What Is Fat Grafting and How Does It Work?
Many men and women are looking for ways to improve the outward appearance of their skin — to fill in lines on the face, to add overall volume to the breasts or buttocks, to correct divots and other abnormalities, or to perform a similar improvement.
Fat grafting provides a solution to all of these problems — and others. It is a revolutionary new procedure that has become especially popular in recent years. Ahead, we’ll dive into the specifics of the fat grafting procedure, providing detailed information about what fat grafting entails, its major pros and cons, facts about recovery and longevity, and more.
Let’s begin by clearly defining the term fat grafting.
What Is Fat Grafting?
Fat grafting is a surgical cosmetic procedure that takes fat from one area of the body and puts it elsewhere on the body. For example, fat might be taken from the abdomen, thighs, or hips (where it is either unwanted or not needed) and transferred to an area where the fat will improve the overall appearance of the skin — perhaps the cheeks, the forehead, the breasts, or another location in kind.
Most often, fat grafting is compared with other cosmetic procedures that create the same ultimate effects: plumper, fuller, and more youthful skin. These procedures include:
- Dermal fillers for the face
- Gluteal augmentation (butt lift BBL)
- Breast enhancement (breast augmentation)
In the above procedures, it is a synthetic, bioengineered substance (usually hyaluronic acid) that is used to plump and sculpt areas of the body.
What makes fat grafting different is that it doesn’t use a foreign substance. It uses your own body’s fat. This use of a non-foreign, non-synthetic substance is appealing to many patients because, for one thing, it’s far more natural.
How Is Fat Grafting Performed?
There are two major steps to any fat grafting procedure.
First, the fat must be harvested — or removed — from the patient’s body. It will be taken from an area where the patient either won’t miss it or where they specifically want to reduce volume. Harvesting will be performed using a micro liposuction procedure.
What is of note here is that, in a fat grafting procedure, the fat will not be harvested in large quantities as is the case in a normal liposuction procedure. In a normal liposuction procedure — where the goal is to significantly reduce the volume of fat in a given area (usually the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks) — a surgeon will usually be taking out liters of fat. By contrast, in a mini liposuction procedure that is meant to be part of a fat grafting procedure, only small quantities (usually a few hundred milliliters) of fat will be removed. Still, this fat can definitely be taken from an area of the body where the patient wouldn’t mind reducing overall volume.
The second part of the procedure is the gentle grafting on of the fat to a place on the body or face that would be improved with added volume or contouring.
Where Is Fat Grafting Usually Performed?
Most fat grafting patients are looking to add volume, contouring, and/or augmentation to at least one or several of the following areas:
Is Fat Grafting Only for Adding Volume?
No, fat grafting is not only for adding volume to specific areas such as the breasts or buttocks. Fat grafting can also be used to:
- Resurface recessed scars from past acne or other injuries
- Enhance countering on the cheeks and/or subtly change the face shape
- Fill in deep creases and fine lines (such as nasolabial folds: the deep lines that often form from the outside of each nostril down to the outer corners of the mouth)
- Change the shape of the lips
Pro and Cons of Fat Grafting
Many patients wonder whether fat grafting or synthetic augmentation is right for them. Briefly, let’s go over the pros and cons of each option.
Pros of Fat Grafting (vs. Alternative Solutions Such as Dermal fillers)
- Natural procedure using your own body’s fat and no foreign substances
- Lower risk than implant augmentations (for the buttocks or breasts, for example)
- Provides an overall more natural appearance than synthetic dermal fillers or implants
- Permanent (cannot be reversed)
- Can provide the effects of two procedures in one: A reduction in volume on one area of the body where there is too much fat and the plumping or augmentation of another area of the body where more fat would be beneficial
Cons Fat Grafting (vs. Alternative Solutions Such as Dermal fillers)
- Not reversible, whereas a procedure using dermal fillers, for example, can be reversed, if necessary
- More invasive than a simple dermal filler procedure (more downtime)
- Dermal fillers can be done in office, making the overall procedure much quicker and faster
What’s Recovery Like?
Recovery from fat grafting will vary from person to person. While some patients will find that they are well enough to return to a normal routine right away, others may need to wait a few days or weeks until they are ready to return to work and other daily activities.
In any case, all patients must refrain from engaging in any type of vigorous activity for at least the first seven days after their procedure. It is normal to experience some redness, a bit of swelling, and a mild sensation of discomfort for several weeks post-surgery. In about three months, however, nearly all of these symptoms and any residual recovery effects will have subsided, and you’ll be able to enjoy the full results of your procedure.
For How Long Is Fat Grafting Effective?
One of the best things about fat grafting is that it is much more permanent and natural than other procedures like dermal fillers and implant procedures. This ultimately means that the effects are much longer-lasting. Even in procedures where the effects only one or several years, the synthetic alternative (fillers or implants) are usually must less long-lasting.
Schedule a Virtual Consultation With Dr. Ran Stark Today
Fat grafting can be a wonderful surgical solution for individuals who are looking to fix scarring, signs of aging, a lack of overall plumpness and volume, and other issues and surface-level challenges. Dr. Ran Stark is a double board certified plastic surgeon in Phildelphia, certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. Dr. Stark is always happy to speak with you about your goals for fat grafting and can help determine whether you’d be a good candidate for this procedure.
To get started, contact us today to schedule your very own online virtual consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!