As we age, our skin loses subcutaneous fat and essential proteins - like collagen and elastin - which give structure to the face and make it look youthful, plump and bouncy. But, fortunately, there’s a treatment that can help with this. Welcome, dermal fillers.
These anti-ageing injections can help restore a youthful look when the skin starts to age by smoothing out wrinkles, as well as helping to change the shape of - and add definition to - facial features. Dermal filler injections - often just referred to as fillers - can also give volume to sunken areas (like the cheeks), fix under-eye bags and enhance areas like lips, jawlines, chins and temples. They can even be used to reshape the nose, professionally called liquid rhinoplasty (check out our liquid rhinoplasty FAQs for more info!).
So, they can be used to treat a wide range of problem areas, but how do fillers work? That’s the question on a lot of people’s lips, so let’s find out. Spoiler: it’s very simple.
How do fillers work?
Dermal filler treatment involves a gel-like substance (natural or synthetic) being injected into target areas of the face with a cannula or needle. The filler plumps the skin from the inside out and works in place of lost fat and proteins to smooth lines and wrinkles and volumise hollow areas (hello, cheek fillers!).
Note: fillers are used on static lines which, unlike dynamic lines, remain visible on the face even when it’s relaxed and expressionless. Dynamic lines are best treated with Botox.
There are different types of dermal filler substances (some temporary, some longer-lasting, some thinner, some thicker), including calcium hydroxyapatite, polymethylmethacrylate and hyaluronic acid. Some semi-permanent brands of filler - including Sculptra, Ellanse and Radiesse - work by not only filling out lines and wrinkles, but by also stimulating the body’s own collagen production. These fillers usually last upwards of one year.
But, hyaluronic acid fillers - which include brands like Juvéderm, Belotero and Restylane - are the most popular and most commonly used. A naturally-occurring substance produced by the body, hyaluronic acid is a prized skincare ingredient which has huge hydrating abilities. This type of filler is popular for lots of reasons, but one of the biggest is that it’s temporary (lasting roughly 6-18 months, depending on the brand and area injected). Believe me, this can be a very good thing! Should anything go wrong, hyaluronic acid-based fillers can be dissolved by a medically qualified practitioner with an enzyme called hyaluronidase.
Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers are also great for volumising because of the hydrophilic (water-loving) nature of hyaluronic acid. The acid attracts and draws in water from the air which keeps skin moisturised. Just one gram can hold up to 6 litres of water. Yep, a whole 6 litres! How does this make it a good filler? Well, the water it attracts and holds helps fill out the skin, creating the perfect plump.
Depending on the area being treated, and the desired effect, different amounts of filler will be injected into the skin. Amounts roughly range from 0.5ml filler to 5ml of filler and your practitioner (if they’re properly qualified!) will know the best amount to use for the desired goals. For deeper wrinkles, more filler will need to be injected and for superficial lines, less filler will be needed. The same applies to lip fillers; more filler will give a bigger pout and less, subtle filler will give a more natural plump.
But it’s not just about the amount of filler that’s injected. It’s also to do with the thickness of the injectable used - or viscosity, if we’re feeling technical! Again, depending on the area of the face that’s being treated, different consistencies of filler will work better. For cheek enhancement, for example, thick, heavy duty fillers are more up to the job - something like Juvéderm Voluma - because they provide more structure. But, areas like the mouth and lips will only need thin, low-density fillers - like Juvéderm Volbella.