As we age, our face begins 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.
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, Dr. Fisher 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.
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”.
Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that provides support to various parts of the human body: the skin, the joints, the bones and the ligaments. Injectable collagen, patented by the Collagen Corporation under the trade names Zyderm and Zyplast, is derived from purified bovine collagen. The purification process creates a product similar to human collagen.
Collagen is used primarily to fill wrinkles, lines and scars on the face and sometimes the neck, back and chest.
The procedure: Treatment with collagen can begin after a skin test determines that you are not allergic to the substance. The collagen is injected using a fine needle inserted at several points along the edge of the treatment site. If a local anesthesia has not been used, you may feel some minor stinging or burning as the injections are administered.
Immediately following treatment, you may notice some minor discomfort, stinging or throbbing in the injected area. Occasionally some bruising or swelling will occur, but it is usually minor. Any redness that appears in the injected site usually disappears within 24 hours. However, in some individuals, particularly fair-skinned patients, this redness may persist for a week or more. Tiny scabs may also form over the needle-stick areas and these generally heal quickly. No bandaging is needed and you are free to eat, drink and wear makeup with sunblock protection shortly thereafter.
The duration of results from collagen injections is variable. Collagen’s longevity depends on the patient’s lifestyle and physical characteristics as well as the part of the body treated. In general, the injected material is likely to disappear faster in areas that are more affected by muscle movement. Dr. Fisher will advise you on how to maintain your results.
In the medical world, the fat injection procedure is known as autologous fat transplantation or microlipoinjection. It involves extracting fat cells from the patient’s abdomen, thighs, buttocks or elsewhere and reinjecting them beneath the facial skin. Fat is most often used to fill in “sunken” cheeks or laugh lines between the nose and mouth, to correct skin depressions or indentations, to minimize forehead wrinkles and to enhance the lips.
After both the donor and recipient sites are cleansed and treated with a local anesthesia, the fat is withdrawn using a syringe with a large-bore needle or a cannula (the same instrument used in liposuction) attached to a suction device. The fat is then prepared and injected into the recipient site with a needle. Sometimes an adhesive bandage is applied over the injection site.
As with collagen, “overfilling” is necessary to allow for fat absorption in the weeks following treatment. When fat is used to fill sunken cheeks or to correct areas on the face other than lines, this overcorrection of newly injected fat may temporarily make the face appear abnormally puffed out or swollen.
After treatment, if a larger area was treated, you may be advised to curtail your activity for a brief time. However, many patients are able to resume normal activity immediately. You can expect some swelling, bruising or redness in both the donor and recipient sites. The severity of these symptoms depends upon the size and location of the treated area. You should stay out of the sun until the redness and bruising subsides, usually about 48 hours. In the meantime, you may use makeup with sunblock protection to help conceal your condition.
The duration of the fat injections varies significantly from patient to patient. Though some patients have reported results lasting a year or more, the majority of patients find that at least half of the injected fullness disappears within 3-6 months. Therefore, repeated injections may be necessary. Dr. Fisher will advise you on how to maintain your results.