Ask an Expert: Fat Injections Vs. Fillers

Ask an Expert: Fat Injections Vs. Fillers

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There’s no denying it, Mother Nature robs us of the facial volume that make us look young as the years go by. As those areas begin to lose collagen and fat, it creates shadows that make us appear tired, and the skin starts to become deflated, says Seattle, WA, board-certified dermatologist Jennifer Reichel, MD. As a result, wrinkles become a lot more noticeable as well as other skin imperfections. Thankfully, there are many options out there to restore volume to the face for a more youthful look.

In response to a previous question about cheek injections, a patient asked me how long facial fat injections last and if they last longer than fillers. In the face, fat injections can be permanent depending on the survival rate of the fat cells, says Dr. Reichel. So the important thing is to make the highest amount of them live for the best results. Within three to six months you’ll be able to tell what percentage of the cells are alive, which is typically about 50 percent. With fillers, it depends on the type you use because some last longer than others. Radiesse lasts about one to one and a half years. Juvéderm and Restylane and other hyaluronic acid gels tend to last about six months to a year depending on the molecule size. And Sculptra Aesthetic lasts about one and a half to two years.

Overall, Dr. Reichel says that fat is the optimal filler because it’s your own tissue and you’re putting it somewhere where fat already exists—putting fat next to fat allows the body to take it better. After it’s injected, it just becomes a part of the rest of the face and joins the ebb and flow of weight loss and weight gain.

Another interesting question comes from my patient who asks, will fillers cause my skin to break out? It’s actually the opposite, says Dr. Reichel. “Many patients who get fat injections, tell us that their skin has improved overall, it has a glow and the texture is better.” While there isn’t much evidence as to why this happens, Dr. Reichel believes that it’s a hormonal effect since the fat cells respond to estrogen. But in short, it’s very unusual to see acne after having either fat injections or fillers.

As always, it’s extremely important to make sure that you go to a board-certified surgeon that is qualified to perform the procedure. If the surgeon doesn’t use the proper technique you could end up with lumpiness or even oil cysts.

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