• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Adding fat to maintain a youthful face

November 12, 2007 12:00:00 AM PST
You can't just blame gravity for sagging skin. Researchers found out your cheekbones actually recede as you age, which can lead to wrinkles.But it doesn't mean you need a complete facelift to turn back the clock. Take a look at how a fattening procedure can keep you looking young for years.

Fourty-four-year-old Elisa Bridwell had a unique procedure done two months ago. And as you can see from her before and after pictures she looks completely refreshed.

The main thing that was going on for me was that I was having a lot of under-eye bagging and everybody said that I looked tired," said Bridwell.

"They get the hollow under the eyes, they get the sagging, flattening of the cheeks. That's a very common aging look," said Dr. Babak Azzizadeh.

"I thought actually about having a full entire face lift," said Bridwell.

But plastic surgeon Dr. Babak Azizzadeh persuaded her not to tighten her skin and undergo a full facelift.

Instead, he said he'd rather plump it up with her own fat.

Aging is sagging plus volume loss. Dr. Azizzadeh says your face is the one place where you don't want to lose too much fat.

"So we take fat from areas we dont' want to inject it into areas that we want," said Dr. Azizzadeh.

He uses pure fat cells taken from the abdomen and injects them into layers of the face. Only a handful of plastic surgeons use this type of technique, called "multi-level fat grafting."

"They used to inject it just under the skin, the least blood supply. Now we inject it under, above in multiple layers and multiple levels," said Dr. Azizzadeh.

Fat cells age with the face, and while 90 percent of patients get permanent grafting in the first try, some may need two or three repeat procedures.

Elisa also had a procedure to reposition and smooth out the fat under eyes.

"I feel refreshed and renewed. However, I don't feel like it's a drastic change," said Bridwell.

Recovery usually includes some swelling and bruising, which go down in about a week.People with kidney or liver disease and very low body fat are not good candidates. Multi-level fat grafting costs $6,000, $12,000 if you add the second procedure Elisa had. Results last about five years.

Elisa says it saved her the time and money of doing something much more drastic.

"I've never had anyone say you look better without make up than you do with and now I do. People say that to me all the time," said Bridwell.