What to Know About Kybella Injections

Kybella is the commercial name for deoxycholic acid. Your body naturally produces this substance 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. It’s also a non-surgical option for lipomas, non-cancerous tumors made of fat cells.

How Kybella Works

When a practitioner injects Kybella into your submental area (your chin) it kills fat cells, reducing the appearance of a double chin. The FDA has only approved Kybella for use in this area.

You can get up to six Kybella injections, spaced at least a month apart, for maximum results. However, most people get two treatments. The treatments should be spaced about 4 to 6 weeks apart.

This type of procedure is called injection lipolysis. This means that it’s a procedure that breaks down fat through an injection.

People often choose Kybella because it's a non-surgical option for excess chin fat removal. It has a lower recovery time than surgical procedures and has fewer risks.

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.

Practitioners can give Kybella injections in a variety of settings. A medspa, a spa-like setting for non-surgical cosmetic procedures, is one option. You can also receive injections at many cosmetic surgery offices.

What to Expect for Kybella Recovery

Getting Kybella usually takes about 20 minutes. In one sitting, a practitioner may give you up to 50 injections from the same syringe of Kybella. The injections are usually about 1 centimeter apart. Directly after receiving a Kybella injection, you can expect:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Temporary numbness at the site of injection

Other side effects include:

  • Difficulty swallowing ( dysphagia)
  • Skin ulceration
  • Temporary nerve injury
  • Temporary or permanent beard hair loss

The swelling usually goes away after anything from a few days to a few weeks.

You can usually go back to your regular activity level right after the procedure. Your doctor may recommend a compression garment to help with the swelling.

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Some people prefer Kybella to liposuction because of the shorter recovery time. However, some people decide to stay home until the swelling goes down if they are self-conscious about it. Kybella is also an option for people who are not good candidates for facial plastic surgeries like liposuction or a neck lift.

You can expect to see results in 6 to 8 weeks following the procedure. You will notice a tightening of the skin in the chin area and less of an appearance of a double chin.

The effects of Kybella are permanent. However, if you gain a significant amount of weight, you may see some fat come back to that area of your 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 difficulty 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.

How Much Does Kybella Cost?

The average cost of injection lipolysis is $1,027. However, since most people get multiple procedures, the total cost may be anywhere from $3,000 to $5,500.

In most cases, insurance does not cover Kybella injections because it’s a cosmetic procedure. So, you can expect to pay the costs yourself.

Alternatives to Kybella

There are other options for submental fat removal.

Coolsculpting. This is also called cryolipolysis. In this procedure, the 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 for application.

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.

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Does Kybella Really Work?

20 studies from around the globe show that over 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. Additionally, over 79% of people who received Kybella said they felt happier with how that part of their face looked. This suggests that Kybella is effective at reducing fat in the double chin area.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 21, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

AMERICAN BOARD OF COSMETIC SURGERY: "Neck Contouring Guide."

American Society of Plastic Surgeons: “How much does nonsurgical fat reduction cost?” "What is cryolipolysis?" "What is injection lipolysis?" "What is laser lipolysis?" "What is radiofrequency lipolysis?" "What to look for in a quality med spa." 

California Academy of Cosmetic Surgery: "KYBELLA™."

FDA: "HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION - KYBELLA®"

FooDB: "Showing Compound Deoxycholic acid (FDB012780)."

howmuchisit: "How Much Does Kybella Cost?" 

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: "Lipomas treated with subcutaneous deoxycholate injections."

PRS Global Open: "Noninvasive Submental Fat Compartment Treatment."

PubChem: "Deoxycholic acid."

Stanford HEALTH CARE: "Kybella."

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