A play-by-play of everything that happens when you get lip fillers.
Although I’ve written (what feels like) tomes on lip fillers, I’ve never tried it myself. This is partially because if I tried every cosmetic treatment I wrote about, I would look, shall we say…unlike myself. But I’ve always been fairly comfortable with my lips; I think they fit well with the rest of my face. That said, I’ve noticed that as I approach 30, my upper lip is starting to lose volume. When the opportunity came up to try out the new Lip Lush procedure from Belotero, I thought I’d give it a go.
DAY 1: INJECTION DAY
I head to Compass Dermatology in Toronto to see Dr. Julia Carroll. I’d already been advised to avoid alcohol, Advil, kale, salmon and vitamin E, among other things that could lead to excess bruising or bleeding, for a few days before the treatment. (I’m also told not to schedule any dentist appointments two weeks before and after the treatment.)
I sign a waiver, and numbing cream is applied in a thick layer all over my lips. Ten minutes later, I can’t feel my face. It’s not an uncomfortable sensation, it’s just weird.
The Lip Lush technique uses two different products: Belotero Lip Contour, which has a thinner consistency and will be used along the edge of my lips to create definition, and Belotero Lip Shape, to build volume. “The two products together, they punch above their weight,” Dr. Carroll tells me. “You need a lot less product to get a really nice balanced lip.”
She uses one vial of each product, and promises me a natural outcome. Even with the numbing cream, it isn’t an entirely painless procedure. I can feel the prick of the needle in some places, as well as the unsettling feeling of the product going into my skin. (If you’ve ever had cortisone injected into a pimple, I’d say the feeling is comparable—but magnified since your lips cover more ground.)
I look in the mirror post treatment and am somewhat taken aback—my lips are seriously swollen. But it’s totally normal, explains Dr. Carroll. The swelling is also exacerbated by the numbing cream I had applied.
She tells me to keep my head elevated and sleep on a few pillows to help reduce the swelling, and avoid smushing my face (and therefore lips) into anything. Basically: no massages, no making out.
The swelling is still very, very obvious. Or at least I think so. I keep an ice pack on my lips all day while I’m sitting at my desk, but no one says anything until our art director (whose job, I should note, is to notice these kinds of fine details) discretely gestures to my lips to ask what I’ve done.
I was instructed to leave my lips bare for the first few days, but I decide to risk my luck and swipe on a Givenchy rose lip balm. I visit our copy editor who asks me what I’ve done to my lips. “Just put on lip balm?” I offer. “It looks good!” she says, and seems to believe me.
The swelling is finally going down. I no longer have duck lips, but I can now see the injection marks at the base of my top lip. It’s not noticeable when my lips are hydrated, so I reapply plain lip balm all day.
The swelling is basically gone, but I—somewhat worrying—am growing used to the way I looked with oversized lips. What I thought was cartoonish five days ago, now seems…normal. It’s weird how quickly perception changes.
I get dinner with a bunch of girlfriends and tell them what I’ve done. They only notice the change once I draw attention to it. However when I suggest I may get an additional vile injected, I’m met with a round of firm “No.”
One week later, the swelling is completely gone, but I have a hard pea-sized lump on my upper lip. It’s only noticeable when I smile, but it drives me crazy. At my follow-up appointment, Dr. Carroll injects hyaluronidase, a substance that dissolves filler, directly into the spot and massages it firmly. It’s gone almost instantly.
TWO MONTHS POST PROCEDURE
There is no discernible difference between the filler and my lips, and I can’t feel the filler at all. Rather than adding a huge amount of volume to my lips (which I didn’t need), Dr. Carroll placed the filler to change the projection of my upper lip to be more in balance with my lower lip. It’s changed my profile, ever so slightly, for the better. I notice it primarily in photos.
Would I get it done again? In a few years, as my natural hyaluronic acid declines, sure. My major takeaway is to make sure you’re going to someone who knows what they are doing (how to safely inject) but also understands the product they’re using and how your lips should look in proportion to your face.
“In general, you can harmonize a face [changing the lips], but it has to be lips that belong on a face,” says Dr. Carroll. “Not lips you got from a magazine that you want that you think belong on your face.”
(Take note when looking for an injector: the College of Physicians and Surgeons does not allow testimonials, and before and after photos fall under that category. Injectors who are not physicians, however, are able to post. Make sure to ask about qualifications.)