Fat Grafting Overview

As the underlying collagen and elastin fibers break down and wear out, our faces start sagging and looking older. Fat grafting (also called fat transfer or multi-level fat grafting – FAMI) is a procedure that plumps up facial features with the patient’s own fat.

FAMI is a safe, natural, non-allergenic procedure that is used to add volume to your face. First, one of our skincare experts in San Diego office will extract fat from a donor site somewhere in your lower body via liposuction and then use it to fill and contour your face. The results of fat transfers last longer than fillers, generally up to 3 years.

FAMI is used to treat the following facial areas:

  • Sunken area beneath the eyes
  • Cheeks
  • Chin
  • Jawline
  • Nasolabial folds (laugh lines)
  • Forehead creases
  • Lips
  • Temples
  • Asymmetrical face

What to Expect

doctor during a consultation about fat gratfing

Fat grafting procedures are performed in our San Diego dermatology office on an outpatient basis under local anesthetic. Using a small needle attached to a syringe (liposuction cannula), fat is removed from a donor site where you have some excess.

Once the fat has been removed, it is then processed and prepared to be injected into the face. Using a needle, the fat is placed just under your skin beneath the wrinkle in the area you want to be treated. The result is rejuvenated and re-volumized skin! ncbi.nlm.nih.gov explains more about what this procedure can do.

Read our pre/post-treatment guidelines for fat grafting.

Treatment Guidelines for Fat Grafting

Going Home:
  • Rest is recommended immediately after surgery, but you can walk around the house as tolerated.
  • The day after surgery, you should feel well enough to drive your car and engage in light physical activities.
  • Have some absorbent pads available (light Maxi pads work well) to use as post-op dressings. It is also helpful to sleep on an absorbent pad the first two nights so that oozing does not stain your bed linen.
  • You should expect a small amount of blood-tinged anesthetic solution to drain from the small incisions during the first 24 to 48 hours. It may be necessary to change the absorbent pads that are under the compression garment.
  • DO NOT cover the incisions with Band-Aids or stop the drainage in any way. No hot/cold compresses on the incision sites.
  • You must wear your compression garment 24 hours a day for the first 3-7 days. After that, you may switch to a lighter garment such as Spanx and wear daily for a month, or longer if you choose.
  • Your post-op appointment will be scheduled the day after surgery.
  • You may resume light exercise 3 to 4 days after surgery. You should wait for 2-3 weeks after surgery to resume more vigorous physical activities (golf, jogging, tennis). It is suggested that you begin with 25% of your normal work-out routine and increase your activity daily as tolerated.
Discomfort and bruising: 
  • The soreness is the worst about 24 hours after surgery and then improves daily.
  • For relief of soreness and inflammation, take Tylenol 500 mg, 1-2 pills every 4 hours while awake for the first 48 hours AFTER surgery.
  • DO NOT TAKE ASPIRIN or IBUPROFEN or any other medications that contain aspirin or ibuprofen for 3-5 days after surgery as this may promote bleeding.
  • Do not apply ice packs. Bruising is normal and can last 1-2 weeks.
  • Take the full 10-day dose of oral antibiotics as directed.
  • Your doctor or Pre-Operative Nurse will discuss the use of Arnica Montana to reduce bruising.
  • When you are given permission to shower, wash the incisions with soap and water, pat them dry and apply Polysporin antibiotic ointment daily.
  • DO NOT submerge in water until the incisions have healed completely (about 1 week).
  • Caution-when garments are removed during the first few days after surgery, patients often feel dizzy.  Avoid this by removing the garments while lying down, then sit on the edge of the bed and stand up slowly.  Rest after showering to dress.
  • Start with a soft diet and progress to your normal diet. Light foods are recommended for the first meal after surgery. You may resume your usual diet about 4 hours after surgery.
  • Drink adequate amounts of water, and fruit juices to prevent dehydration. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages for 48 hours.

**If you develop a fever, rash, blisters, increased pain, severe itching or change in color of the weeping fluid, call our office immediately as these symptoms may be a sign of infection. **


Fat Grafting for Volume Loss (3:33)


Q: Who is a good candidate?


This procedure is considered a good treatment option for patients who wish to reverse the visible signs of aging on their face. During a consultation, our doctors will assess your unique situation and help you decide which procedure is best for your personal needs.

Q: When will I see results?


Results are effective immediately, with full results becoming visible within a couple of months of the procedure. The full results are not visible for a month or so because within the first few weeks following the treatment, your face will be swollen from the surgery, appearing more voluminous.

Q: How long do the results last?


Results vary slightly from patient to patient. However, on average, they can last up to 3 years.

Q: What are the benefits as compared to filler injections?


One of the greatest benefits of FAMI is that there is no chance of an allergic reaction because you are using your own body’s natural substances to fill the face. Additionally, the results of fat grafting last longer than the results of fillers, which can make it a more cost effective procedure.

Q: How much downtime is required?


There is minimal downtime, because it is a minimally invasive procedure. Patients are able to get up and move around immediately after the injections.

Q: Are the injections painful?


There is little to no discomfort during the procedure because you will be under a local anesthetic. However, you may experience some tenderness around the donor and recipient sites for a few days after the procedure.

Q: What are the side effects?


Side effects can include swelling and bruising around the treatment site. However, these should go away within a few days.

Q: How much does a treatment cost?


The average cost varies among patients, depending on how much fat needs to be removed and replaced. To find out how much your particular procedure will cost schedule a consultation with one of our expert dermatologists.

Q: Should I get Sculptra or fat grafting?


Sculptra, Voluma, Vollure, or fat grafting could all fill in the hollow areas of your face quite beautifully. Sculptra lasts up to two years; it is by no means permanent. It works by stimulating your own skin to produce more collagen, so it’s actually quite good for your skin. Usually 2 or 3 sessions are needed for full correction and yearly maintenance treatments can maintain the fuller look. I like the slow gradual correction of Sculptra, so you can stop treatment when the fullness you like is achieved. Vollure has a lovely, soft texture, but it doesn’t last as long. The effects show immediately so you enjoy results right away. This is the easiest option, but shorter lasting than the others. Fat grafts usually last about three years, but this depends on the skill of your dermatologist, the preparation of the fat and your body’s metabolism. If you are thin, having enough extra fat to transfer is sometimes hard to find. Fat transfer is often the best solution if lots of volume is required because it is actually economical. Please find a board-certified dermatologist who can examine you and spend some time with you going over your options so you make a choice that feels right for you. What I may suggest is starting with something shorter lasting and easy, such as Vollure. You can make sure you like the look before investing in longer duration but more expensive options.

Q: Which is better? Fat grafting or Voluma?


Fat grafting and Voluma are wonderful for restoring volume to the face. However, fat tends to dissipate quickly. Sculptra is another option, especially if you want to build up cheekbones. Sculptra can last for up to two years. Be sure to consult a board-certified dermatologist who is an expert at creating beautiful curves and volume with dermal fillers.

Q: Is thin skin (almost no fat) a good structure for injecting fat?


One of the benefits of a fat graft is that the transplanted fat actually incorporates itself into your skin and resvascularizes there, which will strengthen and plump your skin. So, actually, it’s quite good for thin skin to have a fat graft! One caveat is that some of the fat will die. In fact, I actually think most people get a better result when volumizing their skin using a dermal filler such as Voluma, or a collagen-stimulating dermal filler such as Sculptra. The only way to be sure of which is best for you is to consult a board-certified dermatologist.

Other Options

Sculptra Aesthetic in San Diego

If you’re looking to restore lost collagen in the face, fat grafting is just one of the many options offered at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology. Other options for the restoration of facial volume include the following injectables:


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