Facial fillers have become the driving force in plastic surgery’s most recent popularity surge. Hyaluronic acid (HA) fillers, like Restylane and Juvéderm; neurotoxins, like Botox and Jeuveau (newtox); and fat-melting Kybella have worked their way into the mainstream vocabulary and changed the face of cosmetic surgery, angling it more toward minimally-invasive procedures that yield natural-looking results.
And practitioners of all kinds—with varying degrees of training and experience—are capitalizing on the demand. As breezy as our attitude’s become about filler injections, the ability of the injector still matters.
Facial fillers are generally very safe and effective when injected by a board-certified plastic surgeon who has an intimate knowledge of the human anatomy. But that’s really just our starting point. Before you dip a toe in the rejuvenating waters of facial fillers, there are a few other things you should know.
What’s in a name?
While the term facial fillers is thrown around pretty nonchalantly by beauty sites, it’s actually an umbrella term that encompasses a nuanced range of injectables. For starters, the majority are made of HA, a safe sugar found naturally in the human body, while a few are made from other materials.
Radiesse contains the mineral calcium hydroxyapatite, which is found in our bones and teeth. Sculptra uses poly-L-lactic acid, the same biodegradable component that’s used in absorbable stitches. Bellafill suspends non-biodegradable acrylic beads in cow-derived collagen and is far longer lasting—it’s considered safe and effective for up to five years—than most other facial fillers.
HA fillers act kind of like place holders, substituting for depleted collagen and fat. But these others are known as biostimulatory fillers. Basically, their primary purpose is to spark the growth of your own collagen for longer-lasting fullness and lift. (HAs have also been shown to increase collagen and elastin production over time, but to a lesser extent.)
And even within the HA fillers, there’s a lot of diversity. The gels vary by density, viscosity (or flow), elasticity, lift-ability (or stiffness), and longevity. These traits determine their roles. Robust fillers like Restylane Lyft and Juvéderm Voluma can help restore volume and projection to the cheeks while lifting the lower face. While lighter HAs, like Juvéderm Voluma, are a more appropriate fit for the small lines that can appear across the upper lip.
Depending on the formula, some will break down faster or swell up more. These are all things that will factor into your plastic surgeon’s consideration when selecting the right filler for you and your features.
Facial fillers aren’t blanket treatments
Chances are, you were turned on to facial fillers by a post about a celebrity or maybe even a close friend who was more than happy to brag about her treatment. While there’s no harm in that, of course, it’s important that you enter your consultation with a plastic surgeon with an open mind.
Facial fillers really are an individualized treatment. Your friend may look great with Juvéderm Volbella in her lips, but it’s not a given that it’s appropriate for your needs, goals, and anatomy, too.
Not to mention, plastic surgery is as much an art as it is a science. In other words, you could consult with a handful of doctors, and each one would likely suggest a different solution—because there’s always more than one. Choose a plastic surgeon based on their education, experience, and aesthetic. And then trust in their ability.