Not all dermal filler is safe – here's what to look out for

MPs are calling for dermal fillers – like lip and cheek fillers – to be regulated and offered on a prescription-only basis.

Debate around regulation stems from the widespread availability of dermal fillers, in what’s been referred to as a ‘cowboy’ industry by members of parliament.

26-year-old Emily* is a prime example of what can go wrong. When she was offered lip fillers at a discount by her eyebrow technician, she was intrigued after ‘years of feeling self conscious’ about them.’

Emily went ahead with the procedure, ‘not realising this hasn’t how things are supposed to be done with fillers’, and endured some pretty grim consequences. 

She told Metro.co.uk: ‘I was basically stuck swollen, bleeding and bruised for weeks and didn’t have any feeling in my lips for ages. This was a year ago and I’m still so upset by the whole experience.’

A recently launched campaign, Save Face, is among the first steps from government to make sure people know the risks of cosmetic procedures and ‘where to find the information they need to make informed decisions about their care.’

Many aestheticians are backing the cause, hoping to standardise the practice and keep patients safe.

GP and Aesthetics Doctor Dr Ahmed el Muntasar tells Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s ridiculous that dermal fillers are not available only on prescription because you can cause so much damage.

‘The reality is that botox is currently prescribed, whereas filler isn’t, and the damage you can cause with filler is so much more severe.’

Alongside the physical side effects of improperly injected filler, the mental wellbeing of young people who seek out non-invasive cosmetic treatments has also been discussed. 

It’s believed that filler on a prescription-only basis may help patients to realise what a big deal altering your face actually is, and those who are doing it for the wrong reasons may see a chance to back out.

London cosmetic surgeon Dr Alex Karidis agrees that the industry should be subject to more restrictions, starting with regulations on the manufacture and testing of injectables.

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The big picture is that there are different types of fillers available globally. Not all of these are rigorously tested and any manufacturer can create a filler.

‘The real danger, though, is that it’s not what they’re using to inject that causes a lot of the issues. If [an unqualified practitioner] don’t know how and where to inject it then you’re going to have problems.

‘Who’s doing the procedure – and ensuring they are sufficiently qualified to administer lip fillers – is a lot more important. Ideally, this would be a qualified doctor or nurse,’ says Karidis.

In recent years, she says she’s seen an increase in the number of ‘unscrupulous traders’ offering low-priced services through social media.

‘These are all traps, and customers shouldn’t be fooled by the cheap prices,’ adds Karidis. ‘There’s no cheap and cheerful when it comes to lip fillers – this is playing Russian roulette with your body.’ 

Getting your lips done by a qualified aesthetician avoids other side effects that come with dodgy lip filler too, like bleeding and pain at the injection sites, cold sore reactivation, discolouration or tenderness, infections, and tissue death (which can happen if lip filler is injected into or around an artery). 

If you’re thinking of giving any treatment a go it’s vital to do your research, both on why you want to alter your image and the procedure itself.

Those that do decide fillers are right for them should then be extra selective over their choice of practitioner. So until the industry (hopefully) becomes safer and more regulated, look out for these red flags when searching for where to get fillers:

Cheap prices 

If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Proper dermal fillers are expensive, and anything that’s getting injected into your face to alter your appearance probably should be. This is one of those times where you’re better off having expensive taste, or saving your money to get them at a later time if you can’t afford them

Booking directly on social media 

Facebook is flooded with non-aestheticians offering fillers. What you don’t always realise, though is this is often a side hustle and they may not have the training or qualifications to administer fillers at all.

A good aesthetician who wants to build trust with their clients will have a website with information about their work experience, background, qualifications, and a bunch of backed-up testimonials from happy clients.

Bad reviews  

This seems like an obvious one, but if a provider has bad reviews, don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. Sure, some people can be unfair, but the filler will literally be going inside your face.

Be picky. Go for the aesthetician with gold stars across the board. 

No qualifications

It’s important to find out the qualifications of the person administering the product. Right now, you can legally inject lip fillers without qualifications because the industry is so unregulated, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

‘It’s best to ask for proof of proper medical qualifications before committing to any treatment,’ says Karidis. ‘Ideally, they should be a qualified nurse or doctor.’

Offering too much filler

A lot of filler providers on Facebook offer up to 2ml, but Dr Karidis says it’s always better to err on the side of caution, and most qualified practitioners will start off with a little filler to begin with (simply because, once it’s injected, it cannot always easily be removed).

Then, if the patient is happy with the results of the first treatment, then they can build. A practitioner offering lots of filler on the first go, is not a considerate one.

The choice to get filler, or to not get filler, is entirely our own. However, sometimes a desperation to fit in or change our appearance because of our unhappiness with it can cause blind spots, placed right over the red flags dodgy practitioners are displaying.

If you’re desperate for cosmetic treatment, there might be something larger at play with your confidence that might need some work. Either way, it’s not worth risking your health.

Save Face Clinic Finder

The Save Face campaign website is a useful resource for those looking to do their homework before fillers.

It provides information to the public about dermal fillers and features a clinic finder for prospective patients, with only accredited clinics for people to choose from. 

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