Dermal fillers have become a popular choice for those seeking to smooth wrinkles, enhance contours, and restore a youthful appearance. However, like all cosmetic procedures, dermal fillers come with potential side effects.
By understanding what to expect, potential risks, and ways to prevent and manage these side effects, you can make an informed decision about whether dermal fillers are right for you.
What are Dermal Fillers?
Dermal fillers are substances injected into or beneath the skin to restore volume, smooth wrinkles, and enhance facial contours. They are often used to treat signs of ageing but can also be used to enhance features such as lips and cheeks.
Dermal fillers come in 2 main categories, designed to address specific concerns. The most common are dissolvable and non-dissolvable fillers.
Dissolvable fillers are arguably the most popular type used in Australia. This naturally occurring substance helps keep our skin plump and hydrated. When injected, they can smooth out wrinkles and lines, add volume to lips, and enhance facial contours.
Non-dissolvable fillers address similar concerns but have the added benefit of being longer-lasting and can stimulate collagen production. However, complications with non-dissolvable fillers can not be easily reversed and your body must metabolise the filler.
Common Side Effects of Dermal Fillers
It is important to note that while dermal fillers are generally safe, they can cause side effects, most of which are temporary and mild. Below are some of the most common side effects that you may experience after receiving a dermal filler injection:
- Bruising: This is perhaps the most common side effect, usually appearing at or around the injection site. It is caused by the needle piercing the skin, which may damage some blood vessels. It typically resolves within a week or two.
- Swelling: Post-procedure swelling is very common, especially if the filler has been injected into a sensitive area like the lips. Swelling usually peaks within 48 hours of treatment and subsides over the next few days.
- Redness: You may notice some redness at the injection site immediately after the procedure. This is usually a temporary response and should fade within a day or two.
- Tenderness or Pain: It is normal to experience some tenderness or mild pain at the injection site, especially in the first few hours after the treatment. However, if the pain persists or worsens, it's important to contact your practitioner.
While these side effects can cause some discomfort, they are generally short-lived and manageable.
Uncommon but Serious Dermal Filler Side Effects
While most people tolerate dermal fillers well, some rare but serious side effects can occur. It is crucial to be aware of these to ensure you can seek timely medical help if they arise.
Here's what to watch out for:
- Infections: Although rare, infections can happen after a dermal filler procedure. Signs include prolonged redness, swelling, pain, or a fever. If you suspect an infection, contact your practitioner or seek medical help immediately.
- Allergic Reactions: Some people may have an allergic reaction to the filler material or the local anaesthetic used during the procedure. Symptoms can include hives, itching, redness, or difficulty breathing.
- Filler Migration: While relatively rare, there are instances where the filler can move from the original injection site, a phenomenon known as migration. This can lead to aesthetic problems like asymmetry or an unnatural appearance.
- Vascular Occlusion: This is a serious but rare complication where the filler accidentally gets injected into a blood vessel, blocking blood flow. This can lead to tissue necrosis, and in extreme cases, blindness and stroke. Symptoms of vascular occlusion include immediate and intense pain, blanching (whitening of the skin), and livedo (a mottled, purplish discolouration of the skin). Vascular occlusion is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.
These severe side effects are rare, but awareness is vital.
Factors Influencing Filler Side Effects
Several factors can influence the occurrence and severity of dermal filler side effects. Understanding these can help you make more informed choices and take steps to reduce potential risks.
- Individual's Health and Lifestyle: Your overall health, lifestyle habits such as smoking or drinking, and even certain medications or supplements can influence your body's reaction to bruising and swelling after dermal fillers.
- Age: While dermal fillers are used by individuals across various age groups, your age can influence your skin's response to the procedure. Older individuals might experience a slower recovery and a slightly increased risk of certain side effects.
- Injector Experience and Skill: Perhaps the most critical factor in minimising side effects is the expertise of the person performing the injections. An experienced and qualified medical practitioner will have the knowledge and skill to avoid potential complications and manage any
By considering these factors and discussing them with your practitioner, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of experiencing side effects from dermal fillers.
Preventing and Managing Dermal Filler Side Effects
Preventing and managing potential side effects begins with choosing the right practitioner and doesn't stop when you walk out of their clinic. Here's what you can do to ensure a safer, more satisfying dermal filler experience.
- Choose a Qualified Practitioner: Perhaps the most crucial step in preventing side effects is choosing a reputable, experienced practitioner. Be sure to check their qualifications and reviews before making your decision.
- Follow Pre-procedure Guidelines: Your practitioner will provide specific instructions to follow before your procedure. These may include avoiding certain medications or supplements that can increase bleeding or bruising and avoiding alcohol for at least 24 hours before your treatment.
- Aftercare: Post-procedure care is vital to minimise risks and manage any side effects. Instructions can include using an ice pack to reduce swelling or bruising, avoiding strenuous exercise and sun exposure for the first 24-48 hours, and not touching or massaging the treated area unless advised by your practitioner.
- Monitor Your Progress: Keep a close eye on your recovery. If side effects persist or worsen, or if you notice any of the more severe side effects discussed earlier, contact your practitioner right away. Early intervention is key to managing potential complications.
- Open Communication with Your Practitioner: Don't hesitate to reach out to your practitioner with any concerns, no matter how small they might seem. They are there to help ensure your safety and satisfaction throughout the entire process.
By taking these steps, you can significantly reduce your risk of side effects and ensure a smoother, more comfortable recovery.
Concluding on Filler Side Effects
Dermal fillers offer a fantastic way to enhance your natural beauty, restore youthful volume, and smooth away the signs of ageing. They are generally safe and well-tolerated, with most side effects being mild and temporary. However, like any cosmetic procedure, they come with potential risks.
By understanding these risks and taking the right precautions, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of experiencing side effects. Key to this is choosing a qualified, experienced practitioner and following their advice both before and after the procedure. It is equally important to know what to expect after your treatment and to monitor your progress closely, alerting your practitioner to any concerns immediately.
Remember, your journey to beauty enhancement is a personal one, and ensuring your safety and satisfaction should always be your ultimate goal. So, arm yourself with knowledge, ask questions, make informed decisions, and step confidently towards your aesthetic goals.
Sources & Studies
Artzi, O, Loizides, C, Verner, I & Landau, M 2016, ‘Resistant and Recurrent Late Reaction to Hyaluronic Acid–Based Gel’, Dermatologic Surgery, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 31–37, viewed 8 June 2023, <https://journals.lww.com/dermatologicsurgery/Abstract/2016/01000/Resistant_and_Recurrent_Late_Reaction_to.4.aspx>.
Ibrahim, O, Overman, J, Arndt, KA & Dover, JS 2018, ‘Filler Nodules: Inflammatory or Infectious? A Review of Biofilms and Their Implications on Clinical Practice’, Dermatologic Surgery, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 53–60, viewed 8 June 2023, <https://journals.lww.com/dermatologicsurgery/Abstract/2018/01000/Filler_Nodules__Inflammatory_or_Infectious__A.9.aspx>.
Pavicic, T & Funt, D 2013, ‘Dermal fillers in aesthetics: an overview of adverse events and treatment approaches’, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, vol. 2013, no. 6, p. 295, viewed 8 June 2023, <https://www.dovepress.com/dermal-fillers-in-aesthetics-an-overview-of-adverse-events-and-treatme-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-CCID>.