The most frequently-asked question of most first-time cosmetic injectable patients is “what will the results look like?” To get an in-depth understanding of the entire experience — and the effects — of a medical aesthetics appointment, we bring you Under the Needle: a look at an individual’s journey from beginning to end.
My decision to get fillers for the first time was met with opposition from a lot of my friends.
The truth is that injectables and plastic surgery still carry a stigma, says dermatologist and founder of Mariwalla Dermatology, Dr. Kavita Mariwalla. Even with the countless articles and personal essays that debunk the stereotypes and misconceptions of these aesthetic procedures, many people still liken women who get these treatments to the Real Housewives archetype.
[Editor’s note: Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetic specialists now.]
I grew up in Los Angeles, California, where medispas seem to be on every corner. Although I have a mother who rarely wears makeup and has never had a single syringe go anywhere near her face, my surroundings outside of my home life — at the very least — made an impact on my subconscious when it comes to my appearance. I’m also not a hundred percent immune to the pressure of living up to the physical standards set by Hollywood and the Instagram models that flood my feed.
But none of those were the reasons why I wanted fillers. I don’t necessarily need them. I wanted fillers simply to add subtle volume in my cheeks.
I met Dr. Mariwalla on a press trip in August and knew immediately she was the provider I wanted to see for my filler treatment. I’ve spoken to many dermatologists about getting them and of everyone I spoke to, she was the one who wanted to change my face the least.
When we met up again in September at her Long Island practice, our consultation consisted of me telling her what I wanted — and her telling me why I was wrong. (I also love her for her brutal, yet loving, honesty).
Filler is a temporary treatment used to help restore volume in certain areas of the face, and I came into her office hoping for plumper cheeks. I gave her a few celebrity photos as a guide for what I wanted to get out of my injections, and Dr. Mariwalla told me she couldn’t do that. Not because she didn’t know how to, but because she didn’t want me to look like a different person.
[Editor’s note: Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a doctor to see if it’s right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetic specialists now.]
She explained that a lot of people don’t look for a dermatologist who knows how to handle ethnic features. Injectable filler can be used on patients of all ethnicities to add volume, but not all providers are trained to inject according to certain facial structures. Many injectors follow a specific standard of beauty, and apply a Westernized, Hollywood-centric look to anyone seeking filler treatment. This could cause more diverse patients to lose their special features.
“You want someone who is comfortable with the natural aging process in [people of] darker skin tones, because it is not the same across all ethnicities,” Dr. Mariwalla, explaining this concern. “You want an injector who understands the science of aging but can apply it to the art of filling, so you still look like you.” She noted that if she had injected me to create the results I wanted, I’d leave her practice loving my new cheeks — but as the swelling went down, I’d “realize [I] look like everyone else.”
Structurally, an Asian face like mine is different from someone who is white, and the examples I brought just wouldn’t look good on me. “Giving you huge cheeks would make your face look rounder and you would not look like yourself,” she said. So instead, she marked areas on my face where she felt lost volume — including the tops of my cheekbones — and explained that putting volume in these spots give me more defined cheeks without changing what I look like.
“Results are as much about the filler (the product) as they are about the filler (the injector),” she said. “I want to keep stressing that while many people can do fillers, not all do them well, and it is worth doing your research to find just the right person.”
She gave me two ice packs to numb my face instead of applying numbing cream to help mitigate discomfort. After about 10 minutes, she took the ice packs off and sterilized my face with rubbing alcohol. Next, she injected the filler. I felt a burning sensation each time she injected, but it was tolerable. And just like that, the procedure was done.
“You want people not knowing you got anything done,” she told me. And that’s exactly what I got. I didn’t look drastically different, but I noticed the extra volume. My face was sore — and would be for the next day or so — but I had no major swelling. I was amazed that the results were instantaneous and that there was barely any downtime.
[Editor’s note: Downtime and side effects from filler injections such as swelling or bruising vary person to person. For certain people, swelling can last a few weeks.]
Immediately afterwards, I iced the treated areas for approximately 10 minutes (to calm down the swelling). For the next 24 hours, I didn’t exercise, and I avoided putting extraneous pressure on my face (no sleeping on my face or getting a facial massage). Otherwise, there was little downtime in my case; I was even able to resume my regular skincare routine that same night.
When I asked about the longevity of my treatment, the doctor told me that the lifespan of filler depends on the brand being used (and where it’s injected), but it can vary anywhere from six months to two years.
Now, people are still shocked that I got filler. They’re surprised because they can’t tell where I got them, and can’t believe how I look pretty much the same as before.
Again, do I really need fillers? No, but I wanted a little boost in volume. I love my cheekbones now, and at the end of it all, that’s what really matters.
Thinking about a consultation? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now to find providers near you!
Filler was gifted to the author for the purpose of writing this article.