Dermal fillers (also known as soft tissue fillers and injectable implants) are medical device implants used to renew facial volume and enhance facial contours. Dermal fillers can also be used to plump thin lips, improve the appearance of recessed scars, and correct various facial aging concerns.

While dermal fillers don’t provide permanent results and require continuous treatments, they’re an affordable alternative to other cosmetic procedures. And as a result, they’ve grown in popularity around the world and have become one of the most requested procedures at plastic surgery offices. In fact, some people even give them to their loved ones as holiday gifts.

How Can Dermal Fillers Enhance Your Look?

While popularly known as “wrinkle fillers” for their ability to smooth out wrinkles, dermal fillers can also rejuvenate your appearance by:

  • Smoothing out marionette lines, smile lines, and parentheses lines
  • Adding volume to hollowed cheeks and temples
  • Reducing vertical lip lines
  • Augmenting the shape and size of the lips
  • Smoothing out chin creases
  • Improving facial symmetry

What are the Substances Used in Dermal Fillers?

There are a variety of substances that cosmetic and plastic surgeons use in injectable fillers. The most commonly utilized substance is hyaluronic acid (HA). This naturally occurring substance is found in our skin and helps it stay plump and hydrated. It is said to boost collagen production, which is what helps keep the skin looking youthful and vibrant—which is why HA is a common ingredient in many anti-aging skin care products.

Hyaluronic acid filler has a soft, gel-like appearance and is usually mixed with lidocaine to reduce discomfort during and after treatment. HA fillers provide temporary results and can last for 6 to 12 months or longer. The results will gradually wane over time as the body will naturally absorb the filler.

Autologous fat injections are also commonly used as permanent fillers. These substances involve surgery but yield long-lasting results. Only board-certified surgeons are allowed to administer fat injections to patients.

Aside from HA fillers and fat injections, surgeons also utilize other injectables—including CaHA, PMMA, and Poly-L-lactic acid fillers—for various procedures.

What are the Different Types of Dermal Fillers?

Belotero

Belotero is an FDA-approved injectable that smoothens and fills in nasolabial folds temporarily. The required amount per treatment may vary depending on different factors. Belotero comes in a unique soft and solid gel form, which is made from specially formulated hyaluronic acid. The filler blends into the natural structure of the skin and fills in lines and wrinkles for a soft and natural appearance.

Juvederm

Similar to Belotero, Juvederm fillers have a hyaluronic acid base. Cosmetic surgeons use this injectable to create more defined facial contours and reduce signs of aging. Juvederm is mainly used on the cheeks, lips, and around the mouth, and is a great option for moderate to severe facial wrinkles and folds. This injectable also has a few products under its name, all of which are intended to tackle particular facial issues. But Juvederm mainly uses hyaluronic acid to increase the facial tissue’s volume.

Restylane

This filler is commonly injected in the cheeks, lips, nasolabial folds, and around the mouth. It smoothes out wrinkles and adds volume to your cheeks and lips, and usually lasts for up to 6 to 9 months on average. It’s also a particularly popular option for tear trough treatments (which improve the appearance of dark, hollow under eyes) as it can last for around 3 to 18 months in that specific area. Just like other hyaluronic acid fillers, Restylane restores volume to facial areas that experience collagen and fat loss due to aging.

If you’re undergoing this treatment, you may experience various side effects such as bruising, swelling, and headaches. It’s recommended that you take a day off to rest and recover after your injection.

Dermal Filler Procedure:

Cosmetic treatments that use injectable fillers observe the following steps:

Facial evaluation and mapping
In this step, your cosmetic surgeon or a fully trained and qualified medical assistant, will assess your face and skin tone, as well as the parts of your face that need to be augmented. Your surgeon may mark specific areas as suitable filler injection sites and take pictures of those areas for reference.

1. Cleansing and anesthesia application
Before the treatment, your surgeon will use an antibacterial agent to sanitize the filler injection sites. They may also use a chilled instrument, an anesthetic ointment, or local anesthesia to alleviate any pain that may be experienced in the injection area (while filler injections are not painless, they are normally tolerable).

2. Filler injection
Your surgeon will inject your preferred filler, massage the affected areas, and assess the results throughout the procedure. He may even inject additional filler if necessary. It will take your surgeon several seconds to administer filler to each injection site. Thus, the whole treatment can last about 15 minutes or up to an hour, depending on the number of areas to be treated.

3. Cleaning and recovery
Your surgeon will then clean any facial markings once the results are deemed satisfactory. In order to lessen swelling and discomfort, an ice pack may be applied to the treated areas. Recovery time will vary depending on the type of filler used as well as the patient. However, you should refrain from engaging in intense physical activities for the first 24 to 48 hours after treatment. This is to reduce swelling and bruising and avoid complications.

What are the Side Effects of Dermal Fillers?

Each injectable filler may produce temporary or permanent side effects—or even a combination of both. Fortunately, a lot of these occur post-injection and eventually subside. Note that some side effects from dermal filler procedures could emerge weeks, months, or even years after treatment.

The typical side effects of dermal fillers include:

  • Bruising
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Soreness
  • Itching or rashes

Some patients may also experience uncommon side effects such as nodules, infections, and allergic reactions. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also listed serious allergic reactions and vision abnormalities among the rarer dermal filler side effects.

How Long Do Dermal Fillers Last?

The duration of dermal filler effects may vary depending on the filler, the treated areas, and the patient. Keep in mind that your surgeon will have to administer the filler every few months to maintain the desired results.

If you are undergoing filler treatment for the first time, plastic surgeons usually advise patients to go for hyaluronic acid fillers. This is because HA fillers have the most temporary results, making them ideal for first-time patients. Synthetic fillers are inclined to last the longest, while fat injections will likely remain in the body indefinitely.