Facial Fat Graft Techniques: Are Stem Cells Rejuvenating?

stem cells for facial rejuvenation

Anti-aging is a hot topic. Aside from the late Joan Rivers, it doesn’t appear that anyone has truly kept Father Time at bay; however, credible procedures, educating oneself, and taking preventative measures can keep us looking youthful over a longer period of time.

People from all walks of life are seeking effective ways to minimize the effects of aging on their most exposed feature, their face. The best results are apparent when anti-aging procedures such as fillers and fat grafts are done as preventative measures as opposed to after the fact. Depending on what results the patient wishes to achieve, facelifts and eyelid surgeries can also drastically reduce the signs of aging. In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between fat grafts and stem cells for facial rejuvenation.

What Is A Fat Transfer (Fat Graft)?

Fat transfer is a natural, minimally invasive alternative to facial plastic surgery, and can be done in conjunction with other facial surgeries. Although the procedure itself is quite similar and involves injections like Botox and other fillers, a fat transfer is different because it uses fat, which is the one substance that comes from the patient’s own body. This is seen as a more natural alternative to other fillers and can minimize the risks of complications that can occur when a foreign substance is placed in the body.

Fat Cells vs. Fat-Derived Stem Cells

When asked to weigh in on the topic, Dr. Wigoda explained, “For the time being, anything claiming to use stem cells for some improvement, whether a procedure or facial creams, is unproven. If a surgeon says they are putting stem cells in you to make you look better, they are misleading you. It is true that placing fat grafts can improve the quality of skin, but whether or not stem cells are doing it is another matter.”

It appears that the results of a study in an issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® more or less agrees with Dr. Wigoda’s statement. The two approaches to fat grafting have similar effects in reversing the cellular-level signs of aging skin. In fact, according to the study they were “essentially identical.” Dr. Rigotti, one of the study’s authors, claims that results suggest that the effect of a fat graft is in part due to its stem cell component; however, that is a broad claim that would need additional research to support. When it comes down to it, wrinkles come from large volume loss of fat and both of these procedures injected something to compensate for that loss.

Which Option to Choose?

Since the facial rejuvenation results are the same, the authors of the study and Dr. Wigoda recommend sticking with a standard facial fat grafting for the time being.


Although both options appear to be promising for anti-aging, the simpler approach of using fat cells has advantages because it is less expensive and a faster procedure. The fat cells can be harvested, processed and injected in the same day, unlike the other approach which requires time for stem cell expansion.

Moral of the story? Gravity works, but so does grafting. If you’re looking to diminish the signs of aging and don’t see a facelift in your future, contact Dr. Wigoda for a free consultation to discuss your options.