A primer on dermal fillers
With luck and hard work, we can delay most of the signs of aging. Good diet and proper exercise can keep us looking younger than our years. But even then, one factor can give us away: our skin.
Even the healthiest eaters and most fervent athletes among us may incur sun damage that leaves our skin looking older than it should. And some of us are simply genetically prone to wrinkles and sagging, even if we began a preventive skin-care regimen early in life.
Fortunately, dermal fillers can restore much of the smoothness, suppleness, and healthy glow patients enjoyed in their youth.
Dermal Fillers: An Introduction
Dermal fillers are made of hyaluronic acid, a natural compound produced by our skin. Hyaluronic acid retains large volumes of water, which contributes a great deal to the volume and suppleness of young skin and keeps it consistently hydrated. Over time, the skin’s reserves of hyaluronic acid diminish. Dermal fillers replace those lost reserves and restore the benefits of youthful levels of hyaluronic acid.
Dermal fillers suspend hyaluronic acid molecules in a gel. Different formulations of this gel offer different degrees of viscosity and malleability, making them especially appropriate for different areas of the face. Regardless of the formulation, when dermal filler is injected into the face, it mimics the skin’s naturally occurring hyaluronic acid, making it a safe and natural treatment.
Because dermal fillers come in so many different varieties, some doctors have their preferred formulations, and many experienced doctors prefer to blend various types of filler to achieve precise results. This variety also means that patients should not assume that a bit of research tells them everything they need to know about the specific type of filler their doctor proposes to use. As with any medical procedure, communication between doctor and patient is crucial.
Along with their general toning and hydration benefits, dermal fillers are commonly used to subtly re-shape parts of the face. Among the most commonly treated areas are:
- The nose, various parts of which can be built up
- The chin, which can be brought forward if receding, lengthened if short, or brought to a finer point if too rounded
- The lower eyelids, which can be reshaped with dermal filler and brightened if eye circles are a problem; certain cases of eye bags can also be treated with dermal fillers
- The lips, as a way of restoring lost volume and as a treatment for fine lines
Other areas that benefit from dermal fillers are the forehead, brow, and temples, crow’s feet at the corners of the eyes, wrinkles and fine lines in the cheeks, and nasolabial folds. The appearance of some scars can also be reduced with dermal fillers.
In all cases, dermal fillers add volume to the skin’s deeper layers, making the skin’s surface more taut and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. While it does so, it restores hydration lost to age, further rejuvenating the skin at all levels.
Dermal fillers produce results similar to some forms of facelift, but are minimally invasive, are far less risky, and require far less recovery time. Dermal fillers cannot achieve every single result possible through traditional plastic surgery; experienced doctors can advise on which treatment is wisest for a given patient.
As with any surgical procedure, the first step toward receiving dermal filler is a frank consultation with the doctor. Here the doctor will examine the patient in light of the patient’s goals, and determine how much of which kinds of filler should be injected in which areas. This is also the patient’s opportunity to mention any current or past medical issues that might affect the procedure or increase the risk of side effects.
Once the doctor and patient agree on a course of action, the patient’s skin is cleaned and sanitized, and treated with an anaesthetic cream. As soon as this numbing cream has taken effect, the dermal fillers are injected with fine needles into the appropriate areas. After the last injection, the doctor may gently work the dermal filler into the desired shape.
Results of dermal-filler treatment are immediate, and firmer formulas can last up to 18 months. Less viscous fillers may last as little as three months. Doctors will recommend follow-up appointments at appropriate times. When these appointments lead to repeated treatment, the effect can make subsequent injections of dermal filler last longer and longer, due to the body’s refreshed expectation of youthful levels of hyaluronic acid in the treated areas.
Patients are free to resume normal activities immediately following the procedure, so long as those activities do not involve putting pressure on the treated areas for 48 hours or so. Still, dermal-filler treatments are surgical procedures, and they do carry some level of risk.
In rare cases, patients may experience some swelling, redness, or bruising; these effects are short-lived, and are usually treated with cold compresses until they disappear.
In fleetingly rare cases, usually involving work on the nasolabial folds, major side effects may accompany dermal-filler treatments. The side of the nose contains a major blood vessel that serves the eye. When dermal fillers compress this blood vessel, the eye does not receive its usual supply of blood; untreated, this complication can cause blindness. When dermal fillers enter the blood vessel itself, the complications can cause necrosis, affect the immune system, and theoretically become fatal.
It All Starts with the Right Doctor
Dermal fillers are popular for good reason. As a consequence, they are offered widely: not only by experienced aesthetic surgeons, but also by smaller clinics and even facial salons. Some of these facilities may lack the range of fillers required to make the best choices about a given patient’s treatment, and some practitioners offering dermal fillers may not have the medical background or depth of experience needed to make the wisest decisions.
In some locations, including Singapore, inexpensive dermal-filler treatments are all too easy to come by. Anyone considering such an option should stop and think about what they are sacrificing just to save a few dollars. For one thing, in many jurisdictions only licensed medical professionals can purchase proven, dependable dermal fillers from reputable wholesalers. Others may use cheaper fillers, producing inferior results.
Patients considering dermal-filler treatment should focus on experienced doctors, and should learn what they can about a few of the likeliest candidates. Established aesthetic surgeons should be ready to share before-and-after photos of their work, and should be ready and able to answer any questions a prospective patient might have.