We all know that, as we grow older, the tissues of the face can gradually lose volume and start to sag. While youthful faces are full and often even plump in appearance, older faces slowly lose that volume and fullness, until the skin is left hanging in loose folds and the features become gaunt and hollow-looking. While there are many cosmetic facial plastic surgery procedures that can help combat the sagging and folding that result from the loss of facial volume, two techniques have proven over the years to be particularly effective: injectable facial fillers and fat grafting techniques. While both can achieve similar aesthetic results, they are each uniquely suited to address distinctly different conditions.
One way to treat the lines and folds that arise when facial tissue starts to lose moisture and volume is with the use of injectable facial fillers. When a tiny amount of filler is injected into the tissue just below the skin’s surface, it acts as a kind of inflatable cushion, supporting facial structures and tissues that may have lost volume or elasticity due to the normal aging process. The vast majority (close to 80%) of the facial fillers used in the United States rely on hyaluronic acid, a substance that occurs naturally in youthful skin. Hyaluronic acid attracts and binds to water, “plumping up” the skin while filling and smoothing out any surface wrinkles. By restoring hyaluronic acid, dermal fillers like Juvéderm® not only bring water to the surface of skin to keep it looking fresh and supple, but also stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, two proteins that contribute to the skin’s fullness and elasticity. A treatment session with injectable facial fillers generally takes only about 15 minutes and the results generally last around 6 months. Some more advanced products may even be able to achieve effects that last as long as two years before additional maintenance treatments are necessary.
Fat transfer techniques work similarly to facial fillers, but instead of using hyaluronic acid they use fat taken from elsewhere in the patient’s own body. After being removed through liposuction, the fat is filtered and purified so that it can be placed into areas of the face where volume has decreased. Each patient’s face ages differently, and while some may need only a small amount of volume that facial fillers can easily and affordably provide, others may require a moderate to significant increase in the volume of several areas or throughout the face. In these cases, the use of fat transfer can prove to be more cost effective, and injectable facial fillers can then be used to provide additional enhancement to smaller, more localized areas, like the lips. Moreover, fat taken from the patient’s own body naturally contains a number of stem cells which not only improve the condition and appearance of the skin, but also contribute to the production of new fat cells in the affected area. However, fat transfer can be a more technically difficult and invasive procedure, requiring significantly more time and surgical skill, so it should only be done by an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon. Unlike facial fillers, fat transfers can last anywhere from seven to ten years before additional maintenance procedures are required.
Facial aging can vary dramatically from person to person, so it is important to consult with an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon in order to determine what specific procedures may be necessary in order to help you achieve optimal facial rejuvenation results. If you have any additional questions about the various facial plastic surgery procedures I perform or are interested in discussing what approach would be best suited to your specific facial rejuvenation needs, I would welcome you to contact my office and schedule a consultation. Don’t forget to connect with me, Dr. Fernando Burstein, on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest facial plastic surgery news.