Sucking fat from your hips and thighs and injecting it into your boobs or butt may seem like a dream come true—and for some, it is.
Sucking fat from your hips and thighs and injecting it into your boobs or butt may seem like a dream come true—and for some, it is. The process, called fat transfer or fat grafting, involves removing fat from one part of the body via a gentle liposuction, and then injecting it elsewhere.
It works well all over the body, but is most commonly used on the face to enhance cheeks, fill hollow lower eyelids, and build up areas that have lost volume due to aging, explains New Jersey plastic surgeon Parham Ganchi, M.D.
It’s also commonly used to plump up butts and to increase breast size and improve breast shape.
Because you’re injecting your body with something produced by your body, some people consider it “natural” plastic surgery, and it’s increasing in popularity.
Breast augmentation using fat transfer increased 72 percent in 2016 while buttock augmentation using fat transfer increased by 26 percent, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Fat transfer looks and feels more natural than breast and butt implants, but the reality is there are clear advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, says Chicago plastic surgeon, Julius Few, M.D. Here are five key things you need to know before taking the plunge yourself:
Traditional plastic surgery with implants requires an incision, dissecting a “pocket,” and placing the implant into that pocket before stitching to finish. In fat transfer, there is only a small incision and almost no cutting, says Ganchi.
Injecting into smaller areas of the face, like the cheeks, lower eyelid hollows, and lips, will cost less since you’ll only need a partial liposuction.
This kind of procedure can cost from $2,000 to $8,000, depending on what you're having done, according to estimates from online cosmetic surgery community RealSelf.com. By comparison, an eyelid lift comes at an average national price of $4,525, per RealSelf.com.
Larger areas of the body like the breasts and butt end up being two separate procedures—a full liposuction and a full fat injection—and as such, will typically end up costing more.
According to RealSelf.com, the national average cost of a breast fat transfer is $6,525, while the national average cost of a buttock fat transfer is $8,625.
The average cost of a traditional implant breast augmentation is $6,300, according to RealSelf.com.
The ideal candidate is in search of relatively small enhancement to her breasts, has natural lift with good bust contour, and has excess body fat to remove, says Few.
In reality, most women are seeking much more of a size increase and change in shape and lift than fat transfer can currently offer.
And if you have a history of breast cancer in your family, it’s not recommended you get fat transfer, as the injected cells can get in the way of certain breast cancer screenings, says Few.
Anyone who wants more than a very modest size change will require multiple injection sessions to work up the results – and even then, there is only so much healthy tissue that can be harvested and injected, says Ganchi. (Bony areas typically won’t work as donor sites.)
The patient must also have a healthy blood supply to support the healing of living tissue afterwards.
A portion of fat will naturally absorb and effectively “disappear” as you heal. In order to prevent fat from reabsorbing, there shouldn’t be too much movement of the injected area right after surgery. Areas that shift a lot, like the lips, typically don’t hold on to fat very well.
Pressure is also bad—fat that is injected into the butt can easily dissipate if patients sit on their bottoms a lot during the first couple weeks of recovery, says Ganchi. Ganchi tell his patients they either have to lay on their stomach or stand for the first four weeks after surgery (yes, really!).
And since fat can absorb unevenly, some patients need more than one injection session to even things out—adding up to even more money spent.
So-called “lunchtime” filler procedures like Juvederm that plump up the lips and cheeks require no downtime or special care afterwards.
Fat transfer, on the other hand, is a cosmetic surgery procedure that comes with recovery time you’ll need to plan for, and care instructions that are crucial to achieving the desired results.