THE BLOG

The Fat Revolution in Cosmetic Procedures

11/03/2014 12:29 GMT | Updated 29/04/2014 10:59 BST

Over the past few years there has been an explosion in the popularity of fat transfer procedures. Although fat transfer procedures (also known as fat grafting and fat injections) are not new, they have steadily been gaining popularity as an alternative to synthetic fillers.

During the procedure, fat is taken from one part of the body, usually the thighs, bottom or tummy, before being purified and then transferred to another area of the body. Often the procedure is used to add volume to the breasts or to add volume to tissue on the face or the hands and, unlike temporary fillers, which last around a year, fat transfer is a long-term solution.

A key reason why fat transfer is becoming increasingly popular is that the procedure matches the tissue 'like for like' which can offer a more natural appearance and reduces the chance of allergic reactions, as can sometimes happen with synthetic fillers. This procedure is also none invasive when compared to breast or facial implants.

Human fat has the highest concentration of stem cells in the body and these cells have a natural ability to repair damaged tissues and to generate new cells.

The first part of the procedure involves harvesting fat from wherever it is available, usually from the tummy, buttocks or thighs. The fat is then purified into a liquid which can be injected into the desired area. As the fat is a living tissue, it can survive once it is transferred to the new location, however, it's important to note that usually around 40-50% of the fat that is injected survives and results vary for individuals. The fat that does survive is then permanent.

Given the nature of this procedure, the ideal candidate would be a woman with extra fat on her bottom, thighs or tummy as fat is needed to be able to do the operation.

There are a number of areas which can be enhanced by fat transfer.

Breast augmentation

In breast augmentation half a litre of fat is taken from an area such as the tummy or thigh and inserted into the breasts. The fat is injected via fine line of small puncture marks around the breast to ensure the fat is distributed evenly. Basically what happens is little streaks of fat are injected under the skin. As the fat is a natural tissue, once it's inserted, blood vessels in the breasts enter the injected fat to keep it alive. Around 50% of fat inserted survives, which is roughly a cup size so the breast can be fuller and the procedure is much less invasive than implants. Compared to implant surgery, this procedure is around 20% more expensive.

Breast implant revision

Sometimes breast implants can be felt or seen through the skin, this effect is called rippling and can occur when there's not enough 'padding' in the breast to cover the implant properly. A common reason for this occurring is that the size of the implant was too large for the breasts. Fat transfer can be used to 'smooth out' the breasts and add much needed padding to the area.

Facial fat injections

A fuller face is seen as more youthful and as we age, we tend to lose fullness from the cheeks, temples, lips and under the eyes. The same technique is used as in a breast augmentation but the fat is injected into the face in key areas which are lacking volume. Although the fat can add volume to the face, it doesn't necessarily improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Micro fat injection emulsion

Fine lines and wrinkles on the face are traditionally treated with fillers such as Botox. Fat transfer procedures for fine lines and wrinkles involves a micro fat emulsion being injected into fine wrinkles. This technique is new and the fat cells are actually destroyed in the process but the stem cells survive to help 'repair' the wrinkled area.

Although a relatively new procedure, fat transfer is considered a safe one. With any type of procedure there is always an associated risk, however, as this type of procedure is relatively new, people are naturally questioning the risks involved. In the past there has been some questions marks about the safety of putting stem cells into breasts in particular and possible cancer link for this, but there's no evidence of injecting stem cells causing breast cancer.