What Are Dermal Fillers?

Dermal fillers are injectable gel-like substances used to treat a wide range of cosmetic issues in the face and hands, including diminished volume, fine lines, wrinkles, and scars. Several different companies make fillers, and each has its own unique formulations, which are useful for treating distinct problems in separate areas of the face.

By filling in certain areas of the face, we can contour and create the visage you’ve always dreamed of. Over time, dermal fillers are slowly absorbed by the body and most last anywhere from 12 to 24 months before necessitating a touch-up.

Fillers vs. Botox

Dermal fillers and botox are both minimally invasive, injectable cosmetic treatments. Both are performed as outpatient procedures in the comfort of your doctor’s office and require minimal downtime. While both can improve the overall appearance of the face, they achieve this in different ways.

Botox is primarily used to treat fine lines and wrinkles. It is a purified form of the botulinum toxin, but is a safe, FDA approved treatment that has been used for several decades now.

Botox works by blocking nerve signals to the muscles that cause fine lines around the eyes, forehead, and mouth, also known as expression lines. By blocking the nerve signals, muscles in the injection site become temporarily paralyzed, thus softening or eliminating wrinkles from the area. These results can last up to three months, and the treatment takes about five minutes to complete.

Dermal fillers, on the other hand, are primarily used to rejuvenate the skin and add volume and fullness to various areas of the face. Different brands and types of fillers are made of varying ingredients, including:

  • Hyaluronic acid, such as JUVÉDERM®, Restylane®, and Belotero®
  • Calcium hydroxylapatite, such as RADIESSE®
  • Poly-L-lactic acid, such as Sculptra®
  • Polymethyl-methacrylate microspheres (PMMA), such as Bellafill®

Each of these fillers is designed to treat certain kinds of aging or other cosmetic issues. Depending on which one is used, they can last anywhere from 12 to 24 months. On average, treatment takes approximately 45-60 minutes.

What Can Fillers Do?

Dermal fillers can be used for a wide range of cosmetic procedures in the face and hands to improve your overall look. As we age, we begin losing collagen and elasticity, which ultimately leads to fine lines, wrinkles, and thinning of the face. While many already know fillers are used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, they are also useful for creating contours on the face such as fuller, higher cheeks; defined, structured chins; and smooth, chiseled noses.

The primary uses for dermal fillers include:

  • Plumping lips
  • Enhancing or filling in shadowed areas of the face such as the cheeks and temples
  • Improving overall symmetry and definition of facial features
  • Diminishing or removing under-eye shadows or wrinkles caused by the lower eyelid
  • Filling in recessed scars
  • Softening static lines around the mouth and nose due to loss of collagen and elasticity

Are Filler Injections Painful?

Usually, no. The only discomfort you should feel during the procedure is the initial pinch from the injection. After this, your doctor will use a microcannula with a rounded tip to place the filler, rather than a needle. The use of a microcannula prevents damage to blood vessels and reduces the amount of bruising you experience. Most fillers contain a local anesthetic, which reduces discomfort, and you may notice some numbness in the area for a few hours.

You may notice some swelling, bruising, or tenderness after the procedure. This is typically minor and goes away within a few hours or days. Many patients can treat this discomfort with over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®). We recommend you avoid NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®) and aspirin because they have a blood-thinning effect and can lead to more bruising. Additionally, you should avoid using ice on the area because it can cause skin irritation.

How Long Do Fillers Last?

How long a filler lasts depends on which filler is used. Some fillers, such as Restylane® and JUVÉDERM® Ultra, last for approximately 12 months before a touch up is needed. RADIESSE® typically lasts about 15 months, and JUVÉDERM VOLUMA™ will last for up to two years.

Much of the endurance of a product has to do with its molecule size. Restylane® and JUVÉDERM® Ultra, for example, have smaller molecules, which makes them easier to spread and thus better suited for delicate refinements. However, the smaller particles also mean the body more readily absorbs it. At the other end of the filler spectrum, however, is JUVÉDERM® VOLUMA™, which has a much larger molecule size. This makes it much better for contouring and adding shape to the cheeks and chin because it doesn’t spread as easily and takes longer for the body to absorb it.

Are Fillers Reversible?

Yes, most dermal fillers can be reversed. Those made of hyaluronic acid (HA), such as JUVÉDERM®, Restylane®, and Belotero® can be dissolved with an injection of Hylenex®. For those who are unhappy with the volume or look of their new fillers, Hylenex® is a simple way to remedy this. Please let your doctor know if you have any allergies or are taking any medications, as Hylenex® is contraindicated in some instances due to medication interactions.