Injectable Fillers

What Are the Most Common Side Effects of Filler?

young woman touching lips with hand

While an increasing number of people are discovering the benefits of injectables, many are still on the fence when it comes to filler. But injectable filler can go a long way in temporarily restoring youthful-looking fullness to cheeks. (In case you didn’t know, this temporary, hyaluronic acid-based injectable treatment instantly adds volume to areas like the cheeks, lips, and the folds around the mouth.)

We can understand the hesitation, though. After all, every medical procedure (and over-the-counter medication, for that matter) poses a risk for side effects. That possibility can be particularly anxiety-inducing if your only exposure to filler-gone-wrong comes from sensationalized horror stories and reality TV.

[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.]

What are the most common side effects?

Dermatologist and Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at NYU, Dr. Elizabeth Hale, helps potentially reduce “minimal side effects” fillers pose, so long as they’re administered by an experienced injector. Luckily, the most common ones dissipate — though it’s important to familiarize yourself to avoid surprises. Tenderness, swelling, firmness, lumps, pain, discoloration, itching, temporary redness, and bruising at the injection site are the most common side effects (note: at least two of those can be concealed with makeup!). Depending on your health history, your injector’s technique, what kind of filler they use, and the area of the face being treated, side effects can last a varying number of days. In rare cases, injectables pose risk of infection. It bears repeating that finding a skilled injector is imperative for best results.

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What are the other possible risks of injectable filler?

Although rare, it’s worth noting that unintentional injection into a blood vessel is possible. Of course, this can lead to lasting damage — including vision abnormalities, blindness, stroke, temporary scabs, or permanent scarring. While these serious side effects are uncommon with filler, you may mitigate some of the risks by seeking a skilled injector.

How to reduce the risk of side effects?

Proper preparation is key to a happy patient. To reduce the risk of bruising, Hale recommends avoiding blood thinners (including NSAIDs, fish oil, and herbal supplements) a few days prior to treatment.

Hale suggests postponing any dental work within a week before and a week after a filler appointment. Your regular brushing and flossing are fine, just push off anything more intensive. (As if we needed a reason to delay that dental checkup for a few weeks!)

Most importantly, do your homework. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: finding an experienced injector is crucial. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking, such as those to suppress the immune system and blood thinners as these may increase risks of infection or increased bleeding with injections.  Also let your doctor know if you have a history of allergic reactions, or allergies to lidocaine, as well as hyperpigmentation or excessive scarring.

What can I do about the swelling?

For swelling, icing the area is generally a good option. On that note, your injector should provide you with an ice pack post-treatment to preemptively minimize swelling.

What concerns us the most?

Believe it or not, the number one concern Hale hears from patients has nothing to do with bruising or swelling. Rather, patients are most concerned about looking “fake” post-filler. Dr. Hale advises taking a peek at how the injector and the rest of his or her staff physically look, noting that it can be very telling of their work aesthetic. Like many top notch injectors, Hale takes a less-is-more approach to filler, using a single syringe at first and going back in with more if the patient wants more later on. “Subtle and gradual change is better than doing too much all at once!” Hale says. We’d have to agree on that one!

Have more questions about filler? Chat with a trained aesthetic specialist now!