Facial rejuvenation today is becoming more and more about options. A few decades ago, patients only had one or two choices for each treatment, and the emphasis was not placed on customization or a natural look, as these goals were simply not realistic. Today, minimally-invasive procedures, new products, and a wide range of treatment options for facial rejuvenation are the norm, and patients must make some tough decisions on which procedure is best for their needs. Because many people do not want to undergo a surgery involving a lot of downtime to reach their facial rejuvenation goals, injectable fillers and fat transfer are both popular procedures that can improve the appearance of wrinkling and subtly replace lost volume.
But what are the differences between these treatments, and which one is right for you?
Injectable fillers involve the injection of products such as synthetic hyaluronic acid to fill in wrinkles instantly with no downtime and very little discomfort. The procedure is totally non-surgical, requiring only a brief injection session that typically takes just a few minutes. Popular brands of fillers include Restylane and Juvederm, with different formulas constantly in development to address specific needs, such as lip enhancement and volume loss in the cheeks.
Fat transfer is a unique procedure that uses the patient’s own fat to fill in lines, wrinkles, and lost volume. It is a minor surgical procedure that involves gentle liposuction techniques to harvest the fat needed from the hips, stomach, or other donor area. This fat is then purified and injected into the face for natural rejuvenation where it is needed. Though it is a surgical procedure, the process is minimally invasive, and downtime is brief.
Both procedures can fill in wrinkles for a more youthful, rejuvenated appearance. However, while replacing lost volume is possible with either treatment, the results are more significant with fat transfer. This is because the fat that is injected can be transferred in greater quantities, and the cells can survive over time, resulting in long-lasting volume.
One of the major differences between the procedures is the longevity of the results. Injectable fillers are still only a temporary solution, with results typically lasting up to a year. Fat transfer is considered semi-permanent, as not all the fat that is injected will survive, but the cells that last beyond about 6 months are considered permanent. These cells can expand and shrink with weight loss or gain, so weight stability is key to maintaining good results. Plastic surgeons overfill treatment areas during fat transfer procedures to help balance out the inevitable loss of some of the fat that is introduced.
While injectable fillers are typically at a lower price point than fat transfer, there are some factors to consider when determining long-term value. Fat transfer has a higher up front cost, but injectable fillers must be repeated at intervals of about 6 months to a year, which can quickly add up if you are considering maintaining the results.
The candidacy requirements are not rigorous for either procedure, but fat transfer does have a few more restrictions, as it is a surgical procedure. In addition to being in good health and having realistic expectations, patients must also have enough fat to harvest for use in the procedure, and be able to cope with a short recovery period.
Talk to an Expert
Fortunately, you don’t have to make all your treatment decisions on your own. Your plastic surgeon will be your ally and help you find solutions that are right for you. Because you will need to rely on his or her help every step of the way, you will want to ensure you choose a qualified, experienced provider who has the skill and knowledge to find the right fit for you and perform the procedure properly.
Dr. Edward Buckingham is a board certified facial plastic surgeon offering a range of procedures, including the latest facial fillers, fat transfer, and many other facial rejuvenation techniques. If you would like to meet with Dr. Buckingham to discuss your goals, call Buckingham Center in Austin at 512.401.2500 today.