- Kybella is an FDA-approved treatment to reduce submental fullness.
- Kybella is non-invasive
- Kybella is associated with high rates of temporary side effects, such as swelling and bruising.
- Alternatives to Kybella include CoolMini and submental liposuction.
What Is Kybella?
Kybella is a non-surgical treatment to reduce submental fullness, also known as a double chin. Kybella was approved for use on the chin by the FDA in 2015 and employs a synthetic form of naturally-occuring deoxycholic acid to help absorb fat.
How Does Kybella Work?
The treatment is tailored to help reduce the individual’s submental fat pad. Up to 50 injections are administered to kill fat cells beneath the chin. The body metabolizes the dead cells in the weeks after treatment, eliminating them from the body as waste.
Controversy Surrounding Kybella
For a non-surgical procedure, Kybella requires significant post-treatment downtime. This is due to the number of injections that are delivered to the target area. On average, patients require between 20-50 injections per treatment. As a result, swelling and bruising can occur and last for up to one week. This is known as ‘the bullfrog effect’. In one FDA study on Kybella the following statistics emerged:
- 87% of Kybella patients experienced swelling;
- 72% experienced hematoma or bruising;
- 70% experienced pain;
- 66% experienced numbness following treatment.
Kybella is not a “one and done” treatment for a double chin. The majority of patients need between three and five injection treatments to achieve full correction. Without adequate dosing or sufficient treatments, patients are likely to experience sub-optimal results.
Although some patients notice minor skin tightening following Kybella treatments, this is not the case for all patients. Skin laxity or prominent platysmal muscle bands around the neck may become more evident after Kybella. This results in a need for supplementary treatments to improve the appearance of the skin.
Common Side Effects
Patients who undergo Kybella treatments may experience some reactions at the injection site. These include swelling, bruising and discomfort.
Patients may also experience:
- Post-procedural numbness
- Nodule formation
- Erythema (redness)
- Dysphagia (trouble swallowing)
- Localized alopecia at the treatment site (which is problematic for male patients)
Most side effects will subside after several days. Bruising, swelling and numbness, however, may linger for weeks.
There are several identified risks associated with Kybella treatment.
In a trial of 513 people, 4% experienced nerve damage. To avoid this risk, Kybella must be injected into specific zones on the chin. Although nerve injury is rare, if it does occur the outcome can be serious. Injury to the marginal mandibular nerve that controls the corner of the mouth may result in an uneven smile.
Effects may be temporary, or in some cases, permanent. Patients who have undergone Kybella must contact their healthcare provider at the first sign of facial muscle weakness. Under the care of an experienced doctor, however, the risk of nerve damage is greatly reduced.
Some physicians and surgeons use Kybella for off-label purposes. Off-label means that the drug is used in a way that has not been recommended by the FDA or the manufacturer.
Some popular off-label uses of Kybella include reducing:
- Lipomas and lumps,
- Central abdominal fat,
- Upper arm fat,
- Anterior bra fat,
- Infra-orbital fat.
While it’s common among practitioners to use injectables in off-label ways, it has not been proven safe.
More research is needed to understand how the off-label use of Kybella affects fat deposits in the areas of treatment, the appropriate dosage to administer, and the potential side-effects that may arise from off-label use.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Kybella?
Candidates who may benefit from Kybella share the following features:
- A moderate to severe submental fullness caused by genetic predisposition, aging, or diet.
- No previous history of face or neck surgery, or liposuction. Residual scar tissue from prior treatments may affect Kybella results.
- Be in a good state of health.
- An understanding that Kybella reduces submental fullness gradually, following a series of treatments.
- Firm skin tone with no infections in the treatment area.
What Happens During the Kybella Procedure?
Kybella is a quick, straightforward treatment:
- Prior to treatment, the doctor numbs the submental area with ice for thirty minutes. A topical numbing agent or Lidocaine may also be used.
- The doctor marks injection sites beneath the chin, and then delivers the injections.
- The injections take approximately twenty minutes to administer. Most patients require between twenty to fifty injections, depending on the quantity of fat to be eradicated.
- Following the injections, the ice is re-applied.
- The markings are removed from the skin.
How Many Kybella Treatments Are Needed?
Most patients notice visible results following 1-3 treatments. Some patients may require up to six treatments. Treatments are usually spaced six to eight weeks apart to allow for recovery.
For optimal results, patients must undergo the number of treatments recommended by their provider.
What Results Can I Expect from Kybella?
Kybella reduces submental fullness over a period of months. It can take between 12 and 18 weeks following the final treatment before the results are fully apparent. Some individuals experience skin tightening beneath the chin in addition to fat reduction.
Results vary between individuals depending on:
- The number of treatments the individual has undergone
- The number of vials used per treatment
- The patient’s unique facial anatomy.
Patients with a less pronounced chin or lax skin may not enjoy the same quality of results as those who have a defined chin and firm skin.
At present, little is known about the long term effects of this treatment. While Kybella is very likely to last for several years and may be permanent provided the patient doesn’t gain weight, this has yet to be proven categorically.
Before and Afters
In one clinical trial, 66.1% of patients who received 2mg of Kybella reported they were satisfied with their appearance following up to four treatments. They also recorded psychological benefits to discover that patients were happier and less self-conscious in comparison to how they felt pre-procedure, believing they looked younger and less overweight.
Measurements taken with callipers showed a significant reduction in submental fullness following the completion of treatment.
How Much Does Kybella Cost?
Kybella is priced between $800 and $1400 for one treatment. There are several factors that influence the cost of treatment, including:
- The expertise of the injector.
- The geographic location of the clinic.
- The number of treatment sessions required. This depends on the size of the submental fat pad and the body’s response to Kybella.
- The number of vials used for each treatment. This depends on the amount of fat beneath the chin.
Alternatives to Kybella
In addition to Kybella, there are two alternative treatment options appropriate for addressing submental fullness:
CoolMini is an FDA approved non-invasive treatment for submental fullness. It uses the same fat freezing technology as CoolSculpting but has a specially shaped attachment that targets fat deposits beneath the chin. For CoolMini to be effective, the fat beneath a patient’s chin should be pinchable. This allows it to be easily suctioned into the device.
Number of treatments: Most patients require 1-2 treatments for optimal results
Cost: Each treatment costs between $550-2000.
Submental (or chin) liposuction eliminates a double chin and enhances the jawline. Very fine cannulas are first inserted into the skin through tiny incisions and the doctor or surgeon then removes fatty tissue beneath the chin, jowls and upper portion of the neck. Submental liposuction requires local anesthesia.
Number of treatments: One
Cost: Between $1000-$2500
Kybella is a leading treatment in a range of minimally invasive treatment options targeted at reducing a double chin. Kybella does carry risks and side effects, however, it remains an effective option for suitable candidates who would like to reduce submental fullness without surgery.
Kybella Providers near You
If you think Kybella might be right for you, a consultation with a cosmetic doctor will help you make a decision and answer any questions you may have, as well as explore other alternatives.
Meet our medical reviewers to know more about Kybella and find the right solution for you.