The prescription drug was invented by Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. and is marketed as a way for adults to dissolve the unwanted fat under their chin (often referred to as a “double chin”) without relying on surgical intervention.
Known as submental fullness, a “double chin” can result from a genetic predisposition or be related to weight gain or advancing age.
When polled, just under 70% of people said that they were bothered by the appearance of fat under their chin. This is about the same amount of people who worry about the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles around their eyes, so submental fullness is considered a significant cosmetic issue.
Kybella is safe for most people over 18, although those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not receive the injections. It offers a safer alternative for treating submental fullness than undergoing costly, risky surgery.
I’m intrigued. Where do Kybella injections go?
Because Kybella typically targets excess fat under the chin, your provider will place injections in that area. Specifically, the injections go into the fat in the subcutaneous tissue of the submental triangle area of the neck/chin.
How does Kybella work?
Once injected into the subcutaneous fat, Kybella (deoxycholic acid) gets to work destroying the fat cells. Although deoxycholic acid present in Kybella is synthetic, it’s based on a naturally present substance in the body.
In its usual location (in the intestines), the body utilizes the acid to break down and absorb dietary fats. It can do the same action when injected into the under-chin area, too.
With the fat cells destroyed, they can no longer either accumulate or store fat, which leads to a visible reduction in the fullness underneath the chin. This is permanent, and those fat cells will not grow back in the future.
How does a Kybella procedure work?
For some people, the tension surrounding having cosmetic treatments done comes mainly from uncertainty. If you don’t know what to expect, your brain can build it into something much bigger than it is.
That’s why knowing exactly how a Kybella treatment appointment will work can help you feel more prepared and confident in your decision.
We’ll always start with a consultation to develop a treatment plan, explain the procedure and tell you what results to expect. This is also a time for you to ask any questions you might have about the process or what happens afterward.
When it comes time for the actual injections, we begin by applying cold packs to the area receiving treatment. The cold pack helps minimize discomfort during the procedure and reduces the risk for swelling after.
Your provider will then place your Kybella injections in the targeted areas. Although we use cold packs to help reduce the risk of tenderness, some people describe the injections as minor discomfort. Generally, it takes between 10-20 minutes to finalize your treatment.
What are the potential Kybella side effects?
The potential Kybella side effects range from very mild to severe. However, in nearly every case, those side effects are temporary and will resolve on their own over time.
On the mild side, people who have had Kybella most commonly report swelling, bruising, redness, numbness, pain and hardness in the injected areas.
The severe side effects of Kybella are rare and can usually be avoided by having your injections performed by a trained and licensed professional, like one of Skin Pharm’s advanced practice providers. Side effects include nerve injury to the jaw and difficulty with swallowing. If you experience nerve injury to the jaw, you may also notice that you have an uneven smile or weakness of your facial muscles.
Kybella-related swallowing difficulties are usually not nerve-related and are likely caused by swelling or pain in the lower chin area.
Even more rare severe side effects include ulcers and necrosis (tissue-cell death) around the injection site. These are primarily associated with injections given by untrained or unlicensed providers.
Speak with your provider before treatment if you have concerns about any side effects related to Kybella.
Also make sure to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions you may have and any medications you are taking, as either may impact your healing process or the likelihood of developing side effects.
Is there any downtime needed after a Kybella treatment?
While you’ll physically be able to return to work or daily life immediately after your injections, you will likely experience mild to moderate swelling as well as some tenderness. Although temporary (usually lasting less than 72 hours), it is often noticeable enough that people prefer to take the rest of the day off.
Managing these side effects can include taking Tylenol as needed for swelling or tenderness (check with your medical provider) and ice packs to the area.
If you do use ice packs, do not leave them on for more than 20 minutes at a time. You can cycle through using ice packs for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for the first 24 hours after treatment, then use as needed.
It can also minimize the swelling to sleep face up, with your head slightly elevated. Try to avoid touching the area (especially with firm pressure or massage) and focus on drinking plenty of water. Avoid sweating for 3-5 days after your procedure, including vigorous exercise and sun and heat exposure, too.
We recommend scheduling your Kybella injections at least two weeks before any major events so that your skin is less likely to be still swollen or tender.
Okay, I’m sold! Will I need more than one treatment?
Much like other injectable cosmetic procedures, like Botox and Dysport, you will likely need multiple treatments to achieve optimal results with Kybella. During your initial consultation, your provider will discuss your goals and work with you to create a tailored treatment plan.
For most people, this involves between two to four treatment sessions. However, you can receive up to six treatments spaced at least one month apart (we recommend 12 weeks between treatments to allow you time to heal and for your Kybella to have time to work).
Remember, although you may not see results right away, Kybella is both effective and permanent. Expect it to take around 12 weeks after your last injection for full results.
Are there other areas Kybella works on?
Although Kybella has only been FDA-approved for treating submental fullness to this point, there are several other areas the drug can help treat. The area around your bra line, your stomach and even your hips and thighs may benefit from receiving Kybella injections.
What else can I do about my double chin?
If you want to change the silhouette of your jawline, there are other procedures that you can take advantage of, as well.
An injectable treatment that is often paired with Kybella is a dermal filler. These injections are used to help improve the harmony in your face by strengthening your jawline and chin while at the same time softening your jowls.
Dermal fillers can sculpt a more defined jaw, while Kybella helps to remove the excess fat underneath it. Another cosmetic procedure is a “Nefertiti” lift, which involves either Botox or Dysport. While this doesn’t change the silhouette of your jawline or chin, it does help to reduce the appearance of creases and lines on the neck.
When combined with Kybella and/or dermal fillers, it can take years off your appearance.
And finally, although Kybella treatments permanently kill the fat cells in the areas of injection, they can’t counteract an unhealthy lifestyle.
To maintain your new, slimmer jawline and under-chin area, it’s essential to keep up with any necessary lifestyle changes — like following a healthy diet and exercising regularly — to keep it looking its best.
To wrap things up...
With a double chin topping most people’s list of cosmetic complaints, Kybella offers a practical, non-surgical way to counteract it. Although there are some Kybella side effects (like swelling and redness) to be aware of, it has proven since its FDA approval in 2015 that it does what it says it will do.
For more information, book a consultation with one of Skin Pharm’s advanced practice providers today!