Facial Implants vs. Facial Fat Grafting

Facial Implants vs. Facial Fat Grafting


While many people think the most prominent signs of ageing are wrinkling and loose skin, one of the major underlying causes of these issues is actually facial volume loss. These concerns can therefore be addressed with a procedure that increases facial volume, such as facial implants or facial fat grafting, rather than a facelift

We also see many patients at Asian Plastic Surgery who are interested in these procedures for facial contouring. Implants or fat grafting can be used to reshape or rebalance your facial features.

Whether your concerns are related to ageing or facial structure, you will need to discuss your treatment in a consultation with one of our Specialist Plastic Surgeons. They will explain the considerations below in more detail and help you choose which procedure makes sense for you.

Facial Implants vs. Facial Fat Grafting: What Is the Procedure?

Facial implants are made of medical-grade, tissue-compatible materials (typically silicone). They are manufactured in a range of shapes and sizes or can be custom-made for an individual patient. While they remain very popular in Asia, facial implants are becoming less favoured in western countries as techniques like fat grafting grow more advanced. 

Facial fat grafting relocates fat from one area of the body to another through a combination of liposuction and injections. This procedure is 100% organic. While it may provide some liposculpture in the donor area, facial fat grafting is not a large-volume fat transfer like that used for breast augmentation, so the body shaping effect will not be significant.

Facial Implants vs. Facial Fat Grafting: What Concerns Can It Address?

Common concerns amongst Asian patients include a flat nasal bridge, a less projected appearance of the brow and mid-face, a weak or receding chin, and a wide or angular facial shape. 

Facial implants may be a good choice for:

  • Augmenting the cheekbones to reshape a flat mid-face
  • Creating a more oval or heart-shaped facial profile
  • Enhancing the chin
  • Creating a stronger or more angular jawline (for male patients)

Facial fat grafting may be recommended for:

  • Volumising and reshaping the mid-face
  • Filling hollow tear troughs or temples
  • Addressing volume loss and wrinkles in older patients
  • Reshaping the jawline

Facial Implants vs. Facial Fat Grafting: What Is Involved in the Operation?

To place a facial implant, the plastic surgeon makes an incision in a discreet area and inserts the implant through the incision. The surrounding tissues are often sufficient to hold the implant in place. If not, it is secured with sutures. Implant surgery appeals to some patients because it can be less complex and costly than alternatives — however, complications can be serious if they occur.

Facial fat grafting is a more involved procedure, but surgeons and patients often prefer it because it does not place any foreign materials into the body. The procedure takes place over three steps. First, fat is harvested from a donor area using liposuction. Then, the fat undergoes a purification process. Finally, the fat is injected into areas where more volume is desired. Because the fat is transferred with a thin cannula, there is little scarring on the face.

Facial Implants vs. Facial Fat Grafting: Who Is a Good Candidate?

Many people are candidates for either procedure. In these cases, our surgeons generally recommend fat grafting over implants.

There are some situations, however, in which implants may be the more suitable choice. A patient may desire more volume than fat grafting can provide or may not have a sufficient bony foundation to graft over.

Facial fat grafting requires a solid underlying skeletal structure. For example, a fat graft alone cannot augment a retruded chin. Implants are one solution for this. Alternatively, we can use bone contouring to strengthen the structure of the face and then perform fat grafting in a second stage. This is a durable solution.

Facial Implants vs. Facial Fat Grafting: What Is the Recovery Like?

Results from facial implants can be seen immediately, with gradual improvements as post-operative swelling, bruising and numbness subside. Downtime, discomfort and restrictions depend upon the type and location of the implant. Normal activity can typically be resumed within seven to 10 days.

Fat transfer is known as a relatively low-downtime procedure. Patients typically take a week off work or school to let the initial post-operative swelling, redness and bruising resolve. Some fat resorption is common in the first few weeks, but the fat that remains after this period tends to last.

Facial Implants vs. Facial Fat Grafting: What Are the Potential Complications?

No procedure is without risk, however, the risks of a procedure can be minimised by choosing a qualified Specialist Plastic Surgeon.

Although the incidence of complications with facial implants is relatively low, the consequences of those complications can be significant. The risks include infection, extrusion, skin irregularities, poor scarring, damage to surrounding structures and complex revisional surgery.

The results of fat grafting are less predictable than implants, but the potential complications are generally less severe. One of the most unique aspects of fat grafting is that it only uses materials from the patient’s body, which reduces the risk of allergic reaction or rejection. This is one of the primary reasons our surgeons favour fat grafting when possible.

Facial Implants vs. Facial Fat Grafting: How Long Do the Results Last?

The results of both procedures can be seen immediately and improve over time as post-op swelling subsides. Facial implants and facial fat grafting are both considered permanent procedures.

Implants can stay in the body indefinitely as long as there are no complications and the patient continues to be satisfied with their look. Because the implants themselves will never change, the results of the procedure will be fairly stable (however, ageing and weight fluctuations will affect the tissues around the implants).

With fat grafting, some fat cells will not survive the transfer, and those that do can remain in the area indefinitely. Surgeons account for this period of reabsorption by slightly overinjecting initially. The transferred fat will naturally grow and shrink with weight gain or loss after the procedure. Therefore, maintaining a stable weight will produce the most stable outcome.

Request a Consultation for More Information

There is never one right approach that applies to every person’s face. Although our Specialist Plastic Surgeons typically recommend fat grafting over facial implants, we offer both options at Asian Plastic Surgery to ensure you have options to choose from. We also offer options for nonsurgical facial contouring.

Please use our enquiry form or contact us on (02) 4607 2794 to book your consultation. Our team look forward to exploring your options with you!

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