Kybella, a brand name for deoxycholic acid, is an injectable cosmetic treatment developed by Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, now owned by Allergan.

While Kybella has recently gained popularity for its non-surgical approach to reducing submental or double chin fat, some may have better choices. If you’ve been considering Kybella as a solution for stubborn chin fat or a double chin, it’s crucial to understand the treatment’s limitations and explore alternative options.

At Plastic Surgeons of Northern Arizona, we understand that many patients like to explore non-surgical cosmetic procedures; however, Kybella is not a treatment that we offer or recommend to patients. In this article, we’ll discuss what Kybella is, its origins, its common uses, and what we recommend to our patients instead.

What is Kybella?

Kybella, a brand name for deoxycholic acid, is an injectable cosmetic treatment developed by Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, now owned by Allergan. Deoxycholic acid is a naturally occurring molecule in the body that aids in the breakdown and absorption of dietary fat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only approved Kybella for the treatment of excess fat under the chin and neck.

How Kybella works:

    • Active Ingredient: Kybella contains synthetic deoxycholic acid, a naturally occurring molecule found in the digestive tract that helps the body break down and absorb dietary fat. This molecule dissolves fat cell membranes, making them easier to digest.
    • Mechanism of Action: When injected into the fat beneath the chin, Kybella destroys fat cells. Once these cells are destroyed, the body’s natural metabolism processes and eliminates the fat.
    • Cost: One treatment can cost anywhere from $1,000 – $1,800, depending on your provider. Many patients need three to five treatments.
    • Treatment Process: Kybella is administered through a series of injections under the chin. Treatments usually take 15 to 20 minutes and involve around 20 – 50+ injections into the under-chin area. The number of sessions required can vary based on the amount of fat and the desired results. Typically, multiple treatment sessions are needed, spaced a few weeks apart.
    • Recovery: Patients usually experience swelling, bruising, or numbness at the injection sites. These symptoms typically resolve within a week.

Limitations of Kybella

Inconsistent Results: While Kybella can produce noticeable improvements in some individuals, results can be variable. Not everyone will experience the same level of fat reduction, and it may require multiple sessions to achieve the desired outcome. The drug can take months to set in and dissolve fat cell membranes, so unlike liposuction, results aren’t immediately noticeable.

Risk of Nerve Damage: As with any medical procedure, Kybella also has potential side effects, including nerve injury, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness in the treated area. According to the manufacturer’s safety profile for the drug, 4% of clinical trial patients experienced mandibular nerve injury, resulting in an asymmetrical smile or facial muscle weakness. Regardless of their training level and expertise in facial anatomy, any medical professional can administer Kybella, raising the potential for misplaced needles and dangerous side effects.

Cost: Kybella treatments usually end up costing thousands of dollars. Many patients need three to five visits to achieve good results. A 2018 study published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery compared the cost of Kybella and submental liposuction and concluded that Kybella is more expensive than surgical alternatives.

Not Suitable for Everyone: Kybella is not suitable for all individuals, particularly those with loose or sagging skin in the neck area. When the submental fat dissolves, it can increase the appearance of sagging skin as the underlying tissue disappears. Surgical interventions like a neck lift would be more appropriate and effective in such cases.

Our Recommended Alternatives to Kybella for Treating Submental Fat

For those who are hesitant about Kybella or who may not be suitable candidates, there are several alternative cosmetic treatments to consider:

    1. Liposuction: Traditional liposuction remains the ‘gold standard’ for fat reduction in the neck and chin area. Unlike Kybella, submental liposuction offers immediate and consistent results. With a lipo wand, we can accurately target fat pads under the chin while safely contouring the neck and carving out more defined angles. To guarantee the best results and proper healing, patients must wear a compressive garment on their head full-time for the first week, as much as possible during the second week, and at night during weeks three and four. We usually perform submental liposuction under a local anesthetic that numbs the region.
    2. CoolSculpting: This non-invasive procedure freezes and kills fat cells. CoolSculpting often requires fewer sessions than Kybella, making it more cost-effective.
    3. Jawline Contouring and Chin Implants: Jawline contouring with dermal fillers and/or chin implants can help define and lengthen the jawline, thus reducing the appearance of submental fat.
    4. Mini Facelift or Neck Lift: For patients with excess neck skin and jowling, a mini facelift or neck lift with liposuction may be the most appropriate treatment plan.

Final Thoughts on Kybella

Kybella can be an effective treatment for some individuals seeking to reduce submental fat, but most plastic surgeons agree it’s not the best option. Before investing in a treatment, consult a board-certified plastic surgeon to determine the most suitable treatment for your specific needs and expectations. When considering cosmetic procedures, it’s essential to prioritize safety, effectiveness, and long-term satisfaction.

Have Stubborn Submental Fat? Book A Consultation

Book a consultation with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons or qualified aestheticians to discuss your desired outcomes and treatment options.

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