What is a Facial Fat Transfer? (Facial Fat Graft)

One of the biggest disadvantages of dermal fillers to restore facial volume loss is that, although they are effective – they’re also temporary.

For an aging woman looking to restore volume in the face, getting filler injections once or twice a year may begin to get pricey. These days, most cosmetic doctors would recommend older women to eventually consider getting a non-surgical face lift with facial fat grafting instead, arguing that it is “a long-lasting alternative to dermal fillers” (1).

A facial fat graft (also called facial fat transfer) has numerous advantages as an anti-aging procedure, is relativity safe, and has very predicable and satisfactory aesthetic results in facial rejuvenation.

Facial fat grafting is still considered as a contemporary cosmetic procedure (2), and is not yet as common. So what is a facial fat graft, and is it better than getting dermal filler injections?

What is a Facial Fat Transfer (facial fat graft)?

How does Facial Fat Grafting Work?

In a facial fat grafting (fat transfer) procedure, excess fat from the body is extracted, and then injected into the face to restore volume loss, as an anti-aging procedure. It adds volume to areas of the face, reduces wrinkles, and leads to general facial rejuvenation.

The fat is extracted through a “micro-liposuction” technique, and is usually taken from the upper thighs or belly. This is excess fat and actually helps the patient lose unwanted fat. Therefore a facial fat grafting procedure can be considered as a procedure to restore lost facial volume, while also being considered a slight liposuction procedure at the same time.

This fat is then purified into fatty cells, which can be injected safely into the face. In a way, a facial fat transfer can be thought of using your own body’s fat as filler. (3)

Doctors will usually overfill the face with these transferred fatty cells, because normally around 30-50% of the fatty cells will be dissolved and broken down by the body.

The remaining 70% however, will remain in the face and become vascularized, adding volume and definition while also helping to minimize wrinkles – permanently.

A facial fat procedure can usually be done with just local anesthetic, and so you can remain conscious and awake (while feeling no pain) throughout the whole process, or you can consult your doctor to undergo the procedure under general anesthesia.

Facial Fat Grafting vs Dermal Fillers?

When comparing facial fat transfer and dermal fillers, there is no one better procedure that is considered as better than the other, it depends on the patient and what results you’re trying to achieve.

Facial fat grafting is generally better to restore general facial volume loss. It’s a better option if you want to restore multiple areas of the face. A huge advantage of a facial fat transfer is that it’s also permanent, and you don’t have to repeat the procedure.

Fillers on the other hand need to be repeated on a regular basis. But dermal fillers are more convenient, cheaper, less invasive, not surgical (in that they can be done chair-side and don’t need an operating room), and have a relatively less downtime than facial fat grafting procedures.

In general, if you just want to treat one area (such as get bigger more contoured lips or jawline), dermal fillers may be a better option. But if you’re looking to restore general volume loss in multiple areas of the face, a fat graft procedure would be a better choice.

A study done on facial fat transfers in 2017 comes to the conclusion that getting a facial fat graft to restore volume loss “seems to be a promising method in facial rejuvenation with fewer complications than other fillers and high patient satisfaction rates” (4).

What are the Side Effects of a Facial Fat Grafting?

Bruising, swelling and soreness immediately after the procedure is to be expected.

Complications of a facial fat grafting procedure include: over or under correction, scarring, blistering, tissue bunching and irregularity, and in more serious and rare cases blindness or stroke.

How much does a Facial Fat Grafting Procedure Cost?

The average cost of a facial fat transfer (fat grafting) procedure is around $5000. (5)

The price depends on the expertise of your doctor, where you’re doing the procedure, and how extensive the results will be. The range is usually anywhere between $2500 and $7000. (6)

Recovery after a Facial Fat Grafting Procedure

Facial fat grafting recovery time is usually around 7-10 days for the initial bruising and swelling, and around 2-3 weeks for the healing and final results to appear.

During the first week, your doctor will advise you to continue using ice-packs and to try and keep your head elevated in order to minimize the swelling.

Most people who undergo a facial fat grafting procedure are ready to go back to work usually after the 10th day.