Dr. Steven Fagien & Dr. Elbert Vaca

Facial Fat Transfer (Fat Grafting)

Face Procedures

As we age, the appearance of “loose skin” is unfortunately just the “tip of the iceberg”. Facial aging is a complex process that has fascinated and perplexed both artists and plastic surgeons. The face is composed of underlying bone, fat, and muscles, along with the overlying skin – all these structures change with age. Therefore, depending on your facial aging concerns, each of these components may need to be individually addressed. The face can lose volume, or fat, in predictable locations including the cheeks, eyes, temples and around the mouth. Facial fat grafting involves transferring fat cells from another area of your body to correct areas of facial hollowing to help create a more youthful facial appearance.

Facial fat grafting is commonly combined with other facial cosmetic procedures to achieve a more balanced and harmonious result.

How does facial fat grafting work?

Simply put, fat grafting uses your own fat as a filler. In addition, the transferred fat also contains stem cells which may help improve the appearance of your skin.

Where is the fat obtained from?

Fat can be obtained from any site in the body where there are additional fat deposits. Most commonly, the abdomen or inner thigh are used as donor sites.

How long does facial fat grafting last?

Your own fat lasts significantly longer than facial filler. However, no surgical procedure stops the aging process. The transferred fat cells will continue to age along with the rest of your body and will lose volume over time.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of fat grafting compared to fillers like Juvederm® and Restylane®?

Fillers like Juvederm® and Restylane® do not require additional equipment, a donor site (i.e. fat harvest site) and are less labor intensive than fat grafting. Fillers can have certain advantages, depending on your goals, and can be more effective at creating projection – for example, fillers are better suited for creating definition in the lips, cheeks and nose. Fat grafting, however, lasts longer and tends to produce a softer appearance.

Does facial fat grafting have to be performed in the operating room?

It depends. Fat grafting is often performed to compliment the results of other surgical procedures in the operating room, such as a facelift. However, if fat grafting is to be performed to a smaller area of the face, it can be performed as an in office procedure.

What are the risks of facial fat transfer surgery?

All surgical procedures carry a degree of uncertainty and risk. Thankfully, the risk of any major complication is rare.

Facial fat transfer is performed using tiny incisions – thankfully, these small incisions tend to heal extremely well and are not noticeable in the vast majority of patients.

We all have natural asymmetries between each side of our face – some people more than others. While one of the goals of surgery is minimize preexisting facial asymmetries, it is important to know that some asymmetry will still exist.

The volume of transferred fat that survives is variable. At best, approximately 50% of the transferred fat remains long term. However, it is critical to not transfer too much fat as overfilling is extremely difficult to correct. Occasionally, some patients will desire more facial fat grafting.

Meet Dr. Vaca

Dr. Vaca

Dr. Elbert E. Vaca is a Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon who completed his medical training at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
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Meet Dr. Fagien

Dr. Fagien

Dr. Steven Fagien is one of the foremost oculoplastic surgeons in the United States and the world. He completed his medical training at the University of Florida and a fellowship in oculoplastic surgery at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary.
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