Fat Transfer Part 1: A Lasting Solution to Volume Loss in the Face

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Often in life, there are two ways to reach a desired outcome: the easy way and the better way. The better way being an effective, thorough method with long-lasting results. This idea is especially important when considering plastic surgery treatments to add volume to the face.

In this 3-part series, I will discuss fat transfer procedures for the face and body and answer some common FAQs. Read on to learn more about fat transfer treatments to enhance the face, particularly as part of a facelift for my Chicago-area patients.

How do you fix lost volume in your face?

The easy way to add volume to the face involves the use of artificial dermal fillers like JUVÉDERM®, Restylane®, and Bellafill®. These nonsurgical injectables create beautiful results in a short amount of time. However, as a plastic surgeon, I sometimes recommend a more effective method appropriate for many patients in Chicago: fat transfer.

The fat transfer method uses the patient’s own existing body fat to do two things:

  • Build volume for effect
  • Restore fat tissue lost to the ravages of time

How long does fat transfer last?

Fat transfer results last an extended amount of time, sometimes for the rest of a patient’s life. You will have no more yearly or biannual visits to maintain results.

The use of dermal fillers requires touch-ups at least twice a year to maintain results. Fat grafting, however, does not require these extra visits and prevents patients from being on a plastic surgeon’s leash. Their results belong to them.

Fat Transfers Enters the Mainstream

Fat grafting has come a long way in the 28 years that I’ve been performing this procedure. Back in the day, very few physicians were doing fat grafting, and it was not widely accepted.

Now, it is entering the mainstream, and I’m proud to say I’m partly responsible for that. As a researcher, I’ve worked for 22 years to perfect the fat grafting art. I’ve performed close to 2,000 procedures, either in combination with other surgical procedures or as a standalone procedure.

My laboratory has had funding from the Department of Defense to study the following areas:

  • Fat grafting to improve wound healing.
  • Reducing scars using fat transfer.
  • The best way to enhance survival of the transferred fat cells.
  • Utilizing stem cells that are part of fat composition.

I can say I’m at the forefront of this increasingly popular procedure.

How is fat transfer performed?

After obtaining fat tissue from places where fat is abundant, such as the thighs or stomach, I prepare it for re-injection into the desired areas.

Understanding each area of the human body and how it responds to fat injections comes from extensive experience. When the fat transfer is done correctly, the results are seamless and natural-looking.

Several areas of the face may experience volume loss and can be treated with fat transfer. Here are 3 areas that may benefit:

1. Under the Eyes

Eye “bags” or hollows afflict even young people. As we age, of course, they just get worse. By artfully injecting fat around the eyes, I can erase this feature. Fat is a wonderful material for removing “eye bags.” I routinely use it while erasing this common affliction. These two examples from my practice show what a difference a little well-placed fat can make:

facial fat transfer 5facial fat transfer 5-2

facial fat transfer 6facial fat transfer 6-2

When you think about how important the eyes are in human communication, you know why this is such a popular procedure.

2. Lips

The fashion these days is for pouty, full lips. Some women overdo it, but that shouldn’t stop others from going for this enticing look. Lips are, after all, a secondary sex characteristic.

Nordic women often have ultra-thin lips, and they are particularly apt to visit me for lip augmentation. I can give them subtle results that get attention from men and add much to their confidence. Women over 50 almost always develop “lip lines” in their upper lips and thinning lip tissue. Building up their lips with fat grafts is a hands-down favorite among the women in my practice. You can learn more about this and other areas that benefit from fat transfer in my related blog post.

3. Fat Grafts for the Aging Face

This is by far the most common use of the volumizing art. In the under-50 set, fat grafting can take the place of a facelift.

  • Filling in wrinkles softens all of the features.
  • Adding volume to the cheekbones and around the eyes can take away the square shape that often afflicts aging faces, restoring a more youthful “heart-shaped” look.
  • The pre-jowl area responds to fat transfers applied to the cheekbone, which raises all of the skin along the cheek and jawline.
  • Hollow eye sockets can be filled with fat, bringing back the eyes’ allure.
  • Collapsing temples can be corrected for further eye rejuvenation.

Skillful, aesthetic fat grafting can rejuvenate the face in a very natural way, without changing facial shape. You can see for yourself in The Aesthetic Society’s benefits of facial fat transfer page, featuring a video of a patient who rejuvenated her face with fat transfer to her cheeks.

Some surgeons achieve more extreme results with large amounts of fat grafting. The lips come to mind. But that is a matter of aesthetic judgment rather than something inherent to fat grafting.

If you are interested in learning more about fat grafting, I encourage you to request a consultation online or call my office at (312) 788-2560 to schedule an appointment. I would love to meet with you in person to determine if you are a candidate for the treatment and answer any questions you have.

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