What Is Facial Fat Grafting?

Fat grafting, or fat transfer, is a surgical technique that harvests fat cells from one part of the body, purifies and processes those cells, and then places them in another area of the body for cosmetic benefit. The purpose of fat grafting is to augment or fill in volume-deficient areas, which are common in the aging face.

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Why Choose Dr. Zenn?

  • Dr. Zenn has decades of experience in facial rejuvenation procedures
  • Facial fat grafting is one of the most important developments in facial cosmetic surgery in the last 5 years
  • Dr. Zenn has been performing fat grafting with beautiful results for more than a decade
  • Dr. Zenn has taught his cutting-edge techniques to hundreds of plastic surgeons
  • Dr. Zenn is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor for Cosmetic Surgery
  • Dr. Zenn is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery

Fillers Or Fat Grafting?

Many patients are familiar with dermal fillers like Juvéderm® and Restylane®, which add volume to hollowed areas of the face. While effective, fillers are temporary. Autologous fat (harvested from a patient’s own body), in contrast, replaces “like with like,” and serves as a substitute for lost fat in your face. In fact, the placement of fat via fat grafting is possible in many more places on the face when compared to dermal fillers.

Fat creates an incredibly soft, natural, and youthful appearance that fillers alone cannot accomplish. Fat transfer uses a patient’s own living cells and is therefore long-lasting and safe. The amount of fat that survives the transfer depends on the experience of the surgeon performing the fat graft. Our goal at Zenn Plastic Surgery is to help you achieve the most beautiful and natural-looking results possible, while offering a positive and easy patient experience.

Facial Fat Grafting: The New Standard in Facial Cosmetic Surgery

Facial Fat Grafting: The New Standard in Facial Cosmetic Surgery

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Are You A Good Candidate For A Fat Transfer?

Loss of facial volume is a common part of facial aging, and fat grafting successfully restores facial contour and fullness lost over time. Therefore, almost every facelift patient is a candidate for a facial fat transfer, as long as there is a good donor site from which to harvest the fat.  Facial fat grafting rarely requires more than 100cc of harvested fat. By comparison, cosmetic liposuction removes hundreds or thousands of cc’s of fat. If you’re in good health, and have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate.

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Fat Grafting and Transfer

Dr. Zenn

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The Facial Fat Grafting Procedure

Fat is harvested from one part of a patient’s body and then placed in a centrifuge to be purified. Dr. Zenn then carefully reinjects the purified cells using thin cannulas into the areas that need augmentation. Facial fat grafting is a three-stage process performed under sedation or general anesthesia in an ambulatory surgery facility. The three stages are:


Dr. Zenn will consult with you to select a site for fat removal before surgery. During surgery, he will create a small puncture in the area from where the fat will be harvested. Then Dr. Zenn inserts a cannula connected to a syringe and carefully extracts fat (liposuction).


Dr. Zenn obtains the correct amount of fat from the donor area. He places the harvested fatty tissue in a centrifuge to remove non-viable cells, blood, and other impurities. Next, he will transfer the fat cells to small syringes for injection.


The placement of fat is where experience and artistry set Dr. Zenn apart from other plastic surgeons. After marking the area to receive the fat graft, Dr. Zenn will insert a small cannula into a small incision point near the site. He then passes the cannula in and out of the areas he is augmenting. Dr. Zenn does this multiple times, using his artistic eye to sculpt the face. The sites of entry are so small that they often require no stitches and heal beautifully.

Schedule Your Consultation For Fat Grafting Today

Are you curious about how facial fat grafting might give you the volume and contour your face lacks? The best way to learn whether facial fat grafting is right for you is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Zenn. Contact Zenn Plastic Surgery in Raleigh, North Carolina, to schedule one today.

Facial Fat Grafting FAQ

What common areas are grafted with fat?

Why do some plastic surgeons say fat grafting doesn’t work?

Will I notice any changes in my shape where the fat is harvested from?

How long do the fat grafts survive?

What common areas are grafted with fat?

Areas traditionally injected with fillers are sites that are also ideal for fat grafting. These include the temple, eyebrow, cheek, lips, chin, jawline, and even earlobes.

Why do some plastic surgeons say fat grafting doesn’t work?

The advanced techniques of facial fat grafting are relatively new. Most practicing plastic surgeons did not learn how to perform fat grafting when they were trained. As they progress in their careers, they have to decide which new procedures to try, and may or may not adopt new fat grafting techniques based on their existing experience. There is a definite learning curve when performing fat grafting, and early on there can be problems like lumps or loss of the graft. Some surgeons quit at this point and just tell patients that it does not work. Dr. Zenn learned how to successfully transfer fat cells while at Duke. Over the past 10 years, he has perfected his technique, minimizing problems and maximizing fat survival.

Will I notice any changes in my shape where the fat is harvested from?

The amount of fat needed for grafting is quite minimal and can be harvested from a variety of areas of the body. Because the harvest amount is negligible, there is no change to the overlying contour from the harvest site. That said, many patients take this opportunity to have fat harvested from an area of concern like the abdomen, thighs, or hips, and have reshaping liposuction to improve their contour. In these cases, most of the fat removed is discarded and only a small amount of purified fat is used for the grafting procedure.

How long do the fat grafts survive?

Fat cells removed with liposuction are alive and can stay alive for a few days without a new blood supply. These delicate cells must be handled carefully during the purification and placement process. Placement is critical as each fat graft must be surrounded by tissue that can support its nutrition. Once these cells gain their new blood supply, they are alive and well. Your face will continue to age, but the aging clock has been reset.

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