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Facial fat pads and their link to ageing

Over time, many changes happen beneath the surface of your skin, which ultimately cause you to look older, sometimes prematurely.

One of these changes is the movement and diminishing of your facial fat pads.

In this article we look at fat pads in more detail – what they are, how they cause your face to age and what you can do about it.

What are fat pads?

Fat pads are areas of closely packed, subcutaneous fat cells. As well as being found on the face, they are also present in other parts of the body. For example, they are the squidgy bits under the balls of your feet and your heels.

How do fat pads change as we age?

Over time the facial fat pads in the upper and mid face atrophy (waste away), while those in the lower face tend to become fuller (hypertrophy).

As deeper fat pads decrease with age (for example deep in the cheeks) this reduces their support of the superficial fat pads, which can then begin to sag.

The fat pads also become more discernible as separate ‘pockets’ of fat, rather than blending in with the overall shape of your face (as they do when you’re young).

Why does the change in fat pads cause us to look older?

As the fat pads diminish and sag, it causes the upper and middle parts of our face to lose structure and fullness, while the lower part gets a heavier appearance.

Where the fat pads are depleted the skin can sag, look hollow and wrinkle due to the lost fullness. Where the fat accumulates, the skin can lose its elasticity.

Noticeable effects of this can include:

  • Eyebrows and eyelids droop.
  • Wrinkles and lines become more obvious due to the loss of fat to plump them out.
  • As volume is lost below the eyes, undereye “palebral bags” can appear (which were previously hidden under the superficial fat pads).
  • Temples and cheeks become hollowed (accentuating the appearance of the underlying bone structure).
  • The tip of the nose may droop.
  • Nasolabial folds become deeper.
  • Lips straighten or downturn and gain ‘marionette’ lines.
  • The jawline sags and becomes less defined.
  • Jowls form and can lead to a “turkey neck” appearance.

Some of these effects are shown here:

Facial asymmetry

The fat pad changes don’t always occur evenly on both sides of the face, which can lead to a loss of symmetry. For example, the eyebrow and eyelid may become lower on one side of the face than the other.

How to reverse the effects of fat pad changes

While it’s impossible to stop this natural process, a good skincare regime can improve overall elasticity and firmness, to counteract the effects of fat pad changes. As always, good sun protection, staying hydrated and not smoking will also reduce the effects of ageing.

While general weight gain will help to plump out your facial fat pads, it isn’t clear whether it just adds to the superficial fat or whether it also helps the important deeper fat pads. But it isn’t a great idea to become overweight just to plump out your cheeks!

Go under the knife?

In the past people have turned to surgical facelifts to reverse the effects of fat pad changes. However, this simply lifts and tightens the skin, it doesn’t deal with the underlying problem of a loss of volume. Today aesthetic medicine has moved away from this drastic approach.

A high precision and tailored solution

A more effective, and safer, option is to replace the lost volume in your face by using dermal fillers to lift the areas of fat loss and restore volume. The aim of this treatment is to re-balance the fullness across your face.

Thanks to detailed mapping of the superficial and deep facial fat pads, carried out in the late 2000s and early 2010s, dermal fillers can now be used incredibly precisely and effectively to restore fullness.

Dermal fillers are used to return volume to the more visible, superficial fat pads. They can also restore the deeper fat pads, which, in turn, enables them to provide more support to the superficial fat pads and therefore both increase volume and reduce sagging.

By targeting the underlying cause of volume loss and tailoring this approach to each patient’s specific facial topography, it provides a far more natural result than simply using fillers to mask wrinkles.

Discuss your personal needs in a free consultation

We offer expert dermal filler treatments to counteract the ageing effects of fat pad changes. These are available at our London Harley Street, Richmond, Huntingdon, Peterborough, Reading, Sevenoaks and Hove clinics.

All our patients are invited for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our medical practitioners before any treatments are undertaken.

Contact us to find out more or book in for your free consultation.


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