Are Fillers or Fat Right for Me? A Cosmetic Surgeon Answers Your Fat Injections vs. Fillers Questions

Woman Compares Fat Injection vs Dermal Fillers with Cosmetic Surgeon Dr. Pancholi in Las Vegas

So you want a fuller face—or the look of high cheekbones you weren’t born with. Maybe it’s also a matter of getting your lips just right, or filling out the tear troughs to keep your look youthful. Whatever the case may be, injecting fillers or fat into these areas is likely on your mind. Today, I’ll discuss how they differ and which treatment is ideal in various situations.

How do fillers and fat transfer compare?

The difference between dermal fillers and fat transfers is bigger than most patients realize — you’ll have an entirely different experience with one or the other.

If you’re someone who’s just looking for one or two small tweaks to your appearance, we can inject a dermal filler with no downtime, sending you off with a glowing, refreshed face. But the more contouring that you want, the more likely it is that you would be pleased with the results of a facial fat transfer, in which we use liposuction to remove fat from one area of the body (usually hips, thighs, or stomach), prepare the fat, and then re-inject it into areas like the tear troughs and along the cheekbones to contour the face.

Let’s consider some of the specific differences so you can get a better sense of which option may be best for your facial contouring needs.

Do fat injections or fillers last longer?

Fat injections have the potential to last longer; it is thought that once fat develops its own blood supply, it will last forever in the new location. This can be especially true if you opt to undergo an additional fat transfer procedure to optimize your results (it’s impossible for any surgeon to predict with 100% accuracy how much of the fat will “take”).

The difference between dermal fillers and fat transfers is bigger than most patients realize — you’ll have an entirely different experience with one or the other.

At about 4-6 weeks post-fat transfer, we’ll be able to see how the results are shaping up. If needed, we can then perform a secondary fat transfer to achieve the volume you want; these “touch up” procedures tend to have very high rates of success. In summary, it might take a few months to see the results you want from fat transfer, but you’ll be rewarded with long-lasting results.

Now let’s discuss injectable fillers and how long they can last. They carry widely different estimates for longevity, ranging from 6 months to a number of years, depend on the brand and formulation:

When it comes to seeing your results, they are nearly immediate. In fact, I monitor the “final results” of dermal fillers as I perform the injection, and the results are highly predictable. Hyaluronic acid-based fillers like Juvéderm® can also be fairly easily reversed; we are able to “undo” results by injecting an enzyme that breaks down the filler.

Because facial fat grafting takes more time and is more permanent, it is appropriate for some patients to first try out dermal fillers. This can allow you to see if you like the look of added volume in specific areas; you can later choose to make a more permanent change via fat grafting.

What is the cost difference between fat injections and fillers?

Fat transfer can cost $4,290 or more, depending on the injection areas and amount of liposuction necessary to achieve your desired result. By contrast, the cost of dermal filler treatment begins around $750—but considering that you will need to refresh your dermal fillers at regular intervals to maintain your results, the costs may equal out over time. We offer financing options to help patients manage the cost of their procedures.

What are the limitations of fat injections?

The risk, which I mentioned above, that only a portion of the fat will “take” is exacerbated in areas that move around a lot, like the lips. You must also be a good candidate for liposuction, which is a surgical procedure. Read more and see videos of the procedure on our fat transfer page and our liposuction page.

When is injectable filler not a good choice?

For patients who have lost much of their tissue volume because of age, fat transfer is a more efficient way to make a dramatic change. While injectable dermal fillers like Juvéderm® and Restylane® are precision instruments for facial sculpting, the cost of an extensive treatment with these could exceed that of the fat transfer procedure.

Do fat injections or fillers have more side effects?

Common side effects for both fat transfer and dermal fillers at the facial injection site include:

  • Swelling, bruising, and/or redness
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Itching and/or rash

When it comes to fat transfer, many patients are pleased to have the “side effect” of reduced fat in their thighs, hips, or belly area. However, the liposuction required for fat transfer often results in bruising, numbness, or pain to the area. You also need to plan time to recover: it may not be long if little fat needs to be harvested, but if you also want to achieve noticeable liposuction results, you may need to take five or more days off work.

Find an Experienced Injector with a Mastery of Facial Anatomy

As you investigate the different possibilities afforded by the two procedures, remember that the most important choice you will make is that of your cosmetic provider. Do your research, then set up a consultation with a highly credentialed cosmetic surgeon with experience in injectables and liposuction.I will be happy to talk with you in a consultation about the different experiences and results you could have with fillers or fat injections. While other surgical offices may delegate injections to a nurse, I perform all of these procedures myself, so you can rest assured you’re in good hands. All new consultations and non-urgent follow-up appointments are currently being conducted virtually. Call our office during business hours at (702) 363-0240 or fill out our online contact form to begin the process.

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