How do "stem cell Facelifts" compare to fat grafting and/or fillers?

This is a follow up to my question about stem cell facelifts. I realized upon reading the answers that I asked the wrong question. I am deciding between having fat injections, having stem cell injections (ie what's called 'stem cell facelift') and having Voluma injections. Is there advantage of one over the other for achieving volume?

Doctor Answers 18

How do "stem cell Facelifts" compare to fat grafting and/or fillers?

Normal fat contains small numbers of stem cells. While both Voluma and fat injections may produce good cosmetic results in the appropriate patient, they are not facelifts, nor are they a replacement for a facelift in the patient with tissue laxity who would benefit from a facelift.

Generally, 30-50% of the injected fat lasts permanently, while Voluma may last up to 2 years. Fat is more versatile, can be injected in more areas of the face, is your own tissue, improves the overall quality of the skin as well as adding volume and may be more cost effective in the long run. Fat injections are, however, more involved and are not 100% predictable in any particular patient.

At this time, I personally would be concerned about the appropriateness of any physician who was marketing a procedure as a "stem cell facelift" in the United States.

Robert Singer, MD FACS

La Jolla, California


La Jolla Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Stem cell is a fancy marketing term

Stem cells are an exciting new area of research in medicine.  Unfortunately, too many people are using the term because it sounds so sophisticated without really any science to prove their claims.  We know that fat contains stem cells and so anyone doing fat grafting now claims they are doing stem cells.  Yes, there will be a few stem cells in there but they are so sparse they will not do anything.  Real stem cells is when they are harvested, purified, and grown in the lab to differentiate into various more differentiated cells.  Clinically, the use of stem cells is in its infancy.  Much work needs to be done before this becomes a real treatment.

Martin Jugenburg, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 425 reviews

How do "stem cell Facelifts" compare to fat grafting and/or fillers?

The term "stem cell facelift" is merely a marketing term.  This term, like many facelift terms marketed in infomercials and websites, are not part of and can not be found in any plastic surgery curriculum. To date there is NO evidence that stem cells offer, improve or provide a better or longer lasting result than surgical facelifts or other procedures such as fat augmentation or filler injections (e.g., Voluma, Sculptra, or Radiesse). 

The advantage fat augmentation has over fillers (such as Voluma) is cost and longevity of results.  The cost savings typically comes from the ability to harvest as much fat as needed to rejuvenate many areas of the face, whereas to cover the same areas could possibly require several syringes of Voluma.   Lastly, in my opinion, fat augmentation is far superior than fillers for areas around the eyes, see the link below for further information.

The benefit from fillers over fat is downtime.  Fat augmentation can take anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks and sometimes longer for the swelling to subside, whereas filler injections have a downtime of days and the procedure can be performed in the office.

I hope this helps.

Timothy R. Miller, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 60 reviews

StemCell facelifts

Many plastic surgeons who perform structural fat grafting report that patients often describe a variety of improvements in their facial skin following fat grafting surgery. This observation has led to the use of fat grafting in reconstructive surgery, for instance in the management of chronic wounds such as those seen in some patients following radiation treatment for cancer. Fat grafting into the tissues below a chronic, non-healing wound has been shown to stimulate successful wound healing in a number of studies.
So what is responsible for this effect? Many of us suspect that it is produced by 'stem cells' which are known to be present in abundance in human adipose (fatty) tissue. Stem cells are very dynamic human cells which have the capacity to be transformed into any number of cell types (fat, muscle, skin, fascia, etc), and which are capable of producing a variety of proteins which promote the repair of damaged cells and tissues.
Much of the evidence has been anecdotal, i.e. the personal observations of physicians made while treating patients in their usual clinical practice, outside the setting of a specific scientific study. A great deal of basic science research is now being done to specifically determine cause and effect, and it is certain that over the next few years we will gain a much clearer understanding of the healing properties of fatty tissue and stem cells.
Be aware that the term 'stem cell' is increasingly being used in what I feel may be an irresponsible manner - as a marketing gimmick to attract patients to a particular practice or surgeon. Nobody has an exclusive claim or right to the use of stem cells, and as yet no one has demonstrated an objective, quantitative method for measuring any 'stem cell effect' in facial rejuvenation surgery, if it is truly present. I believe that this effect exists, but it currently is not objectively and reproducibly measurable and therefore should not be used to 'sell' surgery.
In my practice fat grafting is not an afterthought that is thrown into the surgical plan for the occasional patient. It is a key component of almost every major facial rejuvenation surgery that I perform. It is in fact that very first part of the surgical procedure for my patients undergoing a full facial rejuvenation surgery.
We do use Voluma in my practice to augment the cheeks. It has been a wonderful addition for people looking for a temporary, but long lasting result. 

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 110 reviews

Stem cell fat

There is no evidence to suggest that cell enriched stem cell autologous fat has any additional benefit to autologous fat transfer. All fat will have stem cells. Fillers provide small volumes and it all depends on how much you want to transfer and the result you want to achieve. For small volumes fillers are predictable and often better than autologous fat transfer - for larger volumes autologous fat is more prefferable. Consult with a PS who has experience in all these areas.

Gary L. Ross, MBChB, FRCS
Manchester Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 142 reviews

Stem cell facelifts are a gimmick.

Fat injections carry with them stem cells. The contributions themselves make two volume enhancement is unknown. At present the mainstay for volume enhancement of the face or injectables.

Vincent N. Zubowicz, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

Stem cell face lift vs fillers or face lift

Your stem cell injections sound like fat injections with platelet rich plasma - the result is the same as fat injections.

Voluma is excellent, easily done and lasts 1 -2 years.
Fat injections - can be excellent, 50% absorb within weeks, results are less predictable but can be excellent and permanent.

My rule of thumb: if you need more than 3 ccs of additional volume - fat injections may be better. You can have 15 to as much as 50 cc of fat injections in the face. They have to be done very carefully - it takes time and is a surgical  procedure, although one that may be possible in the office.

If you  need 3 cc or less of additional volume - off-the-shelf filler like Voluma is better - easier, more predictable,less recovery and reasonable in price. Best wishes.

Stem cell injections

Anyone claiming to perform stem cell injections in the face I would be leery of.  As far as fat versus other injectables, I think it's really a matter of surgeons preference.  Personally I don't like either.  They can look weird and make your face look fat or it can simply be resorbed over time.  I really feel they are not worth the additional cost given their drawbacks.

Ronald J. Edelson, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

"Stem Cell Facelift" vs Fat Grafting

"Stem cell facelift "is a marketing term because this is typically achieved by injecting fat that naturally contains the stem cells. There is no proven way to isolate the stem cells. The technique selected will depend on the area of your face that you want to augment. Voluma is best used in the mid face and cheeks.

Richard W. Fleming, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

How do "stem cell Facelifts" compare to fat grafting and/or fillers?

     I would try to dissociate any marketing component from the actual skill of the surgeon.  I would pick the best surgeon and then get the procedure that is recommended.

Kenneth Hughes, MD

Los Angeles, CA

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.