Lip filler can sound painful — even scary — especially if your only reference points are viral images of filler-gone-wrong or “overdone” celebrities. Though I completely understand how the thought of needles near your mouth could induce anxiety, for me these fears were unfounded.
I’ve received lip injections (which temporarily add volume to your pout) multiple times. Take a deep breath! The truth is that lip filler doesn't have to be scary, especially when you know what to expect. Below, five things I wish someone had told me the first time I had my lips injected. Keep in mind, this is my personal experience. Injectable lip filler is a medical treatment – and it has risks (click here to see them). Be sure to talk to a doctor about whether it’s right for you.
Discomfort may not be as bad as you think
The first time I went in for lip filler, I wasn’t sure what it would feel like — though naturally, I assumed it would hurt. (After all, nothing sounds pleasant about having a needle stuck into an area containing thousands of nerve endings.) That said, I wish I’d known earlier that pain shouldn’t be a deterrent from getting filler.
This procedure can be made more comfortable with the help of numbing cream. Upon arriving at your appointment, you’ll be offered a topical numbing cream, which will temporarily help remove any sensation from the lips. Even better, some injectable filler formulas contain lidocaine, which blocks much of the pain associated with lip injections, so you could have a few lines of defense against discomfort.
[Editor's note: You should tell your doctor if you have an allergy to lidocaine, as he or she will select a product that does not contain this medicine.]
While numbing cream and lidocaine help render the experience tolerable, some spots are more sensitive than others. (I personally found that my cupid’s bow was slightly more painful than the rest of my lips.) During my treatment, most of the injection points felt like momentary pinches; a feeling that dissipated practically as soon as I was able to process what happened.
That said, the overall experience was much less painful than, say, accidentally biting your lip. For context, I’d rather experience the discomfort from filler ten more times than endure a single bikini wax.
Avoid certain supplements a week prior to treatment
I’m a huge proponent of popping supplements for better skin and hair, so I take fish oil capsules regularly. But unbeknownst to me at the time of my first filler treatment, fish oil can act as a blood thinner — which, in turn, can increase the risk for bruising and swelling. (I did experience some minor injection site bruising.) That’s why NYC-based dermatologist, Joshua Zeichner, M.D, recommends holding off on aspirin one week prior to a filler appointment. “Other supplements to discontinue include ginkgo and fish oil,” he confirms.
Get filler on a Friday
...or at least when you don’t have to look picture-ready for a few days following treatment. “Because of the [risk of] significant swelling, make sure to give yourself one to two weeks before an important event so your lips can fully heal,” Zeichner says.
The first time I got lip injections, I woke up with majorly swollen lips and a tiny bit of bruising at the injection site. (In retrospect, I may have been able to mitigate these side effects had I quit the fish oil.) I could easily conceal the bruising with some trusty lipstick, but all the ice in the world couldn’t have deflated my severely swollen lips. My swelling was so intense that I actually called in sick to work the following day. (That’s why you probably don’t want to schedule your filler appointment the week of your wedding, class reunion, or any other major event . . . just in case!)
Sleep with your head elevated the day after
There’s also a possibility I could have avoided or at least reduced all that swelling if I had changed my evening habits. I generally sleep with a single pillow, but I wish someone had advised me to double up after getting filler for the first time. “[Post-filler,] try sleeping on two pillows to keep your head elevated,” Dr. Zeichner recommends. “This may help reduce the amount of swelling that pools around the lips when you wake up in the morning.”
On a similar note, I am generally a side sleeper, though some docs advise sleeping on your back post-filler to avoid any potential lip-smooshing while the product is still settling in. (This tip is particularly important after getting cheek filler).
People might not even notice your plumper pout
I can’t tell you how many incredulous reactions I’ve gotten upon telling people I’ve had lip injections. Usually, it’s something to the effect of, “but they look so natural!” This isn’t to say that I don’t notice a difference in the size of my lips — I do, especially when I glide on my favorite lipsticks. Rather, I love that my filler doesn’t make me look unnatural or overdone. Instead, my lips look like slightly plumper version of the ones I was born with.
Dr. Joshua Zeichner is a paid Allergan consultant.