Cosmetic fillers: Know risks, how to do your research

Mar 8, 2018, 10:15 PM | Updated: 10:46 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Injectable cosmetic fillers are a hot trend, gaining traction here in Utah. But the experts agree that before you trust your face to the needle, you need to do your homework. There are risks, and not everyone gets the payoff they were hoping for.

Whether it’s to help with those fine lines, lighten up those dark circles, or just to stay looking as young as possible, women are lining up for the injectable filler treatments.

“So I get Botox done all the time,” said Brit Allen. “I’m very addicted.”

“Injectable medicine is really exploding in popularity,” said Dr. Scott Thompson, a board-certified plastic surgeon. “We’re seeing younger and younger patients.”

Dr. Scott Thompson prepares to administer a cosmetic filler injection at his office in Utah.

Dr. Thompson’s group has two offices in Utah. They see about 150 patients each week for injectables. He said that lands their practice in the top three percent in the nation for the amount of injectables administered.

If you’re feeling the need for some filler, there are some considerations before you make the appointment.

“It needs to be directed by a physician, or under the guise of a physician’s practice,” said Dr. Thompson.

That wasn’t the case for one local woman who chose to get filler at a friend’s house and quickly developed a serious infection. Another woman wanted a prettier pout, but instead walked away with a lopsided lip.

An infection caused by a cosmetic filler injection.

Experts warn Botox carries an additional layer of consideration.

“I’ve seen some really problematic situations where someone had a facial nerve problem,” said Dr. Thompson.  “For example, you could have a droopy eyelid, like you can’t open one eye.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns Botox has also been known to cause problems swallowing, speaking, or breathing, and those symptoms can appear days or weeks after an injection.

There are more than 20 different cosmetic filler products on the market, each with their own risks and complications.

According to Dr. Thompson, risks increase with the use of semi-permanent fillers like “Bellafill” and “Sculptra.” Less risky options, with brand names like “Juvederm” and “Restalyn” are made up of more natural components, and can be reversed.

According to the FDA’s website, any fillers can cause side effects. While most of those side effects go away within a few weeks, some can be permanent.

“In some cases, side effects may appear weeks, months or years after injection,” the website states.

Even though Dr. Thompson is one of only about eight board-certified facial plastic surgeons in the state of Utah, he said even his clients can sometimes experience side effects.

“It’s not as if every time there is an injection, it’s perfect,” he said. “Sometimes there are complications.”

Dr. Thompson also warns people not to take advertisements at face value.

“They’re very appealing and attractive, and they put a picture of a beautiful woman, and you think, ‘Oh, I should go there,'” he said.

Dr. Scott Thompson administers a cosmetic filler injection at his office in Utah.

Ultimately, Dr. Thompson said you’re the one who’s responsible for how you turn out.

“Usually the reasons that I have to fix things are because someone had a procedure without really doing the appropriate amount of research,” Dr. Thompson said.

One resource to check if you’re planning a filler procedure is the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing,  where you can search for providers by name to see if any disciplinary actions have been taken. And, of course, if your procedure requires any kind of sedative anesthesia, you should make sure the facility is accredited.

“The truth is, any physician can pretty much do what they want,” Dr. Thompson said. “It’s the responsibility of the consumer or the patient to do the research.”

The cost of fillers can range from $300 to $800. The effects of Botox can last three to six months. Other cosmetic fillers will typically last from six months to several years.

The FDA has created a checklist for consumers with helpful information when considering an injectable filler.

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Cosmetic fillers: Know risks, how to do your research