The NHS guide to cosmetic procedures

Dermal fillers

Dermal fillers are injections used to fill out wrinkles and creases in the skin.

They can also be used to increase the volume and definition of the lips and cheeks.

The fillers are made from a variety of materials and the effects can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the type of filler:

  • collagen – effects last three to four months
  • hyaluronic acid – lasts about four to six months
  • calcium hydroxylapatite – lasts about 18 months
  • poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) – effects of injections given over several months may last up to two years
  • polymethylmethacrylate beads (PMMA) – permanent, but most risky

Before you go ahead

If you're considering dermal fillers, be certain about why you want to have them. 

The procedure can be expensive and has its limitations.

Cost: In the UK, facial fillers cost about £150 to £300 per session, depending on the amount of product used.

Limitations:

  • Most fillers aren't permanent.
  • There's no guarantee the desired effect will be achieved. The ageing process will still happen elsewhere – fillers will not, for example, fix a sagging jawline.

Safety: Take time to find a reputable practitioner who is properly qualified and practises in a clean, safe and appropriate environment. Ask the practitioner what you should do if something were to go wrong.

What it involves

You may be offered a local anaesthetic cream or injection. The practitioner injects the filler in a series of small injections and may massage the area.

The treatment time can vary from 30 minutes to an hour. It may be uncomfortable, but should not be very painful.

Afterwards

The area may be a little swollen, tender and red for 24 hours. During that time you may be advised to avoid coffee, alcohol, hot drinks and the sun.

Risks

The risks of dermal fillers depend on whether the procedure was done correctly and the type of filler used. Permanent fillers have the highest risk of problems and some practitioners feel they are best avoided.

General risks of dermal fillers include:

  • rashes, swelling, itching and bruising
  • an infection
  • the filler moving away from the intended treatment area over time
  • (in rare cases) the filler forming lumps under the skin – this may need to be treated with surgery or medication
  • (in rare cases) the filler blocking a blood vessel – this can lead to tissue death, permanent blindness or a pulmonary embolism

What to do if you have problems

If you've had fillers and are not happy with the results or are experiencing problems such as lumpiness, take up the matter with your practitioner through the clinic where you were treated.

If there are any complications that require medical attention, it is best that you go back to the practitioner who treated you. If this is not possible, you can go to your GP or local accident and emergency (A&E) department.

You can also report any side effects directly through the Yellow Card Scheme website. By reporting side effects, you are helping to provide more information on the safety of this medicine.

Page last reviewed: 19/05/2016

Next review due: 19/05/2019

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