When you hear about Botox, you almost always hear about its sister procedure, cosmetic filler.
While Botox injections work to smooth wrinkles, cosmetic fillers are injections that add volume and plump up parts of the face, as well as lift and sculpt. Whether you want fuller lips or more defined cheekbones, filler can help. As we age, we lose plumpness in our skin, especially in our face, and filler corrects that. Certain injecting techniques can even make your nose appear smaller. It’s truly wild stuff.
When I got Botox, I spoke with my injector, Stacie Yeager, who is a registered nurse and nurse injector who owns Timeless Aesthetics, which operates out of Century Dental Associates locations in Scranton and Eynon, about getting some filler. At my age, Yeager said, I don’t need as much filler in my cheeks yet. However, I’ve always been self-conscious about my thin lips, and I’ve wondered how I’d look with a plumper pout. I have some weddings coming up, so I wanted to try it out now.
Yeager uses an RHA Collection filler, a hyaluronic acid filler formulated to more closely mimic the HA that naturally exists in our skin. This can result in a more natural look. RHA Collection filler was described to me like pudding, as compared to traditional fillers’ “Jell-O-like” consistency (aka softer and more pillowy). If you’ve read this column, you’ll know hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which attracts water molecules to the site to enhance the plumping. I love it in my serums, so injecting it into my lips was no big deal to me.
As for the cost, filler typically is priced per syringe and can cost anywhere from $350 to $650 or more, and just like Botox, it is dependent on your location, your injector’s experience, how much you need, etc. For the most part, gradual plumping is key and most first-timers will begin with half of a syringe to one syringe. Filler can last up to 18 months in the cheeks and anywhere from six to nine months on the lower face, including the lips. However, I cannot stress enough that every person’s body is different and things like cost, longevity and even the way it will look are super specific to you.
Yeager advised me to treat lip filler as if I was getting surgery. To prevent bleeding and bruising, she recommended I stop any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil two weeks beforehand and not consume alcohol for at least 48 hours ahead of the procedure, if not longer. I also drank lots of water the day prior. When I got to my appointment, Yeager gave me arnica tablets to dissolve under my tongue to further prevent bruising.
Everyone who has had their lips done warned me that it hurts worse than Botox, probably because the needle has to be dragged through your skin to disperse the filler. Some also told me their injector didn’t use any numbing agent, which had me even more anxious. Thankfully, Yeager always uses a medical-grade numbing cream before injecting, and filler has lidocaine (a numbing agent) as well. Since I was super nervous, though, one of the dentists gave me a dental block before getting the filler, which numbed the front of my mouth and lips as if I was getting dental work done (a perk of your injector operating inside a dentist’s office). Thanks to the dental block and numbing cream, I didn’t feel a thing.
The best part about filler is that Yeager can see exactly where it’s going, so there’s no risk of accidentally overdoing it. After each injection, she massaged my lips to mold the filler into place.
When finished, I had considerable swelling, which is completely normal since your body will be mad at you for injuring it and it will try to heal itself. Also, I had an added layer of drooping since the numbness needed to wear off. (It went away in about three hours, and I still would take numbness over pain any day.)
I went in to work that day but wore a face mask and stuck a small ice pack in it to stop the swelling on my lips. Much like the Phantom of the Opera, this also hid my face from the cruel world. I couldn’t work out or use a straw for 24 hours, but I iced my lips like crazy to keep the swelling down and bruising at bay. I also applied a steady layer of Vaseline, an occlusive, to keep moisture in and bad stuff (dirt, dust, pollution, etc.) out.
Everyone told me I would wake up the next day very swollen. Even Yeager told me I would think to myself, “What did she do to me?!” However, my lips seemed to be the most swollen about 12 hours after injection, which also was the only time I thought that maybe I made a mistake by getting my lips done. I kept icing and applying Vaseline until I went to bed, and by the next morning, I could see my lips had started to settle into their new shape. There was very minimal bruising and swelling, and I even wore a lip color, which looked amazing thanks to the new real estate on my lips.
One week after the injections, I am so in love with my lips. They are plumper than normal but nowhere near duck-like or “Botched”-adjacent. Yeager truly is an artist, as she kept the shape of my lips in tact, as well as my cupid’s bow, which I’ve always liked on myself.
Remember, you don’t NEED anything — not makeup, not Botox, not filler, etc. You have every right to try it, however. If you’re thinking about it, go for it. Like with Botox, you want to find a licensed medical professional/licensed injector, preferably one with reference photos and experience.
You also want to choose someone who makes you feel comfortable. If you leave your session feeling worse about your appearance and what’s “wrong” with you than when you arrived, that’s not a good fit. Finally, just say no to Groupon injections or any heavy discounts. (Read the Botox 101 story for tips before booking any injections.)
As for my experience with lip filler, I like the way I look in pictures and love the way my makeup looks now.
I feel more confident, too, which is probably the best part of all.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT