Facial Fat Transfer Procedure: Aftercare and Recovery
Updated: May 1, 2023
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2016, fat transfer to the face procedures rose 17% from the previous year. In fact, in 2015, fat transfers to the face were the 9th most popular cosmetic surgery performed.
Most clients who are looking to get fat transfer surgery are in their late 20s to 60s. Much of its popularity stems from the fact that it gives you much of the benefits of a facelift without the associated risks of invasive surgery and downtime.
Patients also love the fact that a fat transfer, when done proplery, doesn’t leave you looking as if you’ve had any work done. And there’s none of that pulled facelift look some people end up with.
If you’re contemplating having a facial fat transfer procedure, keep reading. We’re sharing with you what to expect as you recover.
What a Fat Transfer Is
During facial fat transfer surgery, Dr. Neavin will remove fat from one part of the patient’s body to the face. This is also known as:
- Autologous fat grafting/transfer
- Facial fat grafting
- Facial fat rejuvenation
- Fat injection
The end result is a more youthful appearance. A fat transfer can make one look younger or more attractiv, and it can also help correct problems such as scars.
Common Areas for a Fat Graft
The most common areas patients get a fat graft in the face are:
- Under eye areas
- Folds from the corners of the mouth
If the patient is also having a face or eye lift, the procedures are performed at the same time. Fat transfer combined with facelift surgery are synergistic. The addition of volume to the proper areas while removing skin laxity and suspending saggy tissues is a powerful combination.
During a Facial Fat Rejuvenation
The best plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills will perform a micro-lipoinjection by following three steps. First, the surgeon will remove the fat from another site on the patient’s body using a small cannula.
Next, the fat is either strained or centrifuged to ensure only whole, undamaged fat cells are used. The last step is to take those undamaged fat cells and inject them into the targeted areas.
Advantages of Using Your Own Fat
Most surgeons prefer to take the fat from the patient’s legs, waist, or abdomen. The advantages of using fat from these areas are:
- Longer lasting results
- Well hidden scar, which is generally 4 mm in length.
Duration and Anesthesia
Most procedures take approximately one or two hours. It’s an outpatient procedure so the patient can go home the same day as the procedure.
Some plastic surgeons use local anesthesia while others use deep sedation for the procedure. Dr. Neavin prefers general anesthesia for cases that require a significant amount of voume or when the cases are combined with extensive liposuction or other facial proce dures.
After Fat Transfer Surgery
While fat transfer surgery is outpatient surgery, patients should understand there is real recovery time they must go through before they see the final results.
All types of surgery have their own set of risks. Make sure you and your surgeon thoroughly discuss the procedure prior to having it done. It is important to recognize that swelling can persist for well over a week from fat transfer surgery.
You May Have to Wear an Abdominal Binder
Some surgeons place an abdominal binder or other surgical garments which acts as a compression device if etextensive liposuction was performed in conjunction with the fat transfer procedure. This compression dressing helps prevent blood collections under the skin.
If your surgeon does place one on your abdomen, you’ll need to use this for four weeks following surgery. You can take it off to wash it in the laundry and to shower.
Who Should Avoid Fat Transfer Surgery
Not everyone is a good candidate for fat transfer surgery. The following conditions put patients at a much higher risk for serious problems.
- Immunusuppressed state
- On or have been on Accutane within the last three months
- Significant cardiac condition
Safety is always first. Always inform your surgeon of any health conditions you have prior to surgery.
Dos and Don’ts Before and After Surgery
If you’re prescribed an antibiotic ointment prior to surgery, apply a small amount to the inside of your nose. You’ll need to do this three times daily for three days before surgery.
Thoroughly wash your hair using an antibacterial shampoo or soap the night before your surgery. You can find these products in drug stores or online.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing to your surgical procedure. Wear a top that buttons or zips rather than one that you need to pull over your head.
Ask Someone to Help You
Do have someone drive you to and from your surgery. You will not be in any condition to drive yourself.
Do have someone stay with you the first night after surgery.
What to Avoid
Do not smoke for at least two weeks prior to and three weeks post surgery. Both smoking and chewing tobacco can interfere with your blood circulation. You could compromise your surgical outcome significantly if you do smoke or chew.
Unless directed by your surgeon, avoid taking any aspirin or anti-inflammatory compounds for the first two weeks after surgery.
Let Your Body Rest
For the first three weeks after surgery, avoid any strenuous exertion or vigorous exercise. Your body needs to rest to fully recuperate.
Do not rub, massage or place tension on your incisions for a minimum of four weeks post-surgery.
The First Week After Surgery
Most patients prefer to take a week off from work and social engagements after fat transfer surgery. Those who can afford to take more time off often take two weeks to fully recuperate.
That’s because of the swelling and bruising that’s caused by the surgery.
Expect Swelling and Bruising
You’ll notice swelling and (sometimes)bruising in both the area where the fat was taken and the area where the fat was placed.
Significant swelling and bruising should begin to subside within 72 hours. But persistent swelling may last up to 2 weeks.
Call Your Doctor if You Experience These Symptoms
While most people experience few issues other than bruising and swelling, contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- A progressive increase in pain not relieved by taking prescribed medication
- Still in significant pain after 48 hours have passed
- Develop a temperature over 100 degrees F
- Notice unusual bleeding or a purulent discharge coming from the incisions
Most surgeons take fat from the abdominal area, if you are experiencing progressive pain, call your doctor.
How to Minimize Pain and Swelling
To help minimize the pain your doctor will prescribe pain medication to be used as needed. Antibiotics are also prescribed and should be taken as directed until completion.
Patients are advised to sleep with their head elevated for at least four weeks after surgery to minimize swelling. You can massage the affected areas to help reduce swelling.
Ice compresses should be avoided. Ice can cause the small blood vessels in the face to temporarily shrink. Because fat survives off circulation, it is a good idea to use warm compresses instead.
Expect the Swelling and Bruising to Last a Few Weeks
While the swelling and bruising will begin to subside, expect to experience both for the first two to three weeks after surgery.
Both side effects will begin to subside slowly and your natural, long-term appearance will begin to show through.
By day four you can remove your dressing and begin cleaning the incision on your belly button, if that was the entrance site for fat harvesting. Use a Q-tip that’s been moistened but not soaked with hydrogen peroxide.
Carefully and lightly roll the moistened Q-tip over each incision. Then apply a small amount of antibiotic ointment.
Repeat this procedure two or three times daily.
Remove the Compression and Begin Showering
If your doctor placed an abdominal binder on you, you can now remove the compressive dressing and begin showering. If you were not given a dressing, ask your doctor when it’s safe to take a shower.
The Second Week
After the first week, you can add a small amount of Vaseline on the incision after you’ve cleaned it using hydrogen peroxide. Use the Vaseline in lieu of the antibiotic ointment unless otherwise directed by your doctor to avoid developing a light local skin reaction.
You’ll need to keep cleaning the incisions for the three weeks after the surgery.
It’s now time to contact your doctor’s office to schedule a follow-up appointment to see how you’re progressing.
It’s not uncommon to worry about how well the procedure went. Especially when you’re only a few weeks post-surgery.
Here are a few things you may experience that’s perfectly normal:
- The face looks too full
- Cheeks feel firm and hard
- Chin feels lumpy inside mouth
- The face looks uneven or asymmetrical
- Lips look too thin
- Lines around the mouth look deeper
- Hard to smile or abnormal smile
- Eyebrows looking unnatural
Also, it’s not uncommon for the swelling to change from better to worse on a day-to-day basis. Or even be asymmetrical. This is normal.
However, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor at any time if you have questions or concerns.
Six Months Post Fat Transfer Surgery
Six months after your fat transfer surgery your fat should have reached its final volume. You should be looking and feeling your best by now.
Take a look at these before and after photos so you’ll know what results to expect.
Schedule Your Consultation
If you feel you’re a good candidate for a fat transfer, we can help. Dr. Neavin is conveniently located in Beverly Hills.
We’re here to answer any additional questions you may have about the surgery. Click here to schedule your consultation.
Dr. Tim Neavin is a board-certified plastic surgeon located in Beverly Hills, California.