When it comes to new beauty treatments and anti-aging products, I'm certainly not shy to reveal or share exactly what I use and admit that I use them. It hasn't always been that way. For a long time, people were closely guarded about the things they did to reverse the hands of time, often crediting good genes and eight glasses of water a day to their glowy, smooth skin. While these are definitely important, we have all wised up to the fact that the foundation of youth does not live in a bottle, no matter how expertly marketed it is, and that almost every celebrity with good skin has had some kind of liquid help.
And by that, I mean fillers or Botox.
Earlier this year, I finally decided to get under-eye fillers, and it was the best thing I ever did. I have always taken care of my skin, so the health and overall quality is great, but one thing I didn't count on (and that a cocktail of anti-aging products can't fix) is the bone loss, collagen loss, and fat loss, which create unexpected concaves in your face that can make you appear tired and older than you are. And believe me, it also makes you feel older and more tired than you are too.
I was a little hesitant to try lip fillers as first because I had heard and read about the ones that didn't go so well, and somehow you always hear about people who ended up with caricature-sized lips. But what I soon learned is that is not the norm. So many people have lip fillers, and the secret is in how much you have each time. So I went to see Jennifer Hermann, MD, of the celeb-frequented practice Moy, Fincher, Chipps Dermatology in Beverly Hills—she also did my under-eye fillers—so I could find out what lip fillers are and whether I'd be a good candidate for them.
I also love Hermann's layered approach to fillers. She fills your face a little at a time so you don't appear puffy, overdone, or unnatural. I have seen her twice now for lip fillers (I wanted to take it slowly). I have included an "after" photo from each of those visits below too so you can see the difference. It's minimal but noticeable.
Read on to hear about my experience, see the before-and-after photos, and understand a little more about what lip fillers are and what to look out for. I will definitely go back for more.
With Age Comes Bone Loss, Collagen Loss, and Fat Loss, Hence Lip Filler
It just happened one day. I looked in the mirror and noticed that my lips looked thinner. My lips were never really big to begin with, but as I progressed into my late 30s, they started to appear less plump. I also noticed some fine lines developing around the upper lip that I would like to fill out. Turns out, these facial changes are fairly normal parts of the aging process and are all courtesy of bone loss, collagen loss, and fat loss.
But, as Hermann points out, while many people think fillers fill lines, this is not always the case. Fillers are better for addressing volume loss while other injectables like Botox or Dysport may be more appropriate for lines caused by muscle movement (forehead, angry 11s, and crow’s feet). "As we age, we lose volume from collagen loss, fat loss, and bone loss, so by replacing what time has taken away, fillers can restore a youthful appearance and smooth lines indirectly," she explains.
Thankfully, there are many different types of fillers now with different consistencies and stiffness, so you can really address many concerns. For areas that need structure (think the cheekbones), Hermann says thicker products offer more lift, while in an area like the lips, very soft fillers create natural, subtle augmentation.
No, Lip Fillers Won't Make Your Lips Look Cartoonish
From many conversations I've had with friends and colleagues, a lot of people think that their lips are going to be hard, too big, and appear unnatural after having lip filler, but that's simply not true. In fact, Hermann tells me this is one of the biggest misconceptions around lip injections. "When starting out, I often use a very soft product called Volbella, which you can't feel after injection because it integrates into the lip tissue well," she says. "I also inject micro-amounts for subtle augmentation.
If someone desires very large lips, I often say no, if it will create an obviously 'done' look."
It's Not That Painful and Bruising Is Minimal to None
The other misconception is that lip fillers hurt. I'll be honest, the idea of having needles injected into my lips wasn't something I readily put my hand up for, but what I conjured up in my mind was way worse than the reality. Sure there is minimal discomfort because the lips are very sensitive, but Hermann applied a numbing cream all over and on the outside of my lips so that when she did inject the filler, I only felt a slight pinch each time. She also prepared me before she did each injection so I could brace myself, but honestly, it wasn't bad at all.
Hermann is very gentle.
If you are concerned about the pain, Hermann can also do small injections with numbing medication inside the lips or a nerve block, which makes the pain almost imperceptible. But the whole treatment takes less than 10 minutes to perform, so often the topical numbing cream suffice followed by ice packs for the swelling will suffice. This also helps to minimize any bruising, which is always possible, but thankfully it didn't happen to me.
To keep bruising to a minimum, Hermann says it's important that you don't take blood thinners for 10 days prior to injections. Aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin E, and many supplements containing herbs or spices can also increase bleeding risk, so please ask your doctor if what you currently take is okay prior to injections.
If You're Nervous, Here's What to Look Out For
Of course, with any injections where you're altering the shape of your face, there are things to look out for and questions to ask first. Before you go in for lip injections, Hermann says it's important to show your doctor what types of lips you like, as this will give them an idea of whether your goals are achievable. "Everyone's anatomy is different, and not all lips respond similarly to products," she explains. "For very thin lips, we may need to use a slightly stiffer product to achieve the projection that someone wants."
She also stresses that you make sure you physically see your doctor open the filler box and that they is using FDA-approved products. "I've seen very unfortunate cases of patients who have had unknown substances injected in the lips, which has caused chronic inflammation, scarring, and deformity, requiring surgical removal of the substance," she says.
Always communicate your goals and concerns with your doctor. "We are here to help you look your best, and it is okay to start with a tiny amount and gradually add more," says Hermann. "Don't feel pressured to adopt a look from someone else's Instagram feed. Your lips are unique to you." Hear, hear.
These Are the Best Filler Products to Request
If you're reading all this and you're ready to take the plunge, then make sure you've done the research and are educated about what happens and what brands to look out for before you go in. Typically, Hermann prefers soft fillers like Juvederm, Volbella, or Restylane Silk as these provide a natural texture and augmentation. "I only use hyaluronic-based products in the lips, which bind water and give plumpness with very few side effects," she says. "These fillers tend to last six to 12 months and can be dissolved if needed." Very important.
Good News: It Can Be Reversed If You're Not Happy
One of the biggest concerns for many people is that they'll get lip fillers and loathe them. But the good news is, you can reverse it if you're not happy with it. As long as a hyaluronic acid product is used, it can be easily dissolved with an enzyme product. However, Hermann explains that right after injections, your skin can swell in an uneven fashion, so it’s best to wait two weeks to see what your final results are before immediately dissolving.
It's Affordable When You Consider Cost-Per-Wear
Since everyone's lips are different and the desired end goal varies, so too does the price. Volbella comes in a 0.5cc syringe, which keeps cost down and is often enough for subtle augmentation. Most offices range from $400 to $1000 for lip filler. However, depending on the type of product used, lip fillers typically last between six to 12 months, so if you paid $400, that's just $2 over six months or around $1 for a year. Not bad.