced scar-reduction techniques to ensure a beautiful result.
Yes, in addition to being combined with liposuction, fat grafting can also be used to enhance other surgical procedures. Fat grafting is often combined with breast augmentation, facelift surgery, or eyelid surgery.
1 Tonnard P, Verpaele A, Peeters G, Hamdi M, Cornelissen M, Declercq H. Nanofat grafting: basic research and clinical applications. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2013 Oct;132(4):1017-1026. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31829fe1b0. PMID: 23783059.
2 American Society of Plastic Surgeons. How can fat injections be used as dermal fillers? Available: https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/dermal-fillers/fat-injections Accessed July 19, 2021.
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