I want fillers… so now what?

People are out here getting cosmetic injections- what else do we need to know about them?

It’s safe to say that we have seen a BOOM in cosmetic fillers over the last decade or so. By 2021, the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic surgery rendered derma fillers as the second most popular non-surgical procedure.

A cosmetic craze this big will naturally create a lot of different experiences. 

Leah Beth, 25, originally from Doncaster says getting filler at 18 opened a door to botched surgery, a lot of health concerns, and feeling like a stranger in her own face. 

When opening up about her journey, she said, “at first I didn’t really know what I wanted to change. I just knew that I wanted to do something. It started off with getting half a ml of lip filler but within a year, I’d put five ml in my lips and was looking to do face fillers as well.

“I started stripping at 19 and all the other girls had their boobs done. At this point, I was no stranger to cosmetic procedures so I wanted mine done too. I got a two in one surgery for my boobs and nose. To cut a long story short, the surgery went terribly wrong, I got botched, and that led me down a spiral.”

After the surgery, Leah became depressed and gained weight, which she attributes to the excessive filler that came after. 

I was told that you can make your face look defined again, if you put filler in because it’s gonna look like the bones are closer to the surface. So before you knew it, I was getting five ml packages and injections in my face. And I couldn’t afford to get them done normally so I would have to go to these training days where people did it cheaper for their qualifications”. 

This is a relatively rare experience, but it’s a real one, and it only takes one botched job for filler to become an excessive habit. Leah admits that she made her initial decisions about filler without much research and with what she calls, a ‘collective mind’. Having procedures done to follow trends, without thinking about if this was how she wanted to look. 

“I urge anyone thinking of getting filler to wait until they’re at least 25 and the frontal lobe has developed. We’re not meant to see ourselves the way that we do. I’m not supposed to be able to see myself in high definition on a pocket computer and be able to see every pore and imperfection.” 

It’s also worth noting that Leah heard of the surgeon who botched her through word of mouth, and found no website or social media to put a portfolio to the name. This is a red flag, and Leah encourages anyone looking into cosmetic work to do their research.

Fillers are seen by many as an easy way to resolve all their niggling insecurities, and as they’ve become more affordable, accessible and common; a recent study by tjl solicitors, who help people who have had botched fillers, revealed that 48% of 18-25 year-olds, 56% of 26-35 year-olds have considered getting cosmetic augmentation.

But in an interesting turn, TikTok discourses are now wondering if we’ve been sold a patchy lie. Sparked by some unfiltered paparazzi photos of Kylie Jenner emerging nearly 10 years after her journey began, people are starting to discuss how fillers can age a person. 

It’s no surprise that the media wants to tear apart a young woman’s appearance, but on a real and personal note- we have been marketed fillers under the guise that they will make us look eternally youthful. One of the main appeals of derma filler is the reassurance that if you don’t like it, you can get it dissolved.

Dr Gareth Nye, program lead for medical science at Chester Medical school, tells us that this ‘trend’ could actually be posing more permanent consequences than we originally thought. 

The NHS website states that temporary fillers last between 6 and 18 months, but Dr Nye says “though they can be dissolved, people aren’t always informed that the area may not go back to normal if the filler stretches the skin in that region. Other permanent fillers can only be removed through surgery”. 

“Ten years ago, cosmetic surgery was reserved for those in the later stages of life wanting to regain youthful appearances again. Over the last 5 years, younger and younger people are seeking out what is in their minds “perfection”. But they haven’t even finished growing and maturing physically and mentally.”

“Photo editing has always been a factor in celebrity circles but recently the technology to enhance photos is so much more accessible. Makeup is much better and more accessible. Anyone is able to wake up one morning and change how the outside world perceives you, unfortunately this image of perfection being constantly displayed will leave people feeling the need to try and emulate, whether what they are seeing is true or not.”

Research from the National Library of Medicine in 2023 showed that women were twice as likely to get filler than men in 2023. Furthermore, 44% of those were influenced to get them by social media. 

Those stats certainly give the impression that social media is setting high bars for beauty standards among women, but these figures aren’t entirely representative, nor do they give a full impression of why fillers are on the rise. 

Some people experience a life-changing confidence boost after having cosmetic alterations. For those transitioning or experiencing gender dysphoria, getting filler can be an affordable way to help them feel more comfortable in their own body. 

Jorah James, 27 from Brooklyn is a non-binary trans man with a TikTok account dedicated to taking people along their transition to feel confident in their own skin. He says, “I want cheek, jaw, chin and lip fillers to help affirm my gender and masculinize my face. I think it will massively improve my self image and reduce my dysphoria. I’ve done a little bit of research, and I’m not very afraid at all. It seems pretty safe and regulated.”

Tyla Mitchell, now 30, got jaw filler in their mid-20s as part of their transition. He said, “I got fillers to enhance my jawline and to give me more of a masculine appearance. This healed my self image by giving me more confidence in my appearance, it’s helped my gender dysphoria and for me- it’s totally worth the risk”. 

In a 2019 study led by Ian Nolan for the National Library of Medicine, 25% of Transgender non-binary participants reported having undergone some form of gender confirming surgery.  Derma filler seems to be a ‘safe’ way to dip your toe in the water of cosmetic work, and according to a paper written by Francesco Sergi, the use of filler seems to be highest among those with ‘social, economic and political vulnerabilities’– inferring that it acts as a resolution to seeking other forms of feminization or masculinisation surgery. 

Patrick Kelly et al wrote in the Aesthetic surgery journal that trans and non binary people who reported having nonsurgical injectable procedures experienced greater self esteem, less anticipated discrimination and overall greater satisfaction with their appearance. While there are cosmetic nightmare horror stories floating around, it’s quite brilliant that we live in a world where people can access life changing (and face changing) procedures with such ease. 

I guess we can conclude that like anything, fillers aren’t the inherently ‘bad’ thing here. They just exist. It’s what we do with them and how we use them that can give us either a positive or negative experience. 

Reflecting on her experience, Leah says, “It’s sad to say but I’m kind of okay with being a victim of this society. I would rather be constantly wanting to improve and get more work done  than for society to think that I’m ugly. And that’s sad, but I think a lot more people will resonate with that than what they would care to admit”.  

So if you want fillers, how should you go about it?

Well drawing advice from our interviewees (and guidance issued by the NHS) here’s a brief breakdown on what to do. 

  • Evaluate your reason why 

Are you wanting to get them because of an insecurity that might be temporary? Are you looking at yourself critically through the eyes of what Leah Beth calls the ‘collective mind’? Neither of these are a bad thing, but fillers are harder to get rid of than inject, so these are factors worth thinking about in depth before taking the plunge.

  • Heavily research the aesthetician

Get reviews, look at portfolios, and find credentials. If this person has medical training, that’s a green flag for the world of fillers as this person will have a greater depth of knowledge about the body and what it can handle. 

Many aestheticians will deny the wishes of their clients because they put the wellbeing of their clients first, and that’s exactly what you want. 

  • Follow guidance issued by the aesthetician and accept that the result might take some getting used to

Fillers can swell and bruise, and if it can take a while to get used to a new haircut- it will almost certainly take a while to get used to your new lips, cheeks, jaw- whatever! 

If the aesthetician advises you to not get more filler for an assigned number of months, trust their guidance. Similarly, they’re trained to give you the best advice on aftercare to prevent filler migration, etc. Make sure you’re in the safest hands possible before allowing someone to make huge alterations to your appearance!

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