Avoid Pillow Face with Expert Fat Grafting

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Nothing sparks discussion quite like celebrity plastic surgery, and boy were the sparks flying after Madonna’s Super Bowl appearance.

Most people agree the Material Girl looks amazing for her 53 years. She has maintained her athletic physique and “cut” biceps. What she hasn’t maintained are chiseled cheekbones and a pointy chin. Madonna seems to have fallen victim to the “pillow face” trend. Think Priscilla Presley and Joan Rivers for good examples of the pillow face.

As we age our facial fat volume decreases and facial skin loses elasticity. The result is a general change in the shape of the face. A youthful face is heart shaped, broader in the cheeks and narrowing toward the chin. With age, fat loss and draping skin result in an upside down heart shape with hollowed temples and eye sockets and sagging skin forming jowls.

Replenishing volume is key to a more youthful face and there are several methods to do this. Most notably are injectable volumizers such as the collagen stimulators Sculptra and Radiesse. Although long lasting, both Radiesse and Sculptra treatments need repeating. Fat grafting with stem cell transfer, where one’s own body fat and stem cells are harvested, purified and then injected to plump the area may be a more permanent solution.

Stem cells with their rejuvenative properties are highly concentrated in the body’s fat stores. Thus, when one harvests and concentrates fat cells, they also concentrate stem cells which help the grafts to survive, and help to rejuvenate the skin quality of the face. Fat and stem cell grafting is done in two steps, performed at the same setting: harvesting and grafting. During the first step, liposuction is performed on a predetermined area to obtain a required volume of fat and stem cells. The fat is then processed and purified to prepare it for re-injection. The second step is the injection of the fat and stem cells into the face or other recipient site.

Because about 50% of the injected fat will be reabsorbed by your body, it is common practice to slightly “overfill”. This overfilling ensures that after your body has absorbed a portion of the fat, the permanent fat that is remaining gives the desired amount of correction.

Unfortunately, in the hands of an unskilled practitioner, the risk of too much fat being injected and ending up with a pillow face is a very real possibility. Before you settle on this type of volume correction, do your homework. Ask your doctor how many fat grafting procedures he has performed and request to see before and after photos of his actual fat grafting patients. Always start conservatively with any filler correction and remember: fillers come and fillers go, but fat cells are forever.

Article by
San Diego Plastic Surgeon