Why Fat is ‘Liquid Gold’ and the Next Frontier in Beauty
Millions of people have had liposuction, and it’s safe to say that the majority of the fat sucked through countless cannulas has been tossed out as medical waste, but with every industry in the world starting to take recycling and more eco-friendly approaches, it’s no surprise that even our fat is now being recycled. If you’re thinking ‘OMG, that’s gross!’ don’t worry— it’s not about shifting your love handles to your best friend. Fat from one’s own body is frequently referenced as ‘liquid gold’ and potentially has the power to plump and rejuvenate all the areas plastic surgeons used to fill up with temporary fillers and collagen.
“The science and technology of fat harvesting has advanced significantly,” shares Dr. Stephen U. Harris, MD FACS of Harris Plastic Surgery in Long Island, NY. “We realize now that fat-harvested cells can survive the transfer and have many beneficial effects on the human body to improve signs of aging and enhance the body’s contour.”
It’s those signs of aging like hollow breasts, cheeks, and even a flattened rear end that lead patients and experienced surgeons alike to want to use the patient’s natural fat for plumping, restoring, and enhancing other features on their body.
“Fat from all areas of the body can be harvested, but there is a suggestion that fat taken from the abdominal area (including love handles) and thighs may be better – the science is still out on this one.”
Who wouldn't want that? According to surgery.org, “Fat transfer to the face, (a new category for ASAPS this year) instantly landed in the top 10 surgical procedures in the number 9 slot,” for 2015. That means that fat transfer basically went from an unheard of procedure a few years ago to an almost overnight success— kind of amazing, right?
“Fat can be transferred almost anywhere to improve contour. The most common and successful areas for fat transfer are the face and buttock,” explains Dr. Harris. “Fat transfer into the face is for filling in contour and counteracting aging. Fat transfer into the buttock, which has become much more popular in recent years largely because of our society’s pop-culture obsession, is used for contouring purposes and to enhance a flattened appearance. Fat transfer can actually be used in the breasts to counteract flattening and as a modest form of breast augmentation.”
While breast implants are perennially popular, the idea of fat grafting to this area in particular is expected to be especially appealing since it will cut down on the need for implant replacements (where most types have a shelf life), leaking-related issues, and the added time and financial expense associated with the FDA’s annual MRI suggestion to patients with silicone implants.
As for the ideal patient, Dr. Harris believes someone with localized contour concerns such as facial aging, flattened buttocks, or loss of fullness in the breasts and wants a more modest form of breast augmentation. While fat is relatively pliable from one body part to another on the same person, genetics do play a role, and no, you most likely cannot be a ‘donor’ for your friend, spouse, or some tragically thin person you happen to know from PTA in need of breasts.
“The only time this is possible is in the case of identical twins. Otherwise, technology is not there yet to transfer fat from non-genetically identical human beings.”
Forgive me for inserting my personal opinion here, but thank God. I don’t know that I’m ready for the brave new world of people swapping fat cells.
“Once transferred fat cells survive, they are permanently incorporated into the new area. Age does not have as much of an impact as weight loss. Fat grafting has also significantly advanced the cosmetic outcome of breast reconstruction. I have contributed to improving the results of reconstructive breast surgeries on my patients using fat transfer,” Explains Dr. Harris.
Improving the results of reconstructive breast surgeries, though? Now that’s something I can get behind.
Questions about fat transfer surgeries? Submit your questions/thoughts here to have an ASAPS doctor solve all your fat-related mysteries.