One of the exciting things about cosmetic surgery these days is that there are so many great facial options for patients; but because there are so many options, it becomes a little bit difficult to navigate through all of the information that’s out there. Very often, it becomes confusing hearing different things from different doctors and friends. Ultimately, it comes down to finding a surgeon or aesthetic physician who you trust. As a facial plastic surgeon at Reflections, I get a lot of questions about dermal fillers and fat transfer. While I genuinely recommend both products to patients, depending on their goals I may favor one over the other for a specific patient.

Innovative Dermal Fillers

When it comes down to fillers and facial volumization, fillers comprised of hyaluronic acid fillers are excellent. They do a wonderful job with little to no downtime and provide immediate results. The downside is that the results are temporary. Dermal fillers can last from one year to two years with some of the newer formulas. If a patient is interested in just dipping their toes into adding volume and are not sure about the commitment, I may opt for this formula.

The Natural Solution

The other option that I find to be really exciting for my patients is fat transfer. I’ve been in love with fat transfer since the day I started doing it about eight years ago. For a fat transfer procedure a patient would come in, we then give them a little bit of local anesthesia, usually in the love handle area, and with little to no discomfort, we make a little needle poke there and remove some of the fat.

With fat transfer, what I’m able to do is remove a patient’s own fat and use it, instead of the filler, to volumize their face. It can be used under the eyes, in the cheeks, around the jawline, really, any of those areas that we attribute to facial aging. The reason that I love fat transfer is that it’s natural, and it lasts. One of the misconceptions that are out there is the possibility of developing lumps or irregularities or not knowing how much of the fat will survive.

Again, after doing thousands of fat transfer procedures, I’ve found that the take rate, or survival rate, of that fat transfer in my patients, is significant enough that all of my patients are happy with it. Luckily, if fat were to not take as dramatically it can always be touched up. My approach to volumizing the face with fat, unlike one of the more common approaches, is that I don’t overfill the face for a more natural look.

Weighing Your Options

When deciding between fat transfer and synthetic fillers, there are several things that come into play when deciding which procedure is best for each patient. Recovery time is important if a patient has any events that are coming up. Also, the longevity of the procedure or how long the results will last should be part of the deciding factor. Synthetic fillers allow us to give our patients an immediate result. The result that we see at that time of treatment is essentially the final result. There may be a little bit of swelling that lingers for 24 or 48 hours, but typically, it’s a very quick recovery.

When it comes to fat transfer and recovery, there is definitely a little bit more recovery involved with the possibility of puffiness, swelling and maybe a little bit of bruising that can linger for about a week or so. The important thing to remember is that even though it looks good within that week, it’s still developing and the final result is not yet present; whereas filler results are almost immediate.


Although fat transfer is more expensive than fillers, especially in patients who need a larger amount of volume, it becomes more cost-effective to do fat transfer. Another thing I like to discuss with patients to help guide them in their decision between fat transfer and filler is whether it’s the first time they’ve had fillers or any type of procedure, they may be more comfortable going with a procedure where the results are temporary. This allows the patient to “try it on” and see what it looks like.

Schedule a Consultation

If you’re interested in dermal fillers or fat transfer, we encourage you to contact Reflections today to schedule a consultation with one of our aesthetic practitioners. Our highly skilled surgeons and physicians are leaders in injectable cosmetics and look forward to helping you achieve your aesthetic goals.

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