What is a Facial Fat Transfer?

One of the most significant and visible effects of ageing on the face is volume loss. While traditional plastic surgeries such as a face lift can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and tighten skin, a facial fat transfer can also add volume and more definition to certain areas in the face.

Facial fat transfer treatments (also known as facial fat grafting or fat injections) move fat from other parts of the body to the face. The fat is usually taken from excess areas in the body such as from the abdomen or thigh.

The fat transferred to the face can help restore volume loss and facial contour. It can cause facial rejuvenation by adding more definition and also reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Facial fat transfer is sort of similar to injecting dermal fillers, however, fat from your own body is used to add volume and the results can be considered permanent.

What is a Facial Fat Transfer?

How does a facial fat transfer work?

A facial fat transfer is considered as a relatively safe and minimally invasive cosmetic procedure. For this reason general anaesthesia is usually not required, and the whole procedure can be completed just with local anaesthetic.

First, the necessary fat required to be transferred to the face is extracted. This is usually done with a small (3-5mm) incision near the abdomen or thigh, and through liposuction techniques the fat can be extracted.

Once the fat has been extracted, it’s then immediately processed in a centrifuge so that it becomes ready to be injected into the face.

This fat is then distributed and injected into the required areas in the face. Facial fat transfers usually increase the mid-face volume, the cheekbones, lips, and any hollowness underneath the eyes to reduce the appearance of puffiness and dark circles under the eyes.

The fat that has been injected can contact nearby tissues and becomes one with them, receiving the same blood and nerve supply and can stimulate collagen production.

How long does a facial fat transfer last?

About 20% (1) of fat cells transferred to the face may become reabsorbed by the body.

The remaining fat establishes adequate blood supply and becomes healthy fat in the face, adding desirable facial volume. These remaining fatty cells don’t get reabsorbed and so the results of a facial fat transfer are permanent.

Around 6 months after the facial fat transfer procedure, no fat cells are absorbed anymore and so the fat that remains is permanent and results in a lasting improvement.

Is facial fat transfer safe?

Facial fat transfer treatments are relatively safe, and so complications and risks are quite rare.

Despite this, as a surgical procedure the areas that have been treated my exhibit some common side effects, such as:

  • Bruising and swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Infection
  • Unsatisfactory aesthetic results such as asymmetry or over correction.

Swelling and bruising are to be expected immediately after the procedure, and will usually begin to subside after the third day.

As with lip fillers, it’s very common for the lips to undergo swelling and bruising if any fat has been transferred to them, so be sure to consult your surgeon carefully on how to minimise this.

It’s usually advised to use a cold pack during the first couple of hours after a facial fat transfer procedure, in order to minimise any possible swelling or bruising.

Bruising, swelling and downtime for a facial fat transfer procedure is usually around 10 days.

How much does a facial fat transfer procedure cost?

The cost of a facial fat transfer depends greatly on where you are, the amount of areas to be treated, and your surgeon’s expertise or reputation.

You may expect the cost of a facial fat transfer procedure to be around $3500 in the US, with a range of $2500 – $7000 (2).

In the United Kingdom, prices of a facial fat transfer treatment usually start at around £2900. 

Who is suitable for a facial fat transfer procedure?

Facial fat transfers are suitable for people who are looking to add volume and contour to certain areas of their face, to rejuvenate their facial skin, and to reduce any lines and wrinkles.

It’s especially suitable for people who are looking to get dermal fillers or botox, but are looking for more lasting and permanent results.


Written by Dr. Khaled Mahmoud

Khaled Mahmoud completed his dental education and obtained his Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) in 2017. His interests lie in cosmetic dentistry and non-surgical facial aesthetics. He is active in dental research, contemporary cosmetic materials and techniques, and has been a member of numerous public health outreach programs.