Stem Cell Facelifts - Is There Really Such A Thing?
Reviewed by Jonathan Sykes, MD, FACS
Everyone is talking about stem cell facelifts. Internet sites and blogs are abuzz with discussions about which celebrities have undergone these "revolutionary" liquid lifts, but is there really such a thing as a stem cell facelift?
Can they really help you tap into the fountain of youth? Or are they just a clever new way to package and market a facial rejuvenation technique that has been used for ages (namely, fat injections)?
Is There Such a Thing as Stem Cell Facelift?
A stem cell facelift is not a facelift. A facelift involves an incision or a series of incisions, and a lifting of the skin or connective tissue to help treat facial laxity or sagging.
Stem cell facelift refers to fat injections to the face. Fat injections are designed to add volume to facial areas that lack fullness. During a stem cell facelift, fat cells (and potentially the stem cells within them) are extracted via a gentle liposuction procedure and then re-injected into your face to restore fullness and enhance contour in your cheeks, temples, lips and under-eye hollows. The surgeon does not take out enough fat from the chosen donor site to provide any contour to that area. Put another way: Your love handles or abdomen will not benefit from a stem cell facelift.
Doctors are also using the same fat injection techniques for hand rejuvenation, neck rejuvenation, vaginal rejuvenation and breast augmentation.
Fat Injections: Where Do the Stem Cells Come From?
Viable adult stem cells are not controversial like embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells live in fatty tissue. They are the building blocks for any and all of the cells in the human body, including fat cells.
There are about 1 million fat cells in 10 millimeters of fat removed via liposuction. Once injected, those stem cells may become activated by internal growth factors, and this may spur the growth of new blood vessels and collagen.
Certain fat processing techniques may yield higher concentrations of adult stem cells. No such techniques are approved for use in the U.S. at this time. There are many techniques that can quickly process and re-inject fat for fat grafting procedures, such as Cytori's PureGraft System.
Stem Cell Facelift Cost
Fat injection to the face costs can range from $5,500 up to $15,000. Risks of fat injections in the face include lumps or bumps of injected fat and/or dissatisfaction with the results. There may be contour deformities at the donor site as well.
Stem Cell Facelifts: The Bottom Line
Buyer beware, cautions the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). All three organizations recommend steering clear of any procedure billed as a stem cell facelift or liquid facelift, at least for now. The ASAPS and ASPS issued a joint statement urging consumers to hold off on any "stem cell" cosmetic procedures. The groups state that such technologies do hold promise, but there is not enough evidence to support their use at this time.
Fat injections do have a role in facial rejuvenation on their own or in combination with other facial procedures such as facelifts, but they are not a type of facelift.
If you are interested in facial rejuvenation, discuss your concerns with a board-certified plastic surgeon or facial plastic surgeon, and let the physician tell you about all your options. There are many other tried and true procedures that can correct the visible signs of aging on your face, including brow lift, lip augmentation or soft tissue filler augmentation with Sculptra or Juvederm.
There are two sides to every story. Read the counterpoint view on this technique offered by another leading facial surgeon.
Choosing a Surgeon
You may be daunted by the sheer number of facial plastic surgeons offering facial plastic surgery procedures. It's sometimes hard to know whom you can trust to take your concerns about your appearance seriously and offer sympathetic care and effective treatments. At All About Facial Rejuvenation, we hope to take some of the unknowns out of the process by providing accurate information and a directory of skilled, experienced surgeons who have earned the respect of both patients and colleagues.
About the Reviewer of this Article
Jonathan Sykes, MD, is the director of the Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department of the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California, and the president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Dr. Sykes is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and is board certified by both the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology. Dr. Sykes has published more than 100 professional articles and co-edited three textbooks. He has also designed patented instruments to simplify the endoscopic brow lift procedure and provide faster patient recovery times. He travels to numerous foreign countries to perform cleft and craniofacial surgeries.