How Getting Kybella Transformed My Double Chin *and* My Perspective
I never thought I'd be the person to get "work" done but, let me tell you, having a (surgery-free!) double chin removal was worth it. Read on for my experiences with Kybella before and after.
It's 3 p.m. on a Thursday, and I've just furtively emerged onto New York City's Park Avenue, scarf wrapped practically up to my nose. If someone had told me even a year ago that I would be ducking out of the office at the age of 30 to have "work" done, I can promise you I wouldn't have believed them. And yet? Ten minutes ago, I'd voluntarily had roughly 20 injections of acid shot into my face as part of a double chin removal.
But let's back up. Fundamentally, I'm a believer in hard work—no shortcuts, no quick fixes. As an overweight kid who mercilessly ran, cycled, boxed, boot camped, barre-d, and Megaformed my way into a smaller-bodied adult, I consider it a point of pride. And as anyone who's ever worked to achieve their fitness goals can tell you, there's no contouring technique or pair of Spanx that feels as great as earning your results. (That's not to say that certain items such as these Spanx biker shorts aren't amazing in their own right. And also, you can work out because you like it and not because you want to change your body.)
What happens when hard work still doesn't feel like enough, though? In my case, the one "flaw" I couldn't sweat away was my double chin. It's hereditary; my family is Irish and that stubborn little pooch has held strong at every weight I've ever been. To add further insult, it seems to actively defy the decade-and-change of effort I've put in, making me appear—or at least making me feel like I appear—far heavier from the shoulders up than I actually am. (In addition to genetics, docs say that constantly looking down at our phones can also cause damage to neck skin.)
So, when I first caught wind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved an injectable called Kybella, specifically designed to eliminate this problem area (aka a double chin removal), my interest was immediately piqued. Here's how Kybella treatment works: The drug is a synthetic form of deoxycholic acid, which is naturally produced by your body to aid in the breakdown of dietary fat. In this case, though, it's injected through the muscle into the submental fat layer beneath your chin. Within minutes, the acid kills the cells through a process known as lysis; in the weeks that follow, your immune system will naturally (and permanently!) dispose of the cellular debris. And, violá, a double chin removal is complete.
Okay, so the science seemed sound enough, but since I'm the type that takes years to pull the trigger on a new haircut, I wasn't about to pursue any medical procedure without a bit more deliberation—even if it was a non-surgical alternative to liposuction. After scouring the internet (think: "Kybella reviews," "Kybella swelling and side effects," "Kybella gone wrong," "Kybella = cause of death???"), I was relieved to find that there were, in fact, no Kybella horror stories that surfaced and that the worst known outcome was a few weeks' worth of a crooked smile in the rare event that a nerve was struck.
Duly convinced, I scheduled my appointment at Skinfluence, the Park Avenue practice of Marina Peredo, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital who not only administers the Kybella treatment but was among the earliest physician trainers. If I was really going to do this, I told myself, I was going to do it right. (Related: These Skin Treatments Fix the "Trouble Spots" Your Workout Can't)
The Kybella Treatment
Upon arrival, I was ushered into a patient room where Dr. Peredo scrutinized the underside of my chin to determine how many Kybella treatments I would need. Thanks to my age and otherwise-healthy weight, she surmised that I may be one of the rare cases who get away with one session; most people require a minimum of two. She also confirmed what I knew to be true from my own experience: "Certain people are simply predisposed, and genetic submental fullness can't be resolved by lifestyle or diet alone," promised Dr. Peredo. (And doesn't "genetic submental fullness" sound so much more elegant than "double chin"?!) Feeling vindicated, I sat back and she got to work.
First, a numbing cream was applied below my chin, followed shortly thereafter by an ice pack. By the time Dr. Peredo returned, she could have performed a double chin removal with a deli slicer and I wouldn't have known. After using a pen to mark along my jawline and plot out nerve locations, she applied a grid-like temporary tattoo demarking the injection points. As predicted, I couldn't necessarily feel the needles, but within minutes a slight burning sensation started to build below my skin. And then, almost before I knew it, she was done! I'd put the pain quotient on par with laser hair removal but in about one-tenth of the treatment time. (Related: I Was ~This Close~ to Lasering Off My Pubes for Life—Here's What Stopped Me)
Within minutes of the final injection, I had exited the office and was headed toward the subway, conspicuously swaddled in a seasonally inappropriate scarf. I wasn't in pain, but the area was red, tender, and had already started to swell quite a bit. Dr. Peredo warned that Kybella causes swelling and it would be considerable and visible and that it might last up to two weeks. Yikes.
By the next morning, the natural arc connecting my chin and neck had formed an amphibious, perfectly diagonal gullet. Kybella-caused swelling was no joke. That afternoon, when I dared to lower my scarf at a curious friend's request, she cheerfully assured me that, "It really doesn't look terrible; now you just know what you'd look like from the neck up if you gained 30 pounds!" Lovely.
Even so, within 48 hours of feeling self-conscious and attempting to conceal the evidence, I'd tired of my own vanity. Yes, I'd been narcissistic enough to undergo Kybella treatment in the first place, but I certainly wasn't going to remain cloistered for up to two weeks. Nor was I willing to shroud myself in outerwear as the spring temperatures climbed into the 80s.
Ironically, as much as I'd hated my double chin over the years, I realized that my frustration had always been momentary; only now, upon finally taking action, did I find myself obsessing outright. Whether this indicated that maybe it had never been that bad to begin with, I don't know, but I decided to simply go about my business and let the Kybella-caused swelling run its course—after all, it really just looked like a more extreme version of the very problem I was hopefully on my way to eradicating. No Kybella horror stories here, folks. (Btw, did you know that you can also get injections into your jaw to help with stress relief?)
Kybella Before & After
Five weeks after the first Kybella treatment, I returned for the second. I had noticed a significant change, but Dr. Peredo suggested a second session to achieve peak results. That said, upon comparing the Kybella before-and-after photos at the office, the difference after just the one round was more staggering than I'd even realized. (Related: The Best Skin-Care Treatments for Your Neck)
The procedure the second time around went much the same and, yup, Kybella caused swelling again; however, it did abate much faster this time. Within a few days of my second double chin removal, I looked entirely presentable, and at three weeks my results had already eclipsed where I'd been at the five-week mark following the first session.
The Bottom Line on Kybella Treatments
I'll be the first to admit that a Kybella treatment is both pricey (it can range between $1,500 and $1,800 per treatment) and will definitely crimp your social calendar for a few weeks. But I personally came away feeling as though my newly defined jawline was well worth it. (See also: I Got Lip Injections and It Helped Me Take a Kinder Look In the Mirror)
Think of it this way: What's a couple of weeks of discomfort compared with a lifetime of self-consciousness? No, Kybella's subsequent swelling and slight discomfort are not necessarily enjoyable in the moment, but that could be said of many things we do in the name of beauty. Ultimately, I came to realize that it's like anything else—whether you're at the gym or in a doctor's office, every result has to be earned one way or another.