Fat grafting of the cheeks is a procedure done to add fullness that has been lost from the face due to age. As we age, the skin naturally thins on the face. By using one’s own fat, a cosmetic surgeon can restore natural-looking volume to the skin of the cheeks.
During the twenties and thirties, the face has a rounder shape due to volume in the cheeks and a taut jaw line. As people age, the cheeks lose volume in their cheeks and around their eyes and may gain volume around the neck and jaw. Fat grafting of the cheeks is used to restore the youthful shape of the face.
Fat grafting of the cheeks is done by taking fat from a more fatty area of the body and injecting it into the face. When a person’s own fat is used, it is called autologous fat transfer. Autologous fat transfer is safe because there is no risk of an allergic reaction, as there is with fillers, and the body accepts its own fat. The results often appear quite natural. Fat grafting of the cheeks is also less expensive than using synthetic fillers.
The process of fat grafting starts with harvesting fat from another area of the body, usually the abdomen, buttocks, or hips. This fat is then purified to remove fluids and tissue. The fat is then inserted into the cheeks with numerous microinjections. Very small amounts of fat are injected throughout the cheeks in order to create even results, but also because the body assimilates the small amounts more easily.
Fat grafting does not cause scarring. There may be some tenderness and redness at the site of injection, but this will resolve in a few hours. The area from which fat was taken may have a small scar.
The long term results of fat grafting of the cheeks vary by patient. Some of the fat is expected to be absorbed by the body, but a portion of it can remain for three years or more.
Fat grafting of the cheeks can also improve the tone and texture of the skin through what is thought to be a stem cell response. This response is not fully understood but it appears to be a long term effect of fat transfer.
Fat grafting is appealing to many people because it is minimally invasive and utilizes the patient’s own fat. Even the extraction of the fat from the harvest site leaves minimal scarring.