There are several different procedures that have emerged as ‘catch-all’ justifications for someone suddenly looking a whole lot different, though perhaps none is as readily floated as ‘fat transfer.’ Tabloids and social media users alike often refer to the surgery when speculating what kind of nip or tuck a celebrity may have undergone—who would say no to recontoured curves?

Dr. Goretti Ho Taghva, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Newport Beach, California, believes the popularity of fat transfer lies in its two-for-one approach: eliminating unwanted fat by redistributing it to other areas. She also notes that there’s a lower risk of complications than with implant-based procedures as well as a more natural feel and result.

Of course, the problem with fat is that depending on your body type, it’s either easy to lose or easy to gain, which means making your fat transfer go the distance requires proper maintenance. New York City board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. David Shafer reveals that the natural average for fat survival is 60–80%, with results varying from patient to patient based on the recovery. Luckily, there are some key steps that can help you achieve optimal fat retention. Here’s how to get the best results post-fat transfer.

1. Compression garments are crucial
Immediately after surgery, Dr. Shafer says patients can experience bruising and swelling around grafted areas, and compression garments can be effective in areas of removed fat to help smooth the skin. “Reducing pressure on the areas of grafted fat is also important so the precious fat cells have time to incorporate into the surrounding tissues.” Typically, doctors recommend wearing compression garments 24/7 (yes, even while sleeping) for at least two to three weeks; after that, you should try to wear them as often as is comfortable until you’re fully recovered. This means you’ll likely need to buy a few different sizes of shapewear as your body adjusts.

2. Avoid massage
While it may be tempting to massage your newly placed fat, Dr. Ho Taghva strongly advises against doing so, as it disrupts the new blood supply to the transferred tissue. On that note, she also clarifies that a good doctor will not inject too much fat in one session, to avoid fat resorption: “The reason some fat survives and some gets absorbed is that the fat cells are all competing to establish blood supply with surrounding tissues. [With subsequent sessions] the newly added fat can build upon the blood supply from the previously transferred fat.”

3. Hydrate like crazy (and don’t smoke!)
Reestablishing the blood supply to your transferred fat is essential to its survival—and this starts with hydration. If you’re not a huge water drinker, work electrolytes into your diet for the first couple of months post-op, to move nutrients around your body. Additionally, if you stopped smoking in the weeks before your surgery, now is the worst possible time to pick the habit back up. Cigarettes can affect the flow of said nutrients as well as oxygen in your bloodstream, which means the quality of blood is affected and your recovery, ultimately, hindered.

4. Avoid weight loss
Both Dr. Ho Tagva and Dr. Shafer claim patients often ask if they should gain weight prior to surgery, but a good candidate should be a healthy, active person who has enough redistributable fat for visible results. On the other side of surgery, patients should also attempt to maintain their weight—any fluctuations can have a significant impact on your newly grafted fat, since weight loss doesn’t discriminate. Moreover, weight can accumulate in areas you may not have experienced high fat levels before (such as arms or love handles).

5. Be careful how you sit
While facial fat transfer patients need to avoid driving only for a couple of days and breast fat transfer patients should hold off for a week, those who’ve undergone Brazilian butt lifts should leave the car at home for anywhere from two weeks to two months. Sitting squishes your newly transferred fat (also try sitting on your thighs rather than buttocks, via a towel or back roller), and using pedals only makes it worse. You want to keep that blood flowing as much as possible; sitting keeps it stagnant.

6. Maintain a healthy diet and don’t overindulge
The million-dollar word when it comes to your post-op diet: protein. Dr. Shafer says a balanced diet is certainly key but that protein supplementation is beyond essential. Protein and fats are necessary to keep your body nourished, so stock up on lean meats, fish, nuts, and beans. A protein shake with an acai bowl can make for an ideal breakfast, since healthy carbohydrates and fructose can also be helpful for general weight maintenance.

7. Stay active—but don’t do anything strenuous
“Moderate exercise is encouraged, but one should hold off on high-intensity exercises the first month after the procedure,” explains Dr. Ho Taghva. Walks, swimming, light calisthenics, Pilates or yoga can help the flow of fluids and blood around the body and aid in blood supply to transferred fat, plus sweating also helps to eliminate toxins. Running or particularly “bouncy” sports can have an impact on facial fat, so they should be avoided for at least two months. Above all, it’s important that strenuous activity be avoided so as to not burn off any fat from the treatment areas.

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