Making the decision to get injectable wrinkle reducers — a treatment that temporarily smooths moderate to severe lines on the face — is not a choice one takes lightly. There are numerous factors to consider, including which dermatologist you should go to, what your desired end results are, and whether or not — deep down — you’re comfortable enough coming face to face with a syringe. Many people wonder what getting injections actually feels like and if it hurts during or after. We decided to lay it all out there by having an experienced derm give us the rundown on what to expect, and by asking a handful of beauty editors what it’s actually like to get injections.
A Rundown on Injectable Wrinkle Reducers
In short, injectable wrinkle reducers involve having naturally occurring toxins injected into certain areas of the face — including the forehead, frown lines between the brows, and crow’s feet — which temporarily block the muscles from contracting in those areas. “This prevents you from creasing the skin in the same place over and over again,” explains Dr. Anna Guanche, a dermatologist at the Bella Skin Institute.
“The lines may either soften or be visibly reduced, depending on how deep they are in the first place,” she notes.
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But Does It Hurt?
The syringes used to inject wrinkle reducers have small, medical-grade needles. And it’s common for doctors to offer a topical numbing cream. But the cold hard truth is that you’re going to feel something. Most people report the injection feels like a quick pinch, usually with no pain after the injection is over.
“There might be some discomfort during the procedure, but we numb the area with a topical anesthetic,” says Dr. Guanche. “Some areas are more tender than others, and we use a tiny needle and distractions, like tapping.”
For a candid, first-hand point of view, we asked beauty editors what their experience with injectable wrinkle reducers has been like. Marci Robin, who’s served as senior digital beauty editor at Good Housekeeping and executive editor at xoVain, said she had the opportunity to try injectable wrinkle reducers many times throughout her career, but it wasn’t until three years ago that she actually partook.
“I finally went for it when I was 36, at the encouragement of my older sister, who adores the stuff,” she says.
So, was the process painful for her? “It truly didn’t hurt much in my opinion — nothing more than a little pinch at each injection spot,” she admits. “But then, I'm covered in tattoos, so I may have a higher needle-related pain tolerance than others.”
For perspective from someone who’s terrified of needles, consider Christina Heiser’s experience. She’s the senior editor for L’Oreal Paris USA’s Beauty Magazine, and formerly served as senior associate editor at Women’s Health.
“I'm a baby when it comes to pain,” she reveals. “Getting a flu shot or having blood drawn freak me out and I find those totally painful. I hate needles, so I was very nervous going into the process, but it didn't hurt nearly as much as I was expecting it to. The needles felt like little pin pricks. They were uncomfortable more than they were painful. I was injected on my forehead as well as by the corners of my eyes. The injections around my eyes were more painful than the forehead injections. The pain was over as soon as each injection was done.”
Aly Walansky, a beauty writer for Today.com and SheKnows, gets wrinkle reducer injections at a frequency of about twice a year. She describes herself as someone with a relatively low pain threshold who’s “whimpered over papercuts.”
“It's fast, and honestly, I find brow waxing more uncomfortable,” Aly says. “It feels like a quick series of pinches. It takes a good week to see results, but then it's just so great to not see those deep facial lines in photos.”
At the end of the day, pain tolerance is subjective and what hurts one person may feel like nothing to someone else. That said, the dermatologist and beauty editors we spoke to all came to a general consensus: getting injectable wrinkle reducers isn’t exactly the most pleasant feeling in the world, but, in their experience, it wasn’t excruciating. If you’re thinking about an injectable wrinkle reducer and are hesitating because of the “injectable” part of it, the best thing to do is to talk to someone about their experience and to find a licensed provider you can talk to about your concerns and the risks involved. They’ll be able to help you understand if it’s right for you.