If you’d like to restore youthful fullness to your face, enjoy plump lips, enhance shallow contours or soften those facial creases and wrinkles, dermal fillers may be the answer. Dermal fillers have been called “liquid facelifts” because they offer many of the benefits of a surgical facelift without the downtime.
Although they can’t help with excess sagging skin, these soft tissue fillers can add more volume and provide immediate results at a lower cost than surgery. These treatment aren’t permanent, however, and they must be repeated and maintained.
Some dermal fillers are used in conjunction with other skin rejuvenation treatments such as injections of botulinum toxin. Your plastic surgeon will assess your needs and recommend one or a combination of treatments to achieve your desired results.
Loss of volume is a key sign of aging. Dermal fillers, such as Juvederm®, Restylane®, Teosyal®, and Esthelis®, restore volume to the skin.
Treatment with dermal fillers is quick and safe. The effects are long lasting, but not permanent. You have have the flexibility to keep the same look or make changes over time.
Most dermal fillers use hyaluronic acid, a natural substance already present in the human body, that plays an important role in giving firmness to skin, shape to the eyes, and lubrication to the joints. Hylauronic acid attracts and binds water molecules that help maintain skin volume.
Dermal fillers have multiple purposes including eliminating tiny lines and enhancing facial contours. They can be used to diminish horizontal lines and wrinkles across the forehead, hide vertical lines between the eyebrows, add fullness to the lips and reduce the hollowness in the cheeks. Dermal fillers can lift the eyebrows and shape the chin, as well as adding definition to the jawline.
Here’s how they work
Human fat, also known as autologous fat, is harvested from your own body. Using your own fat requires a more extensive procedure than other injectable fillers because you first must undergo liposuction to extract the fat prior to injection. You eliminate the risk of allergic reaction or rejection by the body by using your own fat. You should know that not all of the live fat cells survive when transplanted into a new site. You can expect a fairly high rate of re-absorption. Because of this, your doctor will likely overfill the area being treated. At first you might look abnormal, but it will soon settle and you’ll enjoy a new look. When your doctor extracts this fat via liposuction, it’s possible that there will be more than is needed for one application. Most natural fat can be stored for touch-ups.
Collagen is a natural substance known as a protein, and the main component in cartilage, teeth and bones. It is derived either from human skin or cows (known as bovine collagen). Brand names include: CosmoDerm, Cosmoplast, Zyderm, Zyplast.
Human cadaveric dermis is skin that’s cultivated from a cadaver, then injected into your face. This substance results in particularly impressive filling of facial hollows. Brand names include: Cymetra, Dermalogen, Fascian.
Hyaluronic acid is also a natural substance found in your body. High concentrations are found in soft connective tissue and in the fluid surrounding your eyes. It’s also in some cartilage and joint fluids, as well as skin tissue. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the same substance is often injected into the aching joints of people with arthritis to ease pain by providing extra cushioning. Hyaluronic acid is not derived from animal sources. Brand names include: Captique, Esthélis, Elevess, Hylaform, Juvéderm, Perlane, Prevelle, Puragen and Restylane.
Calcium hydroxylapatite, the heaviest of facial fillers, is found naturally in human bones. This mineral-like compound is reserved to fill the deepest creases such as nasolabial folds, marionette lines and frown lines. It’s also used to enhance fullness of the cheeks and other facial contours. Calcium-based microspheres are suspended in a water-based gel. Brand names include: Radiesse, Radiance.
Polylactic acid is a synthetic material. When it is injected, it stimulates the body’s own production of collagen. This substance is known to work particularly well in the lower half of your face to fill the lines caused by laughing, to augment thin lips and fill out deep nasolabial folds. This substance is unlike other dermal fillers because it doesn’t produce immediate results. Instead, it stimulates collagen production, so results appear gradually over a period of a few months. Brand names include: Sculptra, New-Fill.
PMMA (polymethylmethacrylate) fillers contain about 20 percent of tiny PMMA microspheres that are suspended in 80 percent purified collagen gel. This substance, considered semi-permanent, can be removed. PMMA is most often used to treat medium-to-deep wrinkles, folds and furrows, particularly nasolabial folds. It can also be used to fill out pitted scars and to augment thin lips. PMMA has been used for many years in permanent surgical implants. Because of this, your surgeon will likely under-fill on the first treatment, adding more later if needed. Brand names include: Articol, Artefill, Metacrill.
Special considerations, risks and recovery
There is no downtime with dermal fillers. You can resume most activities right away. Remember not to rub the treated area so that the filler material remains undisturbed. You’ll likely experience swelling or a bit of bruising, which should fade within a few days.
If you opt for human fat as a filler, you’ll notice an “over-filled” appearance at first. It should resolve within a few hours or, in some cases, a few days. For some people, however, this over-filled appearance could last for a few weeks.
Dermal Fillers Recovery Video
Fillers that are derived from non-human sources require a pre-treatment allergy test.
Complications from fillers are uncommon. The risks include:
- Antibodies, or rejection of filler material, may reduce the effectiveness of future injections
- Fillers that contain microscopic granular substances, particularly, calcium hydroxylapatite, may clump as a result of facial movement or your natural aging process. As time progress, these clumps can turn into lumps or nodules. Surgery can remove the lumps
- Infection at the injection site
- Migration of filler material away from the original site
- Necrosis (skin death)
- Skin rash
- Skin sensitivity
- Temporary numbness
- Temporary paralysis of facial muscles
- Under- or over-correction of wrinkles
In the long term
It’s important to realize that dermal fillers are not permanent. Even the semi-permanent variety eventually require re-treatments. The way your face continues to age and how your body absorbs fillers will determine the timing of repeat treatments.
If you decide not to re-treat, your appearance will return to its original condition. Wrinkles and scars will return, and plumped lips will lose volume.
So, is a dermal filler right for me?
Dermal fillers are wonderful to rejuvenate your appearance, but they can’t stop the aging process. If you want a permanent solution, talk to your doctor about a facelift, brow lift or eye lift.
Some people opt to have a liquid facelift, delaying the time when a surgical facelift is more appropriate. It’s a great way to see some impressive changes and improvements in your appearance, such as the reduction of forehead wrinkles, until you’re ready for a permanent surgical option.
Just remember, you’ll need to have repeat treatments with dermal fillers as a wrinkle treatment to maintain that fresh, full new look.
Choose a qualified plastic surgeon
To find a qualified plastic surgeon who performs this procedure, visit the online referral service of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). ASPS, founded in 1931, is the largest plastic surgery organization in the world and the foremost authority on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. All ASPS physician members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Caution: In the wrong or inexperienced hands, delivery of dermal fillers can be dangerous. In addition to seeking a doctor who is trained and qualified in facial plastic surgery, make sure the physician has specific experience with these types of injections. Even though the injections may ultimately be delivered by another healthcare professional in the surgeon’s office, it will be with the surgeon’s close supervision.