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What Is Fat Transfer to Face?

Fat transfer to face, also referred to as facial fat grafting, is a surgical treatment which sees fat taken from another area of the body and processed before being reintroduced to the face. By placing this naturally-occurring fat in the face, this treatment will add volume to aging areas of the face and  simultaneously rejuvenate the overlying skin.

As we age, our bodies produce less and less collagen, the protein which keeps our skin plump and youthful. As our collagen levels deplete, the skin loses its elasticity, causing it to wrinkle and sag. Fat transfer to face is an excellent way to fill defects, improve contouring and help to restore volume to the face, particularly in areas which have become sunken with age. 

If you are looking for a long-lasting solution to aging facial features, a facial fat graft would deliver better results than a non-surgical treatment, such as dermal fillers. Due to the nature of the donor material, the fat from your own body, a fat transfer to face is a more organic approach than dermal fillers. 

Between 50 and 70 percent of fat cells survive the transfer process, establishing a blood supply, meaning the results are permanent. The results of dermal fillers tend to fade after six months and there is only so much that can be injected at any one time. 

Fat transfer to face is a minimally invasive procedure, meaning a minimal recovery time.

A facial fat graft can be combined with other procedures to further enhance the result. This could include a mini facelift or blepharoplasty, a procedure which targets common signs of aging that develop around the eyes.

At A Glance

Fat Transfer to Face

At A Glance

  • Surgery Time

    30 - 45 minutes

  • Exercise Including Gym

    2 - 4 weeks

  • Time Off Work

    a few days (if needed)

  • Hospital Stay

    1 to 2 hours

  • Washing

    Shower after 1 day

  • Full Recovery

    1 week

  • Reasonably Mobile

    Immediately

  • Driving

    a few days

  • Sexual Activity

    Restricted activity after a few days

  • Sleeping Position

    Sleeping on back recommended for 1 week

Fat Transfer to Face
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Prices for Fat Transfer to Face

Included in this treatment

  • Up to two 30 minute – 60 minute consultations with a leading specialist plastic surgeon at our award-winning premises in Chelsea
  • Your procedure carried out at London’s leading specialist cosmetic surgery centre of excellence
  • Return home on the same day to recover in comfort in your own home
  • 24/7 on call nurse assistance
  • Dedicated Patient Co-ordinator, as a personal point of contact through your journey with Cadogan
  • A pre-operative medical assessment to ensure you are fit for surgery
  • Comprehensive post-operative aftercare courtesy of our specialist cosmetic nurses

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Fat Transfer Surgeons

We have invited a selection of the country's very best consultants to join us at the Cadogan Clinic so that you can be sure that whatever the nature of your treatment, you will be seeing one of the top practitioners in the country.

Mr. Tunc Tiryaki

Consultant Plastic Surgeon / GMC: 7497351

Mr Tunc Tiryaki is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon specialising in facial surgery. Mr Tiryaki has a special interest in mini face lifts...

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Mr. David Gateley

Consultant Plastic And Reconstructive Surgeon / GMC: 2939470

Mr. David Gateley is a Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon with a special interest in facial aesthetics, rhinoplasty and complimentary surgical and non-surgical rejuvenation techniques...

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Mr. Georgios Orfaniotis

Specialist Plastic Surgeon

Mr Orfaniotis is a board certified Plastic Surgeon with 13 years experience and over 7500 operations performed. His thirst for knowledge, passion for innovation, and years of practice have resulted in the highest level of expertise in reconstructive and aesthetic surgery...

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See all Plastic Surgeons

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What Does It Involve?

The procedure involves the removal of fat from areas where it is either unnecessary or unwanted via liposuction, and the re-injection of it into the face.

Fat cells are first removed by liposuction from the donor area – usually the stomach, thighs or buttocks. These cells are then cleansed and processed via centrifugation, before being injected into the facial area – a process that's very quickly carried out by your expert surgeon, and takes between 30 and 45 minutes.

It is performed under local anaesthetic and is a day-case procedure, with no need for an overnight stay. Results are long-lasting, natural and immediate.

What areas of the face can be treated with fat transfer?

Fat transfer to the face can successfully treat common signs of facial aging, including fine lines, eye bags, frown lines and sunken cheeks. The procedure will leave a gaunt and tired face looking fresh, plump and rejuvenated. A facial fat graft will restore volume to the cheeks, lips and eyes.

There are several areas of the face which can be treated with fat transfer.

The procedure is a popular choice for restoring sunken cheeks, a common side effect of aging, caused by the resorption of bony and fat deposits. A fat transfer to cheeks will help to restore the prominent cheekbones associated with youth. Facial fat transfer can also be used to fill the hollowness left at the temples and forehead which is also caused by the aging process.

A fat transfer under the eyebrows will lift the brows and the upper eyelids, resulting in a more youthful, wide-eyed look.

In older people, facial fat grafting is an excellent way of restoring tissue loss and correcting the shape of a pointed chin.

Not only can facial fat transfer be combined with other treatments, but it is worth considering having the procedure if you are already having liposuction to sculpt and contour other parts of the body, such as the stomach or thighs.

This means the excess fat which has been extracted can be used rather than thrown away after liposuction.

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To enquire about a consultation with a Fat Transfer to Face specialist, please complete the form:

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If you have any questions or queries please call to speak to one of our advisors or request a call back to speak at a time that suits you.

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Who Is Suitable?

Cadogan Clinic considers individuals fit for the procedure, if all of the following are true of them:

  • You are in good psychological and physical medical health
  • You are at your ideal body weight
  • You have a positive outlook and realistic expectations of what can be achieved via fat transfer
  • You are seeking to improve the contours of your face 
  • You are seeking to rejuvenate the appearance of your overlying facial skin 
  • You are seeking to reduce fine lines and wrinkles 
  • You are looking for longer lasting results that can be achieved by dermal filler 

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The Process

The first step for all of our fat transfer patients is to meet with the surgeon we feel is best placed to perform your procedure for a consultation. At the consultation you will be able to discuss with your surgeon what your hope to achieve from the procedure, as well as discuss in detail what may or may not be possible given your existing anatomy.

Your surgeon will take you through the options available to you, and which is the most preferential for you given your stated ambitions. Having established this, several key measurements will be made and standard clinical photography will be taken.

One of the key considerations at consultation for fat grafting involves making an assessment of the volume of fat required—approximately twice the volume of fat needed for injection needs to be harvested as the volume is reduced by half during preparation.

Donor sites (where the fat is taken from) will also be assessed and agreed on with you. This may involve taking fat from more than one area; typical donor areas for fat grafting are the flanks, abdomen, lateral thighs ('saddle bags') and inner thighs, but fat can be taken from anywhere with excessive deposits.

Finally a comprehensive discussion regarding risks and complications will take place, alongside a discussion regarding what to expect in the post procedure and recovery phase. Your previous medical history will also be recorded (including previous surgery, medications, allergies etc.) and an assessment of your fitness for surgery.

If your surgeon feels you are a good candidate for surgery, you are then invited to consider whether you would like to proceed for surgery or otherwise following a two week 'cooling off' period.

Within this period you are welcome to come in and discuss your potential surgery with your surgeon as many times as you like.

If you choose to proceed with surgery, the next time you come into the Clinic after your final consultation will be the day of your procedure. Before admission the following behavioural changes are recommended / required:

  • In the 6 weeks before your procedure we recommend smoking is discontinued as patients who smoke have a higher risk of healing more slowly and complications (see FAQs)
  • In the week before your procedure you must cease taking Aspirin or any medication that contains Aspirin
  • In the 6 hours prior to surgery you must not consume food or any drink, other than small sips of clear fluid (e.g. still water, black coffee, black tea) which are allowed up to 2 hours before admission

We advise all of our fat grafting patients that smoking is a particular contra-indication to this procedure (even more than with other surgical procedures) as fat viability is materially reduced after transfer in smokers, and the effectiveness of the procedure is significantly reduced.

On the day of your facial fat transfer procedure, you should arrive at the clinic an hour before the start time of the surgery. On your arrival, a nurse will record your blood pressure and other relevant vitals before you meet with your anaesthetist and your surgeon for the final mark-ups.

Fat transfer to the face is a minimally invasive procedure and is carried out under a local anesthetic or sedation. The procedure usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. It will take longer if the fat transfer to face is combined with other treatments.

The first thing the surgeon will do is extract the fat from elsewhere on the body. This could be anywhere, but common areas include the thighs and tummy.

The fat is then processed by filtration and centrifuge spinning, separating the fat from blood and other oily fluids. Once this is complete, the fat is put into small syringes ready to be injected into the area of the face which is being treated, such as the cheeks, chin or brow. Stitches are not usually required.

You should not feel any pain during the procedure, but you may have some for a few days afterwards. You'll be given painkillers if you need them.

Following the procedure, you will recover in our ambulatory recovery rooms for between one and two hours, dependent on the scale of the procedure. Once our specialist nursing team are happy that your initial recovery is complete and you are safe to return home, you will be allowed to leave the Clinic accompanied by a friend or member of your family.

Once home you will have access to our dedicated on-call nursing team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This team of specialists are dedicated to your comfort and pain control, and are there to field any questions you may have in the immediate post operative phase.

We ask that you come in and see our nursing team 1 week after surgery to ensure your incision sites have been properly reviewed. At this juncture we also recommend you meet with one of our on site aestheticians to discuss ongoing treatment to support the healing and scarring process.
We ask that you come in to see your surgeon after 6 - 8 weeks for a final check up.

Why come to The Cadogan Clinic for your Fat Transfer to Face?

The Cadogan Clinic is the leading centre of excellence in the UK for fat transfer and fat grafting techniques.

Each year we host a leading global faculty of the top global practitioners in this cutting edge field at the Royal Society of Medicine in London to discuss and debate the latest innovations in the fat transfer sector.

Our fat grafting conference runs over two days of lectures, talks and roundtables, and represents the largest conference of its kind in the UK with 150 leading specialist delegates from 25 countries including the USA, Belgium, France and Israel.

What are the benefits of day case surgery?

What are the risks?

Facial fat grafting is a very safe, low-risk procedure, as the patient’s own tissue is used, rather than implants or artificial filler. However, there is still the potential for complications.

Common side effects include:

  • Temporary bruising and swelling
  • The fat graft not ‘taking’, therefore fat is lost from the treatment area
  • Temporary numbness
  • Small amount of scarring

As with all surgical procedures, fat transfer to face carries some risk. You may experience the following complications:

  • Infection or bleeding
  • Poor healing and scarring
  • Nausea
  • Bleeding under the skin (haematoma)
  • Death of fat tissue (fat necrosis)
  • Fat entering the bloodstream (embolism)

The most significant risk of facial fat transfer is the fat entering the bloodstream, otherwise known as fat embolisation. The fat interrupts the blood supply, which could lead to blindness, stroke or even death. This is a rare complication. The Cadogan Clinic surgeons will avoid injecting in certain areas and use safer cannulas to minimise this risk.

What Can I Expect From My Surgery?

Our Surgical Patient Advisor, Ellie, answers our patients most frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fat transfer to the face is an advanced surgical treatment which involves harvesting and filtering unwanted fat cells through liposuction techniques, then reinjecting them to either help rejuvenate and restore lost volume in the face.

The same technique can be used to improve the natural contours of the body and do the breast. This is most usually performed under either a local or general anaesthetic depending on the patient and surgeons' preferences and suitability.

Fat transfer procedure times vary according to the amount of fat that needs to be harvested and then injected to deliver the desired results.

In practice, this is typically between 30 minutes and 1 hour for treatments to the face that do not require large volumes of fat to be harvested.

  • First the fat is harvested from elsewhere - often the tummy or thighs. If the aim is only to provide a little fat for the face then this might take as little as 20 minutes (this can take up to an hour for other fat transfer procedures where the donor area is sculpted following harvesting)
  • Then there is the processing of which there are several methods - washing, filtering and spinning. This takes no more than 5 – 10 minutes, although if refining stem cells for later injection, this can take much longer
  • Finally precise fat placement into the face can be done in 10 minutes, although for larger areas in the face this can take longer

There is a technique available at the Cadogan Clinic where a large quantity of fat is taken and then frozen and stored. Small amounts can then be taken from the store over months or even years to layer the fat, building up the contour. Each of these injection sessions can be carried out swiftly in a matter of minutes.

Fat obtained by liposuction can be grafted to the breasts, buttocks or anywhere in the body, but the commonest, and by far the most important area, is the face. But why the face?

Gravity was thought to be the major factor in facial ageing, with all soft facial tissue descending vertically as a result of thinning and sagging of retaining ligaments. In recent years, surgeons have now understood that the majority of the volume loss actually occurs at the bone and deep fat compartment level, which causes the ligaments loosen and the superficial layers to sag since the existing bony structures are no longer there to support them.

Fat is therefore an excellent volumizing resource to restore both structure and volume to the face. The ligaments face and skin in the mid face can be lifted back upwards, to rest on these restored structures.

Whilst fillers deliver a similar action in the early stages of ageing, such solutions are only temporary corrections given the dissolvable nature of dermal filler. By contrast the patients own fat is not only permanent, but it is often enriched with stem cells, meaning it can permanently replace volume and have regenerative effects on the overlying skin.

Some common treatment areas in the face include

  • Fat transfer to the cheek to restore volume lost by the resorption of bony and fat deposits with the passage of time, and restore the prominence of the cheek bone structure
  • Fat transfer under the eyebrows to lift both them and the upper eyelids, thus restoring the brow and opening the eye. This technique is now a standard adjunct to blepharoplasty (upper eyelid reduction)
  • Fat grafting of the ageing hollowness of the temple and adjacent forehead to restore that youthful shape.
  • Fat grafting to the pointed chin of older people to restore tissue loss and correct the shape

Fat grafting (fat transfer) of the face can be carried out as a procedure on its own or combined with other procedures on the face, such as face and neck lifting and blepharoplasty (upper and lower eyelid reduction). A useful thought is to consider fat grafting if you are having liposuction elsewhere since this fat can be usefully employed elsewhere in the body, and not simply thrown away.

The fat is taken from anywhere convenient or somewhere that you would like reduced. Generally, we use the lower abdomen, inner and outer thighs.

We only need small amounts for the face but may have to search harder for the larger amounts for augmenting the breasts or buttocks. Very slim patients may present a problem.

These donor areas will be bruised for three weeks and completely settle over three months.

Large amounts are of fat are not required, but it is nevertheless an opportunity to remove unwanted or stubborn fat from your body if you have some.

The fat is processed and sometimes enhanced with extra stem cells also obtained from fat to ensure a better take of graft, which will be important in smokers and those with poor healing.

To deliver the best results a certain level of fat is required and your specialised surgeon will be able to assess this during your initial consultation and examination.

The volumes required a very minimal however for an effective solution to the face, so it is very rare that we are unable to find sufficient deposits somewhere in the body.

On the rare occasion, very slim patients can present an insurmountable problem, but you will be advised by your surgeon at your consultation.

Obtaining (harvesting) the fat usually from the tummy of thighs is usually required before fat transfer to the face, and will be a required stage of your procedure.

The only instance when this is not the case is for those who have previously had liposuction or fat transfer procedures and who have stored their own fat stored from this previous procedure. In which case it is simply defrosted and injected without loss of potency.

Fat transfer is not a painful procedure. You will be under the influence of anaesthetic or fully sedated during the procedure and will not feel anything.

Afterwards you will be given paracetamol to manage any mild discomfort you may experience.

For patients worried about pain, it is always possible to have the procedure either fully sedated or under general anaesthetic.

After your surgery, you will be asked to come in for a post-operative appointment to come back and see our nursing staff at the Clinic between 1 and 2 weeks after your surgery. At this point your incision sites will be reviewed, and your preliminary healing will be assessed.

After 6 weeks your surgeon will personally review your progress – again at the Clinic - and make sure you are recovering as expected. In addition, they will remove any stitches and advise you on the need for further dressings.

Throughout the recovery period you will have full access to our 24/7 on call nursing service, and full access to the Clinic and our post-operative facilities.

Our aim is to make you feel as comfortable as possible during the entirety of your recovery period.

As a facial fat graft is a minimally invasive procedure, minimal downtime is required. We suggest a few days off work to allow for the swelling to settle. You should be back at work within a week and you will be able to return to exercise in two weeks.

We always advise that you return to low impact activities first, such as walking and cycling, before you are able to reintroduce more strenuous physical activity such as lifting heavy weights and doing intense aerobic activities. A potential risk of facial fat grafting is the fat not ‘taking’, hence we ask you not to do any exercise in the first couple of weeks to allow the fat graft to take up its new blood supply.

You can start driving again a few days post-surgery. Restricted sexual activity can resume after a few days. You can discuss this in more detail with your surgeon.

It is important that you follow the aftercare instructions issued by your surgeon. A failure to follow these could impact upon the results of the facial fat transfer and delay the healing process.

Final results are typically first seen a few weeks after your procedure, with ongoing improvements beyond this point likely as the healing process fully completes over the coming 3 to 6 months, and as your fat continues to re-distribute itself and settle.

Your surgeon will be able to give you specific guidance at your consultation.

Fat transfer to the facial areas is also a long-term solution which will last for many years as your consultant will discuss with you in your consultation.

Between 50–70% of the transferred fat is retained long term, and will last just like normal fat. It will even grow with weight gain. With time however, it will begin to wane alongside your other fat deposits. This should not happen before many years, however.
Some factors will impact the longevity of your results:

  • The skill of your surgeon - hоw thе fаt was harvested аnd purified, and hоw аnd whеrе it was іnjесtеd all impact longevity. The more skilled the surgeon and the better his/her understanding of the technique, the longer lasting the results
  • The technique employed - a process саllеd mісrоfаt grаftіng, although lаbоr іntеnѕіvе, is the bеѕt way tо еnѕurе thаt thе hіghеѕt percentage оf grаftеd fat wіll tаkе.
  • How well your body adapts to the transferred fat - thе іnjесtеd fаt must еѕtаblіѕh a nеw blооd ѕuррlу frоm уоur bоdу and receives thе nourishment іt nееdѕ for ѕurvіvаl. Whеn this hарреnѕ, rеѕultѕ can аnd оftеn are реrmаnеnt; hоwеvеr, thеrе mау bе a percentage оf fаt that does nоt tаkе, whісh іѕ whу tоuсhuр рrосеdurеѕ are ѕоmеtіmеѕ nесеѕѕаrу. Lifestyle factors such as smoking can impact this

Generally, fat survives best when put into areas with its own abundant blood supply. The face, which is so well vascularised, picks up a new supply quickly and the majority of the fat survives. Results are often at their best in the facial region, as a result.

As your anaesthetic or sedation wears off, you will wake up in our recovery facilities at the Cadogan Clinic. Any drowsiness will wear off within a few hours. After you have had something to eat and drink, our nursing staff will allow you to leave with a friend or family member. We advise that someone should stay with you for 24 hours after the surgery.

It is common to feel mild pain and discomfort in the immediate aftermath of surgery, but this will wear off in due course. You will have access to our 24/7 on call nursing service for any questions or queries you may have during this period.

One or two weeks after your surgery, you will be asked to return to the clinic for a post-operative appointment with our nursing staff, who will review your incision sites and assess your healing.

After six weeks your surgeon will personally review your progress and make sure you are recovering as expected. In addition, they will remove any stitches and advise you on the need for further dressings.

There may be a little swelling and bruising after surgery, but you should be back to your daily routine within a few days.

Certain lifestyle factors can increase the risk of complications during and after your surgery. These include smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight and taking drugs (for medical or recreational use.)

The most common impact of smoking before your surgery is that it increases your chances of developing an infection and inhibits your body's natural healing processes. We insist that all patients stop smoking and using nicotine products at least six weeks before surgery. Reducing alcohol intake is also strongly advised. This is particularly important for fat grafting surgery in which the fat's viability post-procedure is materially reduced in a smoker population.

Your doctor will discuss your current BMI and drug use at your consultation and advise you further on this.

Not only is the fat relatively easy to harvest via liposuction, but the transferred fat is biocompatible, non-allergenic, non-toxic and relatively easy to obtain in meaningful volumes.

More recently surgeons have used the therapeutic and rejuvenating benefits of fat grafting in the healing of wounds and scars, as well as fat's ability to repair damage to breast tissue following radiation treatment.

The rejuvenative effects are due to the high concentration of mesenchymal cells present in the fat tissue.

This natural 'autologous' resource is therefore readily accepted in the treatment area, is easily topped up and can provide additional rejuvenating benefits.

Whilst there are always risk that present during surgical treatment, fat transfer procedures are generally a very common and safe group of procedure.

Please see our risks and complications section for more information about risks and side effects.

Your surgeon will be delighted to talk you through these comprehensively at your consultation.

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