Everything You Need to Know About Lip Fillers

A Q&A with a cosmetic dermatologist

Woman getting an injected lip filler

A cosmetic lip filler (or lip injection) is a pretty common procedure these days. In fact, there were 2.7 million dermal fillers done in the US in 2017, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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This noninvasive procedure can give you fuller, plumper lips in about 15 minutes. And since there’s minimal downtime for recovery, you could squeeze in the appointment between errands or on your lunch break.

Here cosmetic dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, explains what happens when you get a lip filler.

Q: What is actually in the injection?

A: The type of hyaluronic acid filler used in the procedure is determined by the area of the lip you’re looking to enhance and the type of result you want — whether it’s definition (such as shape) or increasing volume. Your doctor will discuss this with you at the consultation.

The gels come in a prefilled syringe. When the gel is injected into the lips, it fills and cushions the lip itself ― immediately increasing volume and size.

Q: How long does it last?

A: You’ll see results instantly, but about 20 percent of what you first see is swelling. The full effect of the filler is seen at four weeks, when swelling has subsided and the filler has integrated into the skin.

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And although the result may be long lasting, it’s not permanent. Most results last about nine to 18 months.

Q: Does it hurt?

A: The procedure is quick and relatively painless. Some people feel a slight pinch with each injection, and your lips will probably feel tender afterward. Most of the hyaluronic acid fillers used contain an anesthetic called lidocaine, which minimizes discomfort during injection.

About 20 minutes before, a topical anesthetic is applied to the lips. It comes in a Vaseline® form and helps to minimize discomfort.

After the injection, your doctor will give you ice to help with any swelling. Normal activity can be resumed immediately post injection. Most people experience minimal bruising and redness.

Q: Is it safe?

A: Dermal fillers are FDA-approved and safe for injection.

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There’s a low possibility of infection, but severe complications from dermal fillers are extremely uncommon. Allergic reaction to hyaluronic acid fillers does not occur, given that it is a natural substance found in the skin.

Q: What do I need to do before the procedure?

A: Avoid anything that could thin your blood ― like ibuprofen, aspirin or herbal supplements. These things can make it more likely to bruise. If you’re prone to cold sores, a lip filler could trigger one, so an antiviral medication is often prescribed a few days prior.

A: What if I’m not happy with my results?

A: The good thing about hyaluronic acid fillers is that if you aren’t happy with your lips (for whatever reason), your dermatologists can inject an eraser enzyme called hyaluronidase, which will dissolve the filler in a few minutes.

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