What Is Kybella?
Kybella is a nonsurgical injectable treatment to reduce your submental fat (double chin). It's the only FDA-approved injectable drug for this purpose.
Kybella is the commercial name for synthetic deoxycholic acid. Your body naturally produces deoxycholic acid in your digestive system. It helps to break down fats so they're more easily digested. Deoxycholic acid is also used as an emulsifier in foods. And it’s a nonsurgical option for lipomas, non-cancerous tumors made of fat cells.
People often choose Kybella because it has a lower recovery time than surgery and therefore fewer risks. Kybella shots are also an option for people who aren't good candidates for facial plastic surgeries like liposuction or a neck lift.
How Does Kybella Work?
When injected into the fat below the skin, Kybella breaks down fat cells in that area. After the fat cells are destroyed, immune cells called macrophages come in. They clear away the remnants of the destroyed cells and promote new collagen through the recruitment of fibroblasts. A fibroblast is a type of cell that helps form connective tissue.
Once the fat cells are gone, the area under the chin will no longer store fat. Between that and the tissue tightening, the double chin should fade.
The treatment is also called injection lipolysis, as it breaks down fat through an injection. Getting Kybella shots usually takes about 20 minutes. First, the health care worker numbs the area with ice or a numbing cream. Then, using a marker, they mark out the area they will treat under your chin using dots to form a grid-like pattern. They inject each dot from the same syringe of Kybella. The shots are usually about 1 centimeter apart.
The number of injections depends on how much fat is in your chin and your desired look; 20 shots is typical, but it could be as high as 50. It should not be painful.
Here's how to prepare for your Kybella treatment:
- Don't schedule it too close to a major event, like a wedding, due to bruising. Schedule it at least 2 to 4 weeks before the event.
- Don't schedule it if you're pregnant or plan to become pregnant, as research hasn't been done on how it will affect an unborn baby. Also, don't schedule it if you're breastfeeding.
- Reschedule your appointment if you come down with a rash or open sore in the treatment area.
- Avoid harsh scrubs, retinoid compounds, and bleaching creams on your face 2 days before and 2 days after treatment.
- Avoid anti-inflammatory or blood-thinning medications and supplements such as aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and fish oil 10-14 days before treatment and 3-4 days afterward.
- Avoid alcohol a week before treatment, as it may thin blood and make bruising more likely.
- Eat before treatment to reduce the risk of lightheadedness.
- Remove makeup, moisturizer, and facial sunscreen before treatment. Thoroughly wash your face and neck too.
- If you have a beard, shave it before treatment.
- Consider taking arnica tablets a week before treatment to prevent bruising.
You can get up to six Kybella shots for maximum results. Most people need at least two or three treatment to see results. The treatments should be spaced about 4 to 6 weeks apart.
Is Kybella Permanent?
Yes. Once the deoxycholic acid destroys the fat cells in that area of your chin, they can no longer store fat. So the results should be permanent.
But if you gain a significant amount of weight, you may see some fat come back to that area of your chin.
Who Can Inject Kybella?
In the U.S., only trained medical professionals like a doctor, nurse, or physician's assistant should inject Kybella. In some states, a nurse or physician's assistant needs to be under the supervision of a doctor to perform injectable "medspa" procedures.
You can get Kybella shots in a variety of settings, including a dermatologist's office, a medspa (or medical spa, a spa-like setting for nonsurgical cosmetic procedures), or a cosmetic surgery center.
Kybella Side Effects
Just after receiving a Kybella shot, you can expect:
- Temporary numbness where you get the shot
- Hardness around the area you get the shot
Swelling and bruising will usually go away in a few days to a few weeks. These are normal reactions to the procedure.
More serious, though rare, side effects include:
- A hard time swallowing (dysphagia)
- Temporary nerve injury
- Temporary or permanent beard hair loss
- An uneven smile, due to a nerve injury in the jaw
- Open sores
- An infection
In clinical studies done by the makers of Kybella, nerve injury in the jaw cleared up on its own in a median of 44 days, and trouble swallowing cleared up on its own in a median of 3 days. But if you have any of the serious side effects, contact the center where you got the procedure right away.
What to Expect in Kybella Recovery
You can usually go back to your regular activity level 24 hours after the procedure. Your doctor may recommend a compression garment to help with the swelling.
But some people decide to stay home until the swelling goes down if they are self-conscious about it. Others may wear a scarf or turtleneck sweater when they have to go out.
Here are some other home care tips:
- Avoid extreme heat (like hot showers and saunas) for 24 hours.
- Don't drink alcohol for 3 days to reduce swelling.
- Do not exercise heavily for 24-48 hours, as this can worsen swelling.
- Use ice packs for the first 12 hours if you find that helpful for pain relief.
- Take acetaminophen for pain as instructed. Talk to your doctor before taking ibuprofen.
- Do not massage the area where you got the shot, as this will irritate it more.
- Take arnica supplements to reduce bruising.
- Sleep on your back with your head raised on a couple of pillows to ease swelling.
- You can use makeup to cover the bruises starting 24 hours after treatment.
You can expect to see results in 6 to 8 weeks after the procedure, but it make take up to 12 weeks to see maximum results. You will notice a tightening of the skin in the chin area and less of an appearance of a double chin.
Is Kybella Safe?
Kybella is generally considered to be safe. The procedure does carry a small risk of nerve damage that may result in a lopsided smile or a hard time swallowing. In most cases, this damage is temporary.
Kybella has only been approved for use in the chin area. There may be other risks when Kybella is used "off-label" for other areas of the body.
The average cost of injection lipolysis is $941, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Keep in mind that most people will need multiple procedures, so if you had, for instance, three treatments done, your cost would be around $2,823. But that figure may not account for all costs related to having this procedure.
In most cases, insurance does not cover Kybella shots because it’s a cosmetic procedure. So you can expect to pay the costs yourself.
There are other options for submental fat removal.
Coolsculpting. This is also called cryolipolysis. In this procedure, fat cells are frozen and killed.
Vanquish. Also known as radiofrequency lipolysis, Vanquish heats fat cells with a radio frequency, killing them.
SculpSure. This is called laser lipolysis. It’s similar to Vanquish in that the fat cells are heated and killed, but instead of using radiofrequency, it uses a laser.
Neck contouring surgery. This is a more invasive option than the previous ones mentioned. It may consist of liposuction, a neck lift, or both. The goal of this surgery is to give the chin and neck a flat, smooth appearance, without a double chin.
Does Kybella Work?
Twenty studies from around the globe show that 68.2% of people who received Kybella saw a reduction in the fat under their chin, compared to just 20% of people who received a placebo. And over 79% of people who received Kybella said they felt happier with how that part of their face looked. This suggests that Kybella works to reduce fat in the double chin area.
Kybella is a nonsurgical procedure for people looking to lose their double chin. It's the brand name for synthetic deoxycholic acid, which is injected into your chin to kill the fat cells there. It is the only FDA-approved injectable treatment for this purpose. Treatment time is less than 20 minutes.
How much is one syringe of Kybella?
You usually need one syringe for one treatment. The average cost is around $941 for one treatment, but will vary widely. People usually need more than one treatment of Kybella to see results.
Is Kybella worth the money?
Many people who get it are happy with the results, but it's not right for everyone. You have to get several procedures to see results, and there'll be at least a couple of weeks when you will have swelling in the chin area. Compare the cost, time for healing, and the final look for Kybella against liposuction and other alternatives.