Jennifer Lopez has many talents, but it’s her butt that inspires discussions — and envy. It’s the age of Kim Kardashian and the bubble butt, says Grant Stevens, MD, FACS, medical director of Marina Plastic Surgery in Marina del Rey, California. What we used to regard as a flaw (a slightly larger rear end) is now attractive.

Increasingly, cosmetic surgeons are creating the bubble-butt look — either with implants or fat augmentation — for women unhappy with their flat and/or saggy rear end, Dr. Stevens says. It’s less about “big for big’s sake” than it is about achieving a degree of roundness that’s been lost with age and gravity. “What we’re trying to do is restore the youthful contour of the butt,” Dr. Stevens says. While some women opt for implants, surgeons are also getting great results with fat augmentation — which requires nothing more than your own fat.

Free Fat Transfer

When they first hear about free fat transfer (taking fat from one part of your body and injecting it into another), patients often ask, astonished: “Can I really do that?” The answer is yes, you can — and quite safely. Redistributing fat from one body part to another may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it’s an incredibly common (and safe) cosmetic procedure. “Free fat transfer in the human body is well documented,” Dr. Stevens says. When done right, it works, and it helps women achieve the soft contours they desire.

In our culture of dieting, fat has a terrible reputation. But cosmetic surgeons view it much differently. “We regard fat as liquid gold. It’s a valuable tissue in elective or constructive surgery.” The concept is very simple: the surgeon sucks the fat out of the unwanted areas (usually hips, thighs, back, arms or belly), prepares it, cleanses it and transfers it in and around the gluteus muscle on each buttock. On average, Dr. Stevens puts about 300ccs into each buttock, and about 200ccs survives — that’s about seven ounces (or the size of a small implant). For the fat to survive and take hold, it needs to establish a blood supply. Once it does that, it continues to live.

Fat Augmentation Results

The procedure can take a few hours, especially if the woman is lean. “I might spend a few hours trying to collect enough fat,” Dr. Stevens says. The belly is the logical first place to look, but he can only take extra-abdominal fat (the kind that you can easily squeeze), not intra-abdominal fat. The liposuction and fat transfer should happen at the same time, he says. “The best fat grafts are harvested, prepared and injected right away.” Fat is a living cell that requires oxygen, and it doesn’t survive well outside of the body.

There is some discomfort with free-fat transfer, but not for the procedure itself. About a third of Dr. Stevens’ patients have a local anesthetic with sedation, a third have an epidural and the remaining third have general anesthesia. It’s an outpatient procedure, and most women recover within a few days to a week. However, many women combine cosmetic procedures, Dr. Stevens says. It’s not unusual for him to perform a tummy tuck, liposuction/fat transfer and breast augmentation.

The beauty of free fat transfer is that you’re using your own tissue to enhance a part of your body. Fat augmentation doesn’t provide dramatic results, but that’s not what most people are going for. “It’s more noticeable to the patient than anyone else, but it can take the flat portion of the lower butt and make it more round,” Dr. Stevens says.