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Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Kybella

A dermatologist and a plastic surgeon weigh in.

close up of chin

 

Lucrecia Carosi / EyeEm / Getty

First and foremost, we feel it's important to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having some excess skin on your chin or neck. Fat is just stored energy after all, and having a "double chin" doesn't directly correlate to being unhealthy (or even overweight). With that being said, if your chin and neck area is something you'd like to tighten up, there's also nothing wrong with wanting to that. In fact, tightening and removing excess mass from this area can actually be done in as little as 15 minutes with a visit to the doctor. It's fairly painless and fairly easy (as long as you're not afraid of needles). The mysterious treatment we’re talking about is Kybella—an injectable that’s able to dissolve fat cells permanently.

To get insight on how Kybella is able to sculpt jawlines and chins, we consulted New York City-based plastic surgeon Dr. Steve R. Fallek and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green. Ahead, they answer every question you've ever had about Kybella.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Steve R. Fallek is a New York City-based plastic surgeon and the owner of Fallek Plastic Surgery. He has co-authored over 25 renowned scientific papers in the areas of plastic, aesthetic, reconstructive, and microvascular surgery.
  • Dr. Michele Green is a board-certified dermatologist and a Castle Connolly Top Doctor. She's published in The Journal of American Academy of Dermatology and Cosmetic Dermatology and is a principal member of the Skin Cancer Foundation.

What Is Kybella?

The injection Kybella is a non-surgical option that is used to “melt” fat. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2015 for the submental region of the body—also known as the facial space between the chin and neck.

The key ingredient in Kybella is deoxycholic acid, which is a modified form of a substance that your body already makes. When it is applied to an area, it destroys fat cells permanently, so those cells will no longer accumulate or store fat.

needle
 SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty

How Does It Work?

“Deoxycholic acid is a bile acid,” Fallek explains simply. If you don’t remember what bile is from high school biology, it is a bodily fluid that is essential to the digestive system for emulsification and fat absorption.

“Kybella injections use a synthetic form of this as an injection. Once injected, the acid destroys fat cells beneath the area so it can't store fat anymore,” Fallek went on to add for further clarification.

How Is Kybella Different From Lasers and Liposuction?

Kybella: According to Green, Kybella is very effective at getting rid of fat when it comes to non-surgical options. Fallek agrees with this notion and went on to point out that it is Kybella’s medical-grade surfactant composition that makes it work so well, which essentially turns fat cells inside out.

Laser: Green says that laser treatments are most effective when it comes to skin tightening. She notes that fat reducing lasers like CoolSculpting Mini—the dedicated "double chin" dasher—is a decent competitor, but it can cause more discomfort with its severe temperature manipulation.

Liposuction: Fallek explains that chin liposuction is the physical removal of fat with a suction cannula, which is inserted through the skin via a small incision in the chin crease. This will provide instantly noticeable and precise results, but Kybella is a good option for patients who don't want to endure invasive surgery, downtime, or aftercare.

Who Is an Ideal Candidate?

Green says that Kybella is a safe injection for the majority of people and nearly everyone is an ideal candidate in her experience.

Fallek has a set list of factors that he looks out for before treating a patient. Here are the following traits that make a candidate ideal for Kybella:

  • Over the age of 18 and are in good health
  • Have a moderate amount of neck fat (if treating the neck)
  • Want to avoid invasive surgery
  • Have not seen results from diet or exercise

Both doctors agree that Kybella shouldn’t be injected into the bodies of pregnant women. Fallek notes, “Cosmetic procedures in pregnancy are generally frowned upon but since Kybella is a local injection, there’s really no harm to a pregnancy.” However, it is much simpler to advise women to wait after they give birth before getting the treatment.

Other than that, anyone with pinchable fat in the submental area can be treated. Green did acknowledge though that some candidates in their early 20s might be considered “too young” for the procedure, but it ultimately all depends on each person’s genetics.

How Many Sessions Do You Need?

Kybella may have fat reducing properties, but it doesn’t provide instant results. You'll need multiple sessions to see a difference.

Green says she usually advises her patients to get three to four sessions, spaced at least one month apart. Each session can use anywhere from one to three vials depending on how much fat you’re trying to get rid of. Many patients will be able to see results after the second session or so.

woman having chin examined
RobertoDavid/Getty 

Are There Any Side Effects?

For the most part, Kybella is a safe injectable—which is why it has FDA approval. Both doctors agree that the main side effect patients need to be aware of is that it will cause swelling.

Fallek says some patients may experience more swelling that others and that it can last for up 10 days. For these cases, he advises his patients to wear scarves and turtlenecks to conceal the appearance. 

Other than a slight puffiness around the submental area, Green warns that removing fat can have unexpected consequences for patients with skin laxity. In these cases, the face can appear droopy when there is no more fullness in the treated area.

She also advises people to seek out a board-certified doctor for Kybella injections because it is much safer that way. Anyone who has not thoroughly studied the anatomy of the submental region of the face can risk injecting Kybella into a vein—which is something that could have dangerous and undesirable consequences for both a person’s health and appearance.

Is There Downtime or Aftercare?

Kybella is a non-invasive treatment for getting rid of trouble spots. It’s like any other shot or filler, which means there’s no significant downtime. You can easily go back to work after your session, and no one would know you even got it done.

Fallek shares what patients should expect when getting Kybella done and the possible post-injection discomfort that can come with it. Here is what he had to say:

  • After the treatment, there is swelling, tenderness, and redness of the neck, which can be visible for three to five days after the treatment. 
  • The discomfort is typically not too bad, but each patient is different. The bruising possibilities are a little less than chin liposuction, yet it can be seen with either method. 
  • The downtime depends on how much is injected and the amount of fat being treated. It typically goes down after the first treatment.
  • Sun exposure is not an issue when you get Kybella. 

Can Kybella Treat Other Areas?

If you’re hip to the latest innovations in non-surgical cosmetic procedures, you might have noticed that there are posts floating around social media and YouTube about Kybella being applied to other parts of the body. Particularly, patients have been treating stubborn lower belly fat.

Fallek acknowledged this phenomenon has gained traction with some doctors. “Theoretically and in some practices, anywhere there is fat, Kybella can be used,” he says. “Arms, knees, and outer bra fat are the other areas that are becoming more popular.”

He added: “It is also known to be used to treat love handles or the pockets of fat that sit at the side of the hips.”

He also shared that there is a term that is getting popular—and that term is “Banana-Bella.” With this tactic, Kybella is injected into the “banana roll,” also known as the roll of fat beneath the posterior.

Green reaffirmed that Kybella is intended for submental area. However, she admitted that it can be useful in small fat pockets, such as around the knees.

“Off-label use of Kybella for other parts of the body in large areas like lower belly fat is ridiculous,” she says. Her reasoning? You would need so much of it that the price would be exorbitant. Kybella is an expensive injection due to the ingredients it uses. “It is more of a price issue than a safety issue,” Green says.

close up shot of needle
 

Is There a Limit?

Green says there isn’t a limit per se, but she typically treats her clients with three or four sessions. “A person probably doesn’t have to go beyond this,” she says.

Fallek on the other hand, says Kybella can be administered for as long as it’s needed—so long as there is fat present for treating, of course. The only other thing that impacts your chance of continuing Kybella treatments is the funding part.

How Long Do Results Last?

Kybella is described as a permanent fat loss method, however, it is not a miracle injection the way some would hope. Fat in these treatment areas will not return, but the remaining fat cells that haven’t been treated can expand over time if your diet isn’t maintained.

Despite this, Fallek stresses: “Treatments are not permanent.” Good, long-lasting results can only come from healthy eating and exercise.

The Cost

Green, who is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, says the cost of Kybella in her practice is $1,500 per treatment. However, the area in which you live may result in an inflated or deflated price point depending on supply and demand.

According to the healthcare marketplace and research platform RealSelf, Kybella costs $1,400 per treatment on average. Members of the website have reported paying $600 to $800 per vial. Other factors that play into pricing include the number of vials used, the experience level of the provider and their fees.

Since Kybella is considered a cosmetic procedure, it is more than likely not by medical insurance and will have to pay for out of pocket.

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