Having your face stuck with needles is actually pretty neat. Not the actual stabbing part necessarily (unless you’re into that), but seeing such a dramatic change in just a matter of minutes can be pretty freakin’ unreal.
Injectables have become all the rage these days. In a 30 minute visit to the doctor’s office, you can now smooth fine lines and wrinkles, volumize your cheekbones, sculpt the perfect pouty lip, and even define your nose so you can finally stop with the obsessive contouring. Of course, you might feel a bit like you’ve been punched in the face on the drive home, but in a few short days, you won’t believe the changes that have been made with a tiny needle and a few syringes of goop.
But, what are they exactly?
The ones worth discussing anyway come in two forms: neurotoxins (Botox, Dysport, Xeomin), and fillers (Juvederm, Restylane).
Toxins address the wrinkles that are caused by muscle function – between the brows from frowning (called 11s), the outside corners of the eyes from smiling (crow’s feet), and the horizontal expression lines on our foreheads. Essentially, they work by temporarily paralyzing the muscles. So when you try to frown or smile, nothing really happens.
Contrary to popular belief, toxins don’t automatically cause you to look creepily frozen. They are administered in small doses, a little at a time, so you can keep some of the muscle movement, but just not enough to cause wrinkles to form. The stuff is so thin, it can be injected with a super tiny needle – topical numbing stuff isn’t even necessary. Some people describe it as feeling a bit “crunchy” going in – but no pain. Typically, the effect of toxins lasts about 3 months.
Fillers are a bit more complex. They come in different varieties, lasting anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, and are all marketed for specific areas of the face. In reality, though, most are interchangeable. The ones you’ve probably heard of – Juvederm and Restylane and their various formulations are all what we call Hyaluronic Acids, or HAs for short. In the same way that silicone implants have different levels of viscosity or cohesiveness, so do fillers. Some are more highly bonded than others, making some better suited for the heavy lifting (cheekbones, chins), and others better for smaller, softer jobs (lips).
Let’s start at the top. The Zygoma is the part of the skull we know as the cheekbone – the bulgy part just below the outside corners of our eyes. As we age (and sometimes just because of genetics), this area can often look flat. Compounded with this, we might also see heavy bags under the eyes, or a tear trough – a deep crease between the lower lids and upper cheek. Plump cheekbones are a sign of youth. When we inject filler into this area, in addition to adding volume, we can often camouflage under eye bags and improve the appearance of the tear trough.
Next – the nose. Nonsurgical rhinoplasties have surged in popularity recently. Definition can be created by adding filler directly into the tip of the nose, or into the columella (latin for “little column) – the part that connects the tip to the base (between the nostrils). By adding filler here, we can help to bolster the tip. What was once broad and flat can be made more slender and defined.
The lines around the mouth are called the nasolabial folds. The ones that run from the corners of the mouth and down are called marionette lines. Both can pretty easily be remedied with filler. Think of it like caulking – the stuff you use to fill in gaps and seams around the house. One minute, you’ve got the creases, the next minute you don’t.
There is much more to our lips than you probably realize. The philtrum is the groove created by those two vertical ridges between the nose and upper lip. The cupid’s bow is the curved line of the upper lip. And the white roll border is what separates the red lip from the white lip (the outline). The problems come as we age (getting old is a bitch, isn’t it?). As we get older, the philtrum pillars become less defined, the cupid’s bow flattens, and the white roll border approaches nonexistence, causing lipstick to bleed out. A soft HA filler can remedy all of these signs of aging (plus, of course, plump the lips), though you should expect the results to last only about a year.
Last, but certainly not least, is the chin. This is probably my favorite part of the face to inject – partly because I have my own chin injected regularly, but mostly because I think it’s the most overlooked and undervalued part of the entire face. A strong chin has the power to balance your whole face – it can diminish a nose that’s too large, give structure to the jawline, and even help to improve a double chin. On profile view, your chin should be in line with your lower lip. Retrusive chins are incredibly common and even one syringe of filler can dramatically change your entire look. A well-proportioned chin can enhance other great features of the face, too, which can often be overlooked with a weak chin.
Considering that surgery may not be an option for everyone, injectables are a great way to make big changes with minimal downtime. The process is made as (relatively) painless as possible with topical numbing cream and ice packs to control the swelling afterward. Most fillers also have lidocaine in them already – so you’re pretty numb after the first stick. Some of the fillers vary in their ability to retain water, which can affect swelling immediately afterward, so you should discuss the options with your doctor.
I should also mention that all of the HA fillers are easily reversed with something called Hyaluronidase. So if you have major buyer’s remorse and absolutely hate your new look, they can be gotten rid of quickly. For context, I can’t recall anyone ever asking to have their filler dissolved.
So, would I liken getting my face shot up with needles to a day at Disneyland? No, of course not. Would I do it again? You bet your ass I would. And again, and again.