Fat Grafting Face vs Fillers

Fat Grafting Face vs Fillers

Dermal Filler Injection - Filler for Forehead

When you are looking to enhance your facial proportions after a certain age, two main treatments come to the rescue: fat grafting and dermal fillers. Although they are quite popular, few people know the difference and when it is best to use each.

The truth is, no one can explain it better to you than a qualified doctor who has inspected your skin and knows how to treat your skin. Fat grafting face vs fillers. What is it about, is it affordable, and what are the benefits of fat grafting? These are some of the questions we are going to touch on in the paragraphs that follow. Stick with us.

What is Facial Fat Grafting?

This is a procedure in which fat is extracted from elsewhere in the body and planted back into the face to improve its overall appearance. It helps fight off deflation in certain areas such as the mid-cheek area, eye region, and temples. Not only does it provide volume augmentation, but it makes the skin look rejuvenated.

Another way to describe this procedure is autologous fat transfer, autologous meaning ‘of the same person’. It also goes by the name fat injection, facial fat rejuvenation, facial fat transfer, micro fat grafting, and lipofilling.

Essentially, the procedure involves three major steps:

  1. harvesting fat from other areas of the body
  2. purifying the newly-obtained body fat cells so that only the healthiest and strongest are used
  3. injecting the latter into the designated donor site

The last step is done with a thin needle. 1-ml syringes help stay on top of the injection process. A topical cream is applied to the area to numb the skin. Local or general anaesthesia, and even sedation, could be administered if the situation calls for it. Every surgeon takes on a different approach based on the case and – to some extent – their preferences.

Fat grafting works everywhere on the body. More often than not, it is requested for the buttocks and breasts. Breast augmentation with fat transfer is a perfect alternative to breast implant surgery because it’s safer and produces natural results. However, it only secures subtle improvements in the chest size. So, if you want to go bigger, that’s not the solution for you.

What are Dermal Fillers?

A dermal fillers treatment (or injectable filler) involves soft, gel-like substances that are injected below the facial skin at various areas and depths. The purpose of the treatment is to get volume restoration and soften facial wrinkles. It is effective in reducing the visibility of deep lines, marionette lines and other creases, as well as fixing some types of eye bags.

In most cases, the soft, gel-like substances are made of natural ingredients and work temporarily. There also are semi-permanent fillers like calcium hydroxylapatite and poly-L-lactic acid.

The most popular brands today are the likes of Sculptra, Restylane, and Juvéderm Voluma. Besides adding more collagen into the facial skin, these products can also make the body create collagen over time that will boost and prolong the results. It will keep the appearance of lines at bay for a good while. Even the deepest wrinkles don’t stand a chance.

Note that every patient is unique, and therefore they are going to need a different number of dermal filler doses. The decision is usually made by the attending specialist.

Even though the facial fillers dissolve into the body a few months following application, there is still the likelihood of getting too much product in one go. If the doctor goes overboard, this may result in the eyes appearing smaller because the cheek presses on them.

You will get the so-called pillow face. It’s not pretty, but thankfully it will resolve on its own as time goes by and the filler is reabsorbed. To avoid such an outcome and instead receive a treatment that fulfils your aesthetic goal, it is recommended to stick with an experienced medical professional. Never get a filler job by a beautician.

Woman showing her fat belly

Fat Grafting Face vs Dermal Fillers

Both treatments can be a great choice for cheek enhancement, wrinkle reduction, and contour deficiency improvement. The biggest difference between micro fat grafting and dermal filler injections is that instead of a person’s own fat, the procedure relies on fillers that are either naturally derived, like hyaluronic acid and collagen, or artificial filler materials, as in calcium hydroxylapatite.

So, there might be a chance in which the body is not used to the dermal filler and may trigger a reaction against it. (In that regard, facial fat transfers are a better treatment option). Needless to say, that it posed no significant risk when the substance injected (the person’s own natural fat) was previously extracted from the person’s body.

Another staggering difference is that over time, the fillers tend to dissolve and are further absorbed by the body, and you lose the additional volume augmentation. To sustain the results, patients have to undergo the procedure every so often. Dermal fillers made of natural ingredients typically last 6 months. By contrast, the injected fats with fat grafting that survive will hold on for years before the natural ageing process changes the game.

How is the Fat Obtained during a Fat Transfer?

A widely known surgical method of fat harvesting is through the liposuction procedure. This is when a cosmetic or plastic surgeon makes small incisions in your skin (around areas that are abundant in fat) and inserts a tiny cannula that extracts the fat. The tiny cannula helps to extract and suck out the targeted fat cells and sends them straight into a medical jar.

There are different types of liposuction. However, the one to be used for the facial fat grafting process is mini liposuction. As you know, conventional liposuction works to get rid of unwanted fat and contour the body. Hence, when you are going for your facial enhancement, you can also target certain spots of your body that you are not completely satisfied with.

It is important to note that part of the fat extracted from an actual liposuction procedure may be damaged because the cannula suction is a bit aggressive for its liking. Thus, not all the cells that were harvested will be implanted back into the skin. Instead, only the quality ones are picked out, and the rest are disposed of. Hence, a sufficient amount of fat is needed for a simple fat transfer procedure.

Who is Suitable for Facial Fat Transfers?

People with deep wrinkles such as crow’s feet, laugh lines, “marionette lines”, and glabellar lines (i.e. between the eyebrows) are considered good candidates for a biological filler. They should have adequate skin elasticity and be in good health.

pros and cons illustration

Advantages of Fat Grafting

The pros of fat versus filler injection are plentiful, but the main factor is that the fat is harvested from the patient’s body. Thus, it is natural and won’t be rejected by the body. Let’s review them all:

  • The results of micro fat grafting are long-lasting and natural (as opposed to the effects of filler injections that are short-lived)
  • Patients can get improved skin texture and battle facial volume loss in one session
  • In the short term (6 – 12 months), follow-up treatments are not necessary as fat tends to last longer than fillers.
  • Fat fillers are effective options for boosting facial contours at any age
  • Modern-day fat grafting procedures are relatively safe (synthetic fillers may trigger adverse immune reactions)
  • No risk of allergies or filler rejection
  • In the long term, fat grafting proves to be less expensive than a high-maintenance filler habit

Cons of Fat Grafting

  • The outcome takes up to six months to fully materialise (unlike the immediacy of fillers)
  • Fat grafting is not cost-effective in the short term, especially when larger volume replacement is going on
  • The harvesting process takes a while as the procedure requires the harvesting of fat, purification of the fats and injecting it into the targeted area
  • There is a limit on the number of fat deposits you can harvest in one appointment
  • If the surgeon does poor work, there may be irregularities with fat grafting, lumps, and unaesthetic results, as a result of which facial rejuvenation will not be evident

How Successful is Facial Fat Grafting for Rejuvenation?

The mean survival rate of the fat cells is 56%. What does it mean? When you transfer fat cells from one area to another, the body’s natural mechanisms kick in, and part of that fat volume is lost to reabsorption. This tends to happen within the first weeks following the procedure, in which the remaining fat cells that survive the fat graft would remain in the transferred and targeted area for several years. This is the volume retention.

With that, the success rate is highly influenced by the skills of the plastic surgeon, but you need to understand that some of the fat is always reabsorbed by the body no matter what. Hence, regardless of the methods implemented, you will not be able to retain all fats that were injected into your facial area. It is important to note that the volume retention and results vary from patient to patient. The volume retention can range from 40% to 59%.

An interesting fact is that the success rate of breast fat grafting varies from 50% to 90% and is evidently higher than that of facial fat transfer.

Can Fat Grafting Go Wrong?

This is a safe treatment that rarely goes wrong, but every operation carries risk. Some of the known complications are fat necrosis (death cell) and haematoma (blood accumulating under the skin).

Your doctor would be providing you with a full list of possible complications so you are fully aware of the risk prior to proceeding with the procedure. It’s never a good idea to jump into any cosmetic surgery without being fully aware of the possible risks.

What are the Side Effects of Fat Grafting Procedure?

The most common side effects are temporary swelling, temporary numbness around the targeted site, and loss of injected fat. Rarely, patients can develop little scars from the procedure that will fade after a while.

How much do Fat Injections Cost?

In Singapore, facial fat grafting cost runs between $3,000 and $8,000. The cost varies based on the scale of the area which the procedure has to cover.

Hence, the larger the targeted treatment area, the more expensive it gets. Keep in mind that medication, facility fees, and plastic surgeon fees will be added to the bill. Compared to a larger treated area like the breast or the buttocks, the fat grafting to facial regions tends to be more affordable and proves to be a more practical option in the long run as the results are often long-lasting. 

On the other hand, patients who have undergone dermal fillers treatments have to come back following up sessions to main the volumised results every 7-8 months. Thus, leading to more expenses over time. Filler products like Juvéderm and Restylane cost around $600-$1,000 per syringe.

Does Insurance Cover Fat Grafting?

Facial fat grafting sessions are not reimbursed by insurance companies, the reason being they aren’t medically necessary treatments. When a procedure is carried out for aesthetic purposes, in most cases, it is paid for by patients themselves. The costs of fat grafting may be covered by insurance when it comes down to breast cancer reconstruction with the fat transfer, but that’s a different case we’re talking about.

How Long is Recovery from Micro Fat Grafting?

Once the treatment is finished, you should expect about 4 to 6 weeks of the total recovery, with a few days of initial downtime when you will generally get bruises and some swelling on the treated area. Patients may also experience some form of grogginess from the anaesthetic. However, more intense procedures will take months to recover. Hence, any additional procedures to the existing treatment will add more healing time to the equation.

In comparison, the downtime after fillers is 7-10 days, and full recovery is achieved after a few weeks.

Is Face Fat Grafting Safe?

Facial fat transfers are among the safest procedures because the body will not have an allergic reaction or another adverse reaction against its own fat and tissue. However, as with every treatment option, on rare occasions, there may be adverse effects. For this reason, patients are instructed to report any unexpected changes in their outcomes as soon as possible.

How Long Does Facial Fat Grafting Last?

The results of the treatment can be permanent. At the very least, they will last several years before ageing plays its role. As years go by, fat is naturally lost from the face, so this can make the outcome less obvious.

What is the Difference between Fat Grafting and Fat Injections?

Fat grafting and fat injections are namely the same procedure. Facial fat grafting is also termed fat transfer, lipofilling, and fat injections. It can fix contour irregularity without the use of foreign substances. Facial transfers are mild cosmetic improvements for those looking to turn back the clock on ageing and volumised the targeted features.

As mentioned earlier, the other injectable options are dermal fillers. They both work in a different way to improve conditions such as fine lines and wrinkles.

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* Disclaimer: results vary according to individual