21 Sep 2023 | by Leonard Miller, MD, FACS, FRCS
If you read a lot of health and beauty magazines, fat is often portrayed as the enemy. This is fundamentally not true. While removing stubborn pockets of fat with liposuction, Coolsculpting® or SculpSure® can definitely improve a patient’s body contour, fat can also be injected into certain areas like the face and the hands as a replacement for lost volume. In fact, fat grafting, in the hands of a skilled plastic surgeon, can completely rejuvenate a person’s appearance. It’s one of those simple procedures that deliver a huge payout. This may be most obvious with a BBL which is a buttock augmentation with fat, but it is just as true for the face and hands.
As we age, our face and hands begin to lose volume. There is a reason why someone with a round face is referred to as having a “baby face”. Our eye perceives plumpness as youthful looking. This is why volume loss is so aging. Not only do you lose that lush, plump roundness, but it also results in sagging skin. Placing fat into fine lines, wrinkles and hollow areas on the face and hands is a simple way to quickly restore a more youthful-looking appearance.
Fat Grafting vs. Fillers
There is obviously more than one way to restore lost volume. Fillers are probably the most widely used procedure for addressing this issue. But this does not mean that fillers are the best option for you. The right procedure for any patient is going to depend on that patient’s individual anatomy, needs, and lifestyle. Having said that, there are real differences between fat grafting and fillers.
While fillers are synthetic and temporary, fat grafting uses your own tissue and the results are “permanent”. This does not mean that you won’t have to have a touch up as your face continues to age, but the fat that is grafted does become part of your living tissue.
Fat Grafting Procedure
Fat grafting is really two procedures in one. During the first part, we will remove excess fat from an area on your body typically:
Since we don’t require a huge volume of fat, even very thin women can undergo fat grafting to the face and hands. Next, the extracted tissue is placed into a specialized centrifuge that removes the excess fluids. Last, these purified cells are then carefully placed into areas that need more volume such as the:
Benefits of Fat Grafting
There are quite a few benefits to fat grafting. First of all, you are using your own tissue so there is no chance of your body having an allergic reaction. Second, fat grafting does not require the continued maintenance of fillers. At the Boston Center for Plastic Surgery, we have been performing fat grafting to the face for over 25 years. This is important because this is a procedure in which the surgeon’s skill really matters. Since not all of the injected fat will “take”, the surgeon must have the experience and artistic eye to predict what will happen. In general, our fat grafting patients experience a 25-30% retention of transferred fat cells. This reduces your risk of becoming overfilled or puffy.
These transferred cells are living. Therefore, the ones that do “take” become part of your existing tissue. This means that your results are what we call “permanent”. While you won’t have to have fat grafting done every few months like you do with fillers, we generally recommend 2-3 sessions spaced out over a couple of years in order to achieve and maintain your desired outcome. We have found that building up a patient’s contour over time delivers a better result. The fact that fat grafting is long lasting is definitely appealing for patients. But the biggest benefit of fat grafting may be its growth factor boost to your skin.
Fat Grafting, Growth factors & More Youthful Looking Skin
Growth factors are the closest thing to magic that our body produces. What makes them so special is that they are the raw material from which every other specialized cell is made. This is what gives them the ability to regenerate — a growth factor can become a new skin cell or organ cell. When it comes to fat grafting, the transferred fat is rich with growth factors. So not only does the fat re-plump fine lines, wrinkles, acne scars and hollow areas, but the growth factors also promote the growth of new blood vessels and collagen. This, in turn, ramps up your tissue’s ability to heal so that the overall quality of the skin in the treatment area improves. More importantly, this healing rejuvenation continues long after your fat grafting procedure is over. In fact, growth factors and fat grafting is one of the more exciting areas in plastic surgery today. We have only just begun to scratch the surface on what these powerful healing agents can accomplish.
So, if you are tired of looking at the prominent veins on the backs of your hands or your crow’s feet are beginning to resemble eagle’s feet, schedule a consultation to come in and speak with us about fat grafting. Isn’t it time to make fat your friend, not your foe?
To find out more about fat grafting at the Boston Center for Plastic Surgery, contact us today or call (617) 735- 8735 to schedule a consultation.