As the first and only FDA-approved injectable double chin treatment, Kybella’s active ingredient (deoxycholic acid) promises to permanently destroy the moderate to severe accumulation of fat cells under the chin.
This way, if you’re unhappy with the submental fullness in this area and feel like it makes you look older or heavier than you are—despite the fact that you eat well and exercise regularly—the company tells us Kybella might be able to improve your profile.
According to a survey conducted by the American Society for Dermatological Surgery, 68 percent of respondents stated that “excess fat under the chin/neck” was a top concern. As such, there’s clearly a huge market for Kybella.
But just what is submental fullness? Outside of Kybella, are there other methods for treating it? If not, does this necessarily mean that you should talk with your doctor about these injections?
You’re here because you have a lot of questions about Kybella. We’ll help you find some answers you can use to make a more informed decision.
What Is Submental Fullness (Double Chin)? What Causes It? What Are Some Common Treatments?
This is admittedly a complicated topic and something that can (and does) fill entire books. Here, though, our goal it to provide a brief overview so that we’ll have a solid foundation to work with.
How Does Fat Form in the Body? Where Is It Stored?
Whenever your body consumes fat or carbohydrates, these substances are broken down into fatty acids and glucose, respectively. If your body needs energy, these substances are then “burned” as fuel through a process known as metabolism.
Now, if you consume more of these substances than your body needs, your body won’t let them go to waste. Instead, it will store them inside specialized fat cells, known as adipocytes, or lipocytes.
Once these adipocytes are formed, they stick around indefinitely, even after an individual has lost weight, which is one reason why it’s so easy to regain weight after dieting. In fact, the only way to remove them from the body is using a cosmetic procedure, such as liposuction.
How Fat Formation (& Other Causes) Leads to a Double Chin
In most cases, fat cells tend to accumulate around the waist and midsection for men, and around the thighs and buttocks for women.
However, this fat can also accumulate (among many other areas) around the face and underneath the chin and neck, leading to a condition known as submental fullness, or double chin.
Weight gain or loss isn’t the only reason a double chin can appear, though, as genetics, aging, and other factors also play important roles. As such, some individuals may have dealt with a double chin their whole life, while others might not have one appear until they get older and their skin begins sagging.
Double chins tend to be especially pernicious, though, because they often don’t go away after an individual has lost weight (largely due the nature of fat cells).
What about Kybella, though? How does it promise to deliver results? Does it have any clinical substantiation? Let’s find out in the next section.
How Does Kybella Work? How Long Can You Expect the Results Last?
Kybella (known as Belkyra in Canada, Australia, and the UK) uses a non-human, non-animal formulation of deoxycholic acid, which is a naturally occurring molecule in the body that aids in the breakdown and absorption of dietary fat.
Inside the human body, deoxycholic acid is produced by intestinal bacteria. It can also be created synthetically (as is the case with Kybella) and used as an emulsifier in food, as a “mild detergent for the isolation of membrane associated proteins” in clinical settings, and as a method of preventing and dissolving gallstones.
Because of its fat-emulsifying powers, Kybella’s deoxycholic acid can be injected directly into the skin underneath the chin by a trained healthcare professional, where it can go to work in that particular area.
According to the Kybella website, each of your treatment sessions will take about 15 to 20 minutes, where approximately 0.2 mL of the solution will be used per injection site, spaced approximately 1cm apart.
Keep in mind that the exact number of injections you receive will largely depend on the amount of fat under your chin and your desired aesthetic goal.
Also, each treatment will be given at least one month apart, and patients shouldn’t expect to receive more than six total treatments.
Regardless of the number of treatments you require, once your under-chin fat cells are destroyed, they’re no longer capable of storing fat. As a result, the results you achieve should be considered permanent.
Will Kybella Injections Cause Any Side Effects?
According to the manufacturer, the most common side effects associated with Kybella include swelling, bruising, pain, numbness, redness, and areas of hardness in the treatment area.
Any mild to moderate pain during the treatment can likely be alleviated using ice/cold packs or topical and injectable local anesthesia.
In more severe instances, nerve injury in the jaw has occurred, which can cause an uneven smile, facial or muscle weakness (4% of patients in clinical trials experience this—more next), or trouble swallowing (2% of clinical trial participants).
Fortunately, the company reports that these side effects (even the more severe ones) are usually temporary and resolve on their own. However, they note that nerve injury related side effects took as long as 298 days to resolve, while trouble swallowing took as long as 81 days.
The manufacturer also notes that “It is not known if KYBELLA® is safe and effective for use outside of the submental area or in children less than 18 years of age.”
You’ll want to avoid treatment if you have an infection in the treatment area, or if you’re thinking about (or have recently undergone) surgery or a cosmetic procedure on your face, neck, or chin.
Finally, be sure to let your physician know if you’re taking any anti-platelet or anti-coagulant medications.
Has Kybella Been Clinical Studied? What Were the Results?
Kybella’s 2015 FDA approval was based largely on two identical randomized, multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials (although the company tells us that more than 1,600 patients have been treated across all of their trials):
- A 2011 study of 360 patients between 18 and 65 years old
- A nearly identical 2012 study of 500 patients between 18 and 65 years old
In summary, the manufacturer reports that “79% of patients treated with KYBELLA® had improved satisfaction with the appearance of their face and area beneath their chin 12 weeks after last treatment, 68.2% … had some/moderately better improvement,” while “16% … had significant/a great deal better improvement.”
Are these the same kinds of results reported by real-world Kybella patients? We’ll talk more about this in a second, but first, how much will you pay for your Kybella injections?
How Much Do Kybella Treatments Cost?
There weren’t any prices listed on the Kybella website, although exactly how much you’ll pay for Kybella (or any other prescription injectable, like Botox) depends on your location, the number of procedures your physician recommends, as well as who performs your procedure.
With this in mind, RealSelf.com readers—more next—reported an average price of $1,350 (anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000), with the Beautiful Whim blog reporting a similar average between $1,000 and $1,500.
Since Kybella is considered a cosmetic treatment (versus a medical necessity), it likely won’t be covered by insurance, although it’s always a good idea to contact your provider and at least ask.
If you decide to pursue a Kybella treatment, you can join their free Brilliant Distinctions program, which allows you to earn points for savings on future treatments. The BD program also has an iOS app, which provides treatment reminders, account updates, points tracking, and more.
With these prices in mind, are Kybella patients finding success?
Are There Any Kybella Reviews? What About Before & After Pictures?
At the time of our research, there was a total of 250 individual Kybella patient reviews—including many before and after images—on RealSelf.com. There, 89% felt the injectable treatment was worth it.
Of these reviews, some of the most frequent compliments referenced an improved (some claimed “significantly”) profile and less pain and discomfort than expected.
On the other hand, most complaints cited mild burning/warmth in and around the injection site, swelling (sometimes severe) that subsided soon after the treatment, and pain during the procedure.
While most of these RealSelf reviews are short and to the point, you can get a much more in-depth look on the A Beautiful Whim blog.
There, the author noted that each injection (there will likely be 20–30 per treatment) burned for 5–10 minutes afterward, but then faded. In the end, they claimed to have experienced a “profound” change four weeks after a single treatment.
From a company perspective, Kybella is brought to you by Kythera Biopharmaceuticals (a division of Allergan), a publically traded company based out of Dublin, Ireland.
Given everything we’ve covered here, should you undergo a Kybella procedure for your double chin?
Are Kybella Injections Right For You?
With so many of us irritated by our double chin, based on the available clinical evidence, it appears that the synthetic deoxycholic acid contained in Kybella might be able to reduce its appearance effectively.
Pro tip: Just remember that Kybella is only intended to address fat, not extra skin. So, even once you remove the layer of fat underneath your chin, you could be left with excess skin that requires surgery to maximize your profile.
On top of this, you won’t need more than six treatments to accomplish this, with very few instances of severe side effects reported. And even when they were present, it seemed they eventually cleared up on their own.
Having said this, depending on the results you’re looking to achieve, as well as other tangible factors like your location (it will likely cost more in say, Beverly Hills, than it would in Toledo, OH) and your physician, it appears there can be a big difference in what you’ll pay.
On top of this, remember that Kybella isn’t a sure thing. In fact, even based on the company’s clinical testing, only about ¾ of patients reported “improved satisfaction,” so be sure to keep your expectations realistic, which is something your doctor can certainly help with.
For these reasons, we’d certainly recommended exploring all your local options—including investigating your physician’s reputation—before signing on the dotted line.
Did you undergo Kybella treatments for your double chin? If so, what did you pay? Did you experience satisfactory results? Would you recommend the procedure to others?
Whatever it is, give us all the details in your review below!