When Kybella, the fat-zapping injection formulated specifically for double chins, arrived on the scene at doctor’s offices three years ago, the world celebrated the end of the infamous #chinning selfies. The quick, low-pain and no downtime procedure promised results so dramatic that patients were scrambling to schedule their appointments.
But now, thanks to adventurous influencers and the reach of social media, Kybella is becoming popular to treat other stubborn areas of fat, not just double chins.
“We do off-label Kybella injections daily in our practice,” says Beverly Hills-based plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Emer. “It can be used on many areas off-label, such as the elbows, knees, stomach, bra roll, buttock roll.”
These hard-to-treat spots are prime locations for patients seeking dramatic results, but without the recovery downtime or anesthesia associated with liposuction or another type of fat-reduction surgery.
We asked three top medical professionals to weigh in on the new Kybella trend, and why it might just be the next big thing — on social media, and off.
A tricky spot
Although Kybella’s FDA approval is specific to treating the area under your chin, it is not a cause for concern to use it elsewhere on the body, according to Dr. Bradley Hubbard, a plastic surgeon based in Dallas, Texas.
“Off-label Kybella use began with doctors experimenting, but the mechanics of the drug is that its fat-reducing,” says Dr. Hubbard. “But to be honest, the neck is a much more challenging place than your armpit, or the inside of the knee, which are two of the most requested areas to treat. There really aren’t important nerves there. If a doctor is comfortable injecting the neck, the rest of the body is a piece of cake. The FDA file is for that specific neck location, but if you know the mechanics of the drug, it’s not scary to use anywhere else.”
Low risk, high reward
Carla Crespo, a physician assistant and registered nurse with Marina Plastic Surgery outside of Los Angeles, explains that there is virtually no downside to the treatment.
“It’s non-invasive fat reduction and no anesthesia is required,” she says. “The best part about the procedure is that it’s a 15 minute office visit with minimal discomfort.”
She tells patients to expect a bit of a pinch with the needle injection, along with a slight burning sensation after the treatment, but “nothing at all debilitating. People go back to work right after.”
Patience is a virtue
Off-label Kybella is incredibly effective, but just as when it’s used to treat double chins, the results are not immediate for other body areas either.
Dr. Emer recommends at least two to three appointments before you begin to see results. If a patient is looking for an area to be contoured or shaped, like the ever-popular ab sculpting, more treatments may be required, timed three to six weeks apart.
“Once the area is treated with Kybella, your body eliminates the fat cells, and they will never be reproduced,” says Crespo. “It’s like a fat-eliminating whammy for your body.”
So while patients may have to wait a few weeks to witness results, they will, in fact, be long lasting.
Small areas are key
“The advantage of Kybella is that it’s one of the few ways to kill fat that doesn’t involve surgery,” says Dr. Hubbard. “But it’s like painting with a small paintbrush — it allows you to treat smaller areas where you want to do a correction, an asymmetry, or a section of your body where it’s not worth going into surgery.”
He cites the outer thigh and the narrow crevice where the armpit meets the breast area as the two most requested sections to treat with Kybella.
“I’ve had more requests to reduce the armpit/boob area over the last six months than in my first five years of surgery,” he says. “It’s a universally present area and everyone hates it.”
Another benefit of Kybella, according to Crespo, is the ability to inject the solution exactly in a desired area, without an unwieldy device.
“It can be tailored to the exact size of the troubled area, whereas other procedures have a specific applicator that can sometimes be tricky to maneuver, or doesn’t hit the problem area directly. Kybella treats exactly where you want it, making it highly effective at treating specific, hard to reach areas,” she says.
Double up on procedures
The injectable kills and eliminates fat cells, but for some patients, that isn’t enough.
“With Kybella, you will sometimes have some loose skin after the treatments, especially with older patients whose skin doesn’t bounce back so easily. So you’ll have eliminated the fat, but you’ll still have loose skin overtop,” explains Crespo.
To add a little extra oomph to their results and accelerate Kybella’s visibility, many patients choose to combine Kybella with another procedure, depending on their desired look.