If You’re Considering Injectables…

As we age, our faces begin to show the effects of gravity, sun exposure and years of facial muscle movement, such as smiling, chewing and squinting. The underlying tissues that keep our skin looking youthful and plumped up begin to break down, often leaving laugh lines, smile lines, crow’s feet or facial creases over the areas where this muscle movement occurs.

Soft-tissue fillers, most commonly injectable collagen or fat, can help fill in these lines and creases, temporarily restoring a smoother, more youthful-looking appearance. When injected beneath the skin, these fillers plump up creased and sunken areas of the face. They can also add fullness to the lips and cheeks. Injectable fillers may be used alone or in conjunction with a resurfacing procedure, such as a laser treatment, or a recontouring procedure, such as a facelift.

If you’re considering a facial-rejuvenation treatment with collagen or fat, this brochure will give you a basic understanding of the procedure — when injectables can help, how the procedure is performed, and what results you can expect. It may not answer all of your questions, since a lot depends on your individual circumstances. Please ask your doctor if there is anything about the procedure you don’t understand.

Knowing Your Options

Injected collagen and fat are primarily used to improve the appearance of the skin’s texture. They can help fill out deep facial wrinkles, creases and furrows, “sunken” cheeks, skin depressions and some types of scars. They can also be used to add a fuller, more sensuous look to the lips.

Injectables are usually not sufficient for severe surface wrinkles on the face, such as multiple vertical “lipstick lines” that sometimes form around the mouth. Instead, your plastic surgeon may suggest a resurfacing technique, such as chemical peel, dermabrasion or laser treatments. Rather than filling in facial lines, resurfacing methods strip away the outer layers of the skin to produce a smoother appearance.

Deep folds in the face or brow caused by overactive muscles or by loose skin may be more effectively treated with cosmetic surgery, such as a facelift or browlift. Injectables are sometimes used in conjunction with facial surgery procedures; however, injectables alone cannot change facial contour the way surgery can.

Keep in mind that a plastic surgeon is a specialist that can offer you the full gamut of the most advanced treatments ranging from cosmetic surgery, refinishing techniques, laser therapy, injectables and the use of other fillers. You and your surgeon may determine that a single procedure or a combination of procedures is the best choice for you.

ASPS brochures are available on chemical peel, dermabrasion, laser treatments, facelift and browlift. If you and your doctor think that one of these other procedures might be more appropriate for you, ask your plastic surgeon to provide you with a copy.

A Word About Other Types of Fillers

This brochure deals with the two most commonly used types of injectable fillers, collagen and fat. However, to a lesser extent, a number of other filler materials are also being used for facial-rejuvenation purposes. They include: Fibril, a gelatin powder compound that’s mixed with a patient’s own blood and is injected to plump up the skin (similar to injectable collagen); and Gortex, a thread-like material that is implanted beneath the skin to add soft-tissue support.

Each of these options has its own set of risks and benefits. If you’re considering any of these alternative filler treatments, tell your doctor.

What to Expect from Treatment

The most important fact to remember about injectable fillers is that the results are not permanent. Injected material is eventually metabolized by the body. You should not expect the same long-lasting results that may be gained from cosmetic surgery.

In some individuals, the results may last only a few weeks; in others, the results may be maintained indefinitely. Researchers believe that age, genetic background, skin quality and lifestyle as well as the injected body site may all play a role in the injected material’s “staying power.” However, the precise reason for the variation of results among patients has yet to be identified.

If you’ve had short-lived results from fat injections, you shouldn’t necessarily assume that collagen injections will work better for you. And, conversely, if you’ve had disappointing results from collagen, don’t assume that injected fat is the answer. Although it’s true that some individuals’ bodies are more receptive to one substance than the other, others may find that neither substance produces long-lasting results. Sometimes one substance may work better than the other for a specific problem.

Risks Related to Injectables

When injectables are administered by a qualified plastic surgeon, complications are infrequent and usually minor in nature. Still, individuals vary greatly in their anatomy, their physical reactions and their healing abilities. The outcome of treatment with injectables is never completely predictable.

Collagen: Allergic reaction is the primary risk of collagen. To help determine if you are allergic to the substance, your surgeon will perform an allergy skin test about a month before the procedure. After the test is performed, the test site should be watched carefully for three or four weeks, or as long as your surgeon advises. Any sign of redness, itching, swelling or other occurrences at the test site should be reported to your surgeon.

Risks not necessarily related to allergies include infection, abscesses, open sores, skin peeling, scarring and lumpiness, which may persist over the treated area. Reports of these problems are very rare.

Fat: Allergic reaction is not a factor for fat because it’s harvested from a patient’s own body. However, there is still a small risk of infection and other infrequent complications.