Brazilian Butt Lifts And How Fat Became A Surgical Tool
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), butt augmentation surgery is up 16%. The smaller American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) put the growth at 44%. Whomever has the correct figure, twenty-first century Americans have a strong preference for rounded rears. The Brazilian Butt Lift is on the rise.
Yet the upward statistics distort the real driver of change in the cosmetic surgery industry, which is not simply our appreciation of spherical bottoms, but something much more widespread: fat. Science now allows doctors to use fat in myriad new ways.
Rather than treating target areas with implants, they can now a body’s own surplus fat.
Rather than going ahead with liposuction, patients are now given the option to recycle the fat. While this has become routine, it represents a paradigm shift.
According to Dr. Robert X. Murphy, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, “We’ve taken away the need to go to a foreign substance, and we’re injecting fat. It’s a change in how we’re thinking.”
For the last several decades, the problem of fat has been addressed with cosmetic surgery procedures such as liposuction, laser fat removal and freezing. Increasingly, however, doctors are viewing the troublesome substance in a new light.
Rather than being strictly a problem, fat is becoming part of a solution. Although more recent fat grafting procedures such as the Brazilian Butt Lift account for only a small proportion of the 15.1 million minimally invasive and surgical cosmetic procedures performed in 2013, fat grafting is an increasingly hot topic in a growing industry. But how much is it growing? Estimates range from 3% to 6.5% last year, according to the ASPS and ASAPS, respectively. While this may not sound particularly significant, doctors are seriously reconsidering fat and its role in the cosmetic surgery sector.
"Fat grafting has gotten more interesting," says Boca Raton-based surgeon, Dr. Jason Pozner. "Instead of doing just liposuction, we ask the patients if they would like us to recycle the fat.”
Many doctors are offering patients the option to re-use fat taken from one part of their body to plump up another, which injectables such as collagen, poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) and hyaluronic acid are less effective in achieving.
"An ideal substance would be readily available, inexpensive, long-lasting, natural-feeling, and would not cause adverse immunologic reactions," states Dr. Thomas J. Gampper, vice chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at University of Virginia School of Medicine.
He concludes that fat hits all of the marks, aside from the fact that it’s not necessarily a less expensive due to the labor involved in removing, processing and injecting it back into the body. At the same time, doctors now have better methods for saving and re-appropriating fat, whether for lip plumping at the time of a liposuction procedure or a future breast enhancement.
"The fat transplantation is changing," writes Dr. Barry Weintraub, a plastic surgeon practicing in Manhattan and the Hamptons. "Fat can now be cryogenically frozen. When I do a liposuction on someone, I can use that fat not only in that setting, but it can be called for at a later time with no diminution."
Once reintroduced to the body, just how long the results of grafted fat actually last has been a topic of hot debate. However, recent research suggests that enhancing fat with stem cells before transferring it back into the body could extend its effects.
What’s more, the discovery last year that fat contains stems cells capable of producing many different types of cellular tissues has widened the spectrum of possibilities. Ironically, the self-serving treatment known as liposuction could contribute to the creation of tissues and organs for use in a diverse array of medical procedures.
It’s worth remembering that fat grafting – the practice of using fat harvested from one source to enhance another part of the body – is not exactly new. Doctors were carrying out procedures as far back as the 1890s, and amassing research studies of the last decade show it to be a safe treatment for adding volume to breasts and other parts of the body. Yet it has not been perfected – not yet anyway.
Fat grafting relies on a naturally occurring substance produced within one’s body. Transferring it from one place to another, however, is more labor-intensive more costly than similar procedures that rely on pre-packaged fillers. The experience level and technique of surgeon is another factor.
"There’s almost been a circumventing of the physician and aesthetician providing the care and assuming that the machine just walks into the room and does the procedure. You’ve got to have a doctor that knows how to use it, and you’ve got to have the right technology for the patient, and then you’ve got to apply it appropriately," states Dr. Jack Fisher, ASAPS president.
But as the procedure becomes more widely researched, understood, and practiced, the prospect of using fat instead of implants and fillers is gaining traction.
Brazilian Butt Lifts and related procedures are seductive in the sense that sagging cheeks (both kinds), lips, and breasts can be boosted with a substance that’s already present in the body, not least of all one has an authentically human texture and potentially lasts longer than the alternatives.
As RealSelf founder Tom Seery says, "What we see over and over again is people saying, ‘I want natural looking results, so when I go to a cocktail party or a coffee shop to see a friend, they say, ‘You seem rested.’"
This Zalea Original piece was edited and approved by the Zalea Editorial Team.