How Getting Kybella Transformed Not Just My Double Chin, But Also My Perspective

My experience with Kybella before and after, including why I opted to undergo the treatment and whether this was a "Kybella gone wrong" situation.

Person's profile and neck; the background is studded with syringes of the injectable kybella
Photo: Yulia Reznikov/Peathegee Inc/Getty

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. Personally, I prefer putting in the work to feel better in my skin — whether that be mentally or physically. Growing up feeling insecure with my body led me to run, cycle, box, boot camp, and barre my way to becoming a healthier and stronger adult. And while, sure, it was an aesthetic change that I appreciated, my fitness journey also led me to develop mental strength, perseverance, and endurance. Cultivating that kind of invisible muscle made me less inclined to prioritize vanity and looking good over actually feeling good.

What happens when hard work still doesn't feel like enough, though? In my case, the one insecurity I couldn't shake was my persistent double chin. It's hereditary; my family is Irish and that stubborn little pooch has held strong at every weight I've ever been. And even though I knew that it wasn't the case, I couldn't overcome the feeling that it actively defied the decade-and-change of effort I'd put in to get stronger. (In addition to genetics, docs say that constantly looking down at your phone 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 remove double chins, 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, the treatment 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 treatment. 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 with 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.

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 healthy weight, she surmised that I might 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 and less body-shaming than "double chin"?!) After this brief assessment, 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 felt it. 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. (See also: 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. Kybella causes swelling that is considerable and visible — and it might last up to two weeks, warned Dr. Peredo. Yikes.

The Kybella Recovery

By the next morning, the natural arc connecting my chin and neck had formed an amphibious, perfectly diagonal gullet — Kybella-induced swelling was no joke. Even so, within 48 hours of feeling insecure and attempting to conceal the evidence, I'd tired of my own vanity. Yes, I'd been self-conscious enough about my double chin 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 the "problem" had never been that serious to begin with, I don't know. Still, I decided to simply go about my business and let the Kybella-caused swelling run its course. (BTW, did you know that you can also get injections into your jaw to help with stress relief?)

Kybella Before & After

In the end, I did end up returning for a second Kybella treatment, five weeks after the first. I had noticed a significant change, but a second session to achieve peak results was suggested by Dr. Peredo. 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. (More: The Best Skin-Care Treatments for Your Neck)

two photos showing results of kybella injectable treatment before and after

The procedure went much the same the second time around and, yup, Kybella caused swelling again; however, it did abate much faster this time. Within a few days of my second treatment, I looked fine, and at three weeks my results had already eclipsed where I'd been at the five-week mark following the first session. No "Kybella gone wrong" horror stories here, folks.

two photos showing results of kybella injectable treatment before and after, after two treatments

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 in terms of my own experience, I came away feeling as though the treatment was well worth it. That's not to say, though, that a Kybella treatment is the right option for everyone. Personally, an injectable was not my first choice, but my double chin was a source of insecurity that I couldn't shake, even though it's a hereditary trait.

But, through feeling my most obsessive about how my double chin looked in the days post-Kybella (when the area was swollen), I came to realize that the feature was one small part of my body that, in the grand scheme of things, was not as important as I'd made it out to be in my head. Though society might sometimes makes you feel otherwise, appearance isn't everything — and what's most important is feeling good in your skin. (Up next: What Is Body Neutrality, Exactly?)

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