Many patients considering dermal filler injections have asked us this question. We understand how tempting it can be to think of dermal filler and fat injections as accomplishing the same goals, but they are much different treatments and the comparison may not be “apples to apples”.

Remember that before fat can be injected, it has to be taken or “harvested” from somewhere else on your body. This sounds easy, but it’s actually an invasive procedure. The instruments that are used to retrieve the fat are like large straws, known as cannulas. You have to have anesthesia in the area to prevent pain during the harvesting process and despite that, it can still be quite painful.

los angeles cheek augmentation with perlane before and after pictureslos angeles cheek augmentation with perlane before and after pictures

While many people have extra fat that they wouldn’t mind losing, only fat from certain areas of the body can be used for facial fat transfer.  It’s not quite as easy as taking it from a place you don’t want it and moving it to one that you do! Just like other body tissue that we use as grafts, the fat must be carefully harvested, prepared and then reimplanted with meticulous technique if it’s going to take and stay in its new home. It’s not a given that fat transfer always last the way we expect and look the way we want.

Another common question is, “Why would you inject something temporary when you could just do fat which is permanent?” Not exactly the case either. Most fat injections have a maximum lifespan of 7 to 10 years. They are not a permanent fix to your volume problems. We admit this is a lot longer than the average lifespan of most hyaluronic acid dermal fillers, but fat injections are not permanent.  Other patients that have had fat injections have told us that they have lost benefit in 1-2 years, the approximate duration of some fillers.

There are several drawbacks to fat injections when you compare them to dermal fillers:

  • Sometimes, fat injections can look lumpy despite perfect injection technique. Dermal fillers tend to be much more forgiving and may give you a smoother result.
  • Fat injections tend to leave you more swollen for a longer amount of time. There is also the healing of the site where the fat is taken—you don’t have to worry about this when you choose a pre-filled syringe of dermal filler. If you can’t afford downtime, then fat injections may not be a good choice for you.
  • Fat injections are non-reversible. Once again, there is much less room for injector error when you’re injecting fat. And if for some reason, you don’t love your results, there isn’t a way to reverse your results! Dermal fillers (most of them) are easily reversible if there’s a problem, an unwanted side effect or you just don’t like your results.
  • Dermal filler injections can be molded or shaped by your injector to give you perfect, smooth results. Fat can’t do this. The gels that make up dermal fillers have a plasticity characteristic. This means that once they are placed in the tissue, you can literally shape the product to get it to do exactly what you want it to. Depending on what you need, dermal fillers may simply be a better choice for you.
  • Lastly, dermal fillers tend to be great options if you need both volume and support. Again, this goes back to the physical properties of these gels, but without getting too deep into the science behind them, many will give structural support which gives them the power to lift and shape as well as fill. Fat is better at just filling.

Depending on what your specific needs are, dermal fillers may be a better choice and help you to look better than fat injections.  We aren’t saying that fat injections are never appropriate. In fact, for someone who just needs a lot of volume replacement and can afford the downtime, they are a great alternative to dermal fillers, which would just simply be too expensive. However, cases like this are usually few and far between. A majority of patients like you are better candidates for dermal fillers. They are a great, minimally invasive option for both support and volume. They don’t have the maximum longevity of fat injections, but most research shows that products such as Restylane and Juvederm can last up to 24 months. We think this makes them an excellent value.

Whatever option you’re considering, make sure that you have a full discussion of the potential risks and benefits of the procedure and that your fully understand what results you can expect.


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