Using a patient’s own fat as a natural facial filler—a technique I’ve used for many years—has become increasingly popular in the last decade. Fat transfer, also called fat grafting, is effective as a standalone minimally invasive procedure or as part of facelift surgery.
Many patients who aren’t familiar with fat transfer often want to know how long facial fat grafting swelling lasts and how to recover as quickly as possible after the procedure.
What Is Fat Transfer?
Fat transfer involves 3 distinct steps that begin with extracting fat from an area of the patient’s body using liposuction. Typically, this is done in the abdominal area, the buttocks, or the thighs. Once the surgeon removes the fatty tissue, they spin it in a specialized centrifuge that isolates the purified fat from impurities. The final step is re-injecting the fat into areas of the face to restore a more youthful volume to the patient’s appearance. We wrote about what you can expect during a fat transfer procedure in an earlier blog post.
What Happens After a Fat Transfer Procedure?
It’s important to remember that fat grafting involves 2 distinct treatment areas—the location where liposuction removed the fat and the facial areas where the fat is re-injected. You can expect to see bruising and swelling at the liposuction site for a week or 2 before it resolves. Visibly apparent bruising and swelling in the face will typically resolve within 2 weeks following a fat transfer procedure. By the second week, most patients can get back out in public with a little makeup to camouflage any lingering swelling or bruising.
Residual swelling may persist for several weeks, so it’s important to have patience with the recovery process.
How to Enhance Your Recovery After Fat Grafting
We provide detailed post-operative instructions for each patient following their procedures. I’ve created these instructions based on my experience as a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon. Closely following them is the best way to ensure you recover as quickly as possible after fat grafting while minimizing the risk of complications. Following these steps is also important:
Don’t massage or move the treated area for a few days. Massaging or moving skin where fat was injected can affect the fat’s viability. Not all of the injected fat survives the transfer process, so it’s important to avoid losing more fat than what is naturally absorbed by the body. Massage may also exacerbate bruising.
Don’t smoke. Patients undergoing facial plastic surgery should stop smoking before the procedure and continue to refrain from smoking for several weeks after. Nicotine not only makes recovery more difficult, but it also affects the aesthetic procedure’s long-term results. It’s particularly important for fat transfer patients because nicotine causes necrosis—the death of fat cells—resulting in hard lumps.
Sleep on your back and avoid having your face pressed against your pillow. Just as massaging the face can complicate recovery and your results, you should avoid sleeping on your side with your face on a pillow. Sleeping in an elevated position, either propped up with pillows or in a recliner, also helps minimize swelling.
Refrain from strenuous activities. I encourage patients to take short, gentle walks starting on the day of surgery to ensure good blood circulation. However, you should postpone any activities that increase your heart rate until cleared by your surgeon.
Remain hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is a healthy habit for anyone but especially following a treatment such as fat transfer. Drinking water helps the healing process by speeding nutrient transport through the bloodstream and throughout your body.
If you think facial volume loss is causing you to appear older than you feel and you want to learn more about the fat transfer procedure, request a consultation using the online form to meet with Dr. Boggess. You can also call our Nashville facial plastic surgery practice at
(615) 942-8016 to schedule an appointment.