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Medi-spa 101

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle Your own fat – the hottest trend in cosmetic surgery

People are more-than-ever seeking aesthetic treatments that are fast, effective, comfortable, and with minimal downtime. It should therefore be no surprise that injectable “fillers”, such as Restylane and Juvederm, among others, have become increasingly popular in recent years. When used correctly by a skilled injector these products can improve facial shape, restore fullness to deflated cheeks, and provide a gentle lifting effect. By achieving changes of this sort, beyond simply smoothing wrinkles, cosmetic doctors are better able to restore lost volume and correct the tell-tale consequences of aging.

While enjoying great popularity and an impressive safety record, the vast majority of the injectable filler products are temporary in nature, becoming harmlessly broken down by the body over time. I have many of my clients, although happy with the results of their fillers, becoming weary of top-ups to their injections once or twice a year. Wouldn’t it be great if we had access to a filler product that was safe, effective but also long-lasting? Fortunately Mother Nature has thoughtfully provided the solution, conveniently packaged with you in the form of your own fat tissue.

Fat – where it’s at

When discussing rejuvenation by fat transfer, many of my clients are delighted to hear that their muffin tops, belly bulges, and saddle bags can be “recycled” and put to good use. These areas of excess are reduced using gentle liposuction; the fat is purified in the operating room and then prepared for careful, strategic injection into the areas in need of a boost. The newly-transferred fat is re-integrated into the body and, after a few months, looks and behaves as if it has always been there. Unlike man-made filler products, the fat is completely natural, a part of your own body, so risks of allergies or “rejection” are eliminated. Although we anticipate some of the new fat to be absorbed by the body, the majority remaining after the first few months is essentially permanent. Because of the convenient availability of fat, its effectiveness, and the low risk, fat transfer has become one of the hottest topics in cosmetic surgery over the last few years. Many clients love the fact that they can avoid use of artificial substances and also enjoy the soft, natural texture of the transformed areas.

Fat for faces

In the face, fat injection can be used to rejuvenate any of the areas commonly treated with man-made injectable fillers. Some of the most popular spots include the hollows under the eyes, sagging or deflated cheeks, deep creases of the nasolabial and jowl region, hollow temples, and droopy corners of the mouth. Because the amount of fat available is relatively large, it is possible for your surgeon to treat a greater number of areas and to a greater degree than in a typical session with off-the-shelf injectable fillers.

Butts and beyond

The use of fat transfer is not limited to rejuvenation of the facial region; it has become valuable for enhancement of other body areas as well. This technique is an essential component of the now-popular “Brazilian Butt Lift.” The goal of this procedure is to enhance and augment the buttock region such that flat, droopy bottoms have a more prominent, full and appealing shape. With this procedure I use the new BodyTite energy-assisted liposuction technology to achieve better skin-tightening, enhancing the waistline and lower back for more curvaceous proportions.

Fat transfer to the breasts is becoming a popular option to achieve improvements without use of man-made implants or visible scars. The fat can be used to gain a modest enhancement in size, correct mild asymmetries, or improve shape such as adding fullness to the upper breast.

Although understandably much attention has been given to rejuvenation of the facial region, more clients are realizing that their hands show tell-tale signs of aging. Fat injection to the back of the hands is an effective, long-lasting method to camouflage prominent veins and tendons, fill-in hollow areas, and improve the smoothness and suppleness of the skin.

Less is more

With many excellent, minimally invasive aesthetic treatments available the ability of practitioners to rejuvenate and refresh their clients has never been better. But the biggest challenge has become, in my opinion, not what we should do for a client, but what we should not do. We have all seen the consequence of over-indulgence in injectable fillers and Botox, sported by many celebrities and “Housewives-of-Wherever.” The resulting “chipmunk cheeks,” “duck lips” and expressionless brows are unnatural and unattractive. The need for restraint, meticulous technique, and a good aesthetic sense is particularly important with fat injection given that the results are long-lasting and harder to reverse. Thus, potential clients should seek consultation with a plastic surgeon having vast experience with fat transfer techniques.

By no means would I suggest that injectable fillers and Botox are obsolete; in fact, these options remain the best 30 minutes anyone can spend on improving their appearance. Fat transfer will never be the best solution for everyone because the subsequent one to two weeks of swelling requires social downtime that may be excessive for some people. But with use of fat transfer and other minimally-invasive techniques such as FaceTite and NeckTite, surgeons have the ability to achieve attractive, natural and long-lasting results with faster recovery and less risk than ever before.


Dr. Peter W. Bray is a board-certified Plastic Surgeon who performs surgical and non-surgical rejuvenation of the face and body with emphasis on safety, comfort, and natural results.

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