As we age, our faces begin to show the effects of gravity, sun exposure and years of facial muscle movement, such as smiling, chewing and squinting. The underlying tissues that keep our skin looking youthful and plumped up begin to break down, often leaving laugh lines, smile lines, crow's feet or facial creases over the areas where this muscle movement occurs.
Soft-tissue fillers, most commonly injectable collagen or fat, can help fill in these lines and creases, temporarily restoring a smoother, more youthful-looking appearance. When injected beneath the skin, these fillers plump up creased and sunken areas of the face. They can also add fullness to the lips and cheeks. Injectable fillers may be used alone or in conjunction with a resurfacing procedure, such as a laser treatment, or a recontouring procedure, such as a facelift.
If you're considering a facial-rejuvenation treatment with collagen or fat, this information will give you a basic understanding of the procedure - when injectables can help, how the procedure is performed, and what results you can expect. It may not answer all of your questions, since a lot depends on your individual circumstances. Please ask your doctor if there is anything about the procedure you don't understand.
Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that provides support to various parts of the human body: the skin, the joints, the bones and the ligaments. Injectable collagen, patented by the Collagen Corporation under the trade names Zyderm and Zyplast, is derived from purified bovine collagen. The purification process creates a product similar to human collagen. Injectable collagen received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in1981. It is produced in various thicknesses to meet individual patient needs.
Collagen is used primarily to fill wrinkles, lines and scars on the face and sometimes the neck, back and chest.
The procedure: Treatment with collagen can begin after a skin test determines that you're not allergic to the subsstance. The collagen is injected using a fine needle inserted at several points along the edge of the treatment site. If a local anesthesia has not been used, you may feel some minor stinging or burning as the injections are administered.
Since part of the substance is salt water that will be absorbed by the body within a few days, your doctor will slightly overfill the area. You may be asked to hold a hand mirror during the procedure to help your doctor decide when you've had enough.
In the medical world, the fat-injection procedure is known as autologous fat transplantation or microlipoinjection. It involves extracting fat cells from the patient's abdomen, thighs, buttocks or elsewhere and reinjecting them beneath the facial skin. Fat is most often used to fill in "sunken" cheeks or laugh lines between the nose and mouth, to correct skin depressions or indentations, to minimize forehead wrinkles and to enhance the lips.
The procedure: After both the donor and recipient sites are cleansed and treated with a local anesthesia, the fat is withdrawn using a syringe with a large-bore needle or a cannula (the same instrument used in liposuction) attached to a suction device. The fat is then prepared and injected into the recipient site with a needle. Sometimes an adhesive bandage is applied over the injection site.
As with collagen, "overfilling" is necessary to allow for fat absorption in the weeks following treatment. When fat is used to fill sunken cheeks or to correct areas on the face other than lines, this overcorrection of newly injected fat may temporarily make the face appear abnormally puffed out or swollen.
Years of squinting and other facial muscle movements can take their toll on the eye area, leaving crow's feet and other noticeable lines.
After treatment, the skin around the eye area appears smoother and more taut.
Lines and creases that form around the mouth are usually caused by gravity and a breakdown of tissues beneath the skin.
The lower face appears firmer and smoother after treatment with injectables. Lines around the mouth are filled in and nearly imperceptible.