Is Fat the Future of Beauty
Fat grafting is being touted as the future of a fresher less tired-looking face and plumper hands. But does it measure up? Viola Levy asks the experts.
What if your belly fat could make your face look like it did a decade ago, or just a little less tired? Maybe you’re happy with the way you look, but there is one deep wrinkle that irritates you. Fat grafting is a growing area of treatment. It means taking your own body fat and “transferring” it elsewhere, often to those gaunt areas of the face that develop as we age. The global facial fat transfer market size was valued at $1.9 billion in 2018. It is expected to grow by more than 10% by the end of 2026.
This isn’t the type of treatment you can have done in a few hours. Surgeons must first find a donor area (usually the stomach or bottom) and extract the fat using liposuction. The grafted fat is then filtered, refined and injected into the desired area. It can be used in many ways, often to fill out sunken cheeks or the deep grooves running from nose to mouth. But is it the right choice for you – and is it safe? Platinum investigates.
Fat as facial filler
When it comes to the face, how does injecting body fat compare to other types of filler? Reconstructive and plastic surgeon Naveen Cavale explains the difference. “When it comes to fillers you’ve got neuromodulators like Botox, which paralyse the muscles, getting rid of lines, such as frown lines and crow’s feet,” he says. “Then there are dermal fillers such as hyaluronic acid that make up for lost volume because the face does thin as you get older – you start looking a bit more skeletal and eyes become more hollowed out.”
When it comes to ‘fat fillers’, the process is slightly different, as Naveen illustrates. “Instead of using some manufactured substance, you’ve got your own tissue. Why not take a bit of fat and inject into the areas where you’d normally be using filler?”
While fat grafting may not provide as much volume as synthetic fillers or implants, it can look more natural and actually rejuvenate stem cells in the skin itself (a bit like getting a facial from within). Only a small amount of fat is needed for the face, so even those who are naturally slim can have this procedure. Many experts believe it is advantageous as you are literally transferring your own cells and so are less likely to suffer an allergic reaction.
Fat grafting is not a new phenomenon – in fact it’s been around since the 1980s. But traditional methods were rudimentary and involved injecting large fat cells. New techniques and procedures have arrived to change that. “It was all a bit crude in the past,” Naveen recalls. “Big blobs of fat were being injected, which looked a little lumpy. Technologies and techniques have come a long way in a few years.”
One such new method is Uvence, created by body contouring expert and plastic surgeon Olivier amar. It extracts certain cells from the suctioned fat, called adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells. This ‘super enriched tissue’ is then frozen and stored in a special cryo chamber for up to five years. Whenever the patient needs a top-up, their practitioner can call in the cells from Uvence, which it delivers to their offices in a syringe.
It certainly makes top-up procedures more quick and convenient, rather than having both liposuction and injection done in the same session. “You can get the injections done in your lunch hour,” Olivier explains. “This method helps improve skin quality and diminish fine lines without creating artificial volume. Skin elasticity can improve significantly. You’ll also see an improvement in the softness of the skin, especially on a delicate area such as under the eyes, where injecting traditional filler is not the best option.”
It goes without saying that this procedure is not cheap. While traditional dermal fillers can cost tin the region of £200, prices for Uvence fat transfer facial rejuvenation start from £7500. However, it can be seen as a long-term investment, given that the effects last much longer – and in some cases are permanent.
Get hands on
As the skin on your hands ages, veins and bones can become more visible. Fat grafting is possible, but hands are fragile and complex and require a very experienced surgeon. You can expect plumper, soft and smooth hands, with some surgeons offering solutions for sunspots and other pigmentation issues at the same time.
Results will last, provided your weight remains stable. However, you’ll probably need ‘maintenance treatments’ up to four times in the first year after surgery, until results settle.
Some experts recommend manual lymphatic drainage to hasten healing – useful for an area like the hands.