My relationship with my face is complicated. As a mixed-race person, I’ve never felt wholly comfortable with my own reflection — AKA am I Asian? Am I white? I’m sort of both? — and so I’m always up to try a new look. Typically, I’ve done this by experimenting with makeup (AKA my somewhat-cringey deep-contouring phase in 2016) or changing my hair colour (bleaching my black hair blonde was a fun, though expensive, period of my life), but I’ve never tried facial fillers or injections — until a few weeks ago.
Read on for all the details about my first experience with lip fillers — and to learn if a low-beauty-maintenance person like myself would do it again.
Disclaimer: This is not intended to act as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek medical advice from a licensed professional that is specific to your situation.
Why did I get lip fillers?
I’ve always been curious about what dermal fillers could do for my appearance and my self-confidence. Aside from my aforementioned mixed feelings about my face in general, comments from old boyfriends about my “little smile” and thin lips have stuck with me and made me self-conscious about my smile. Could a plump here or there boost my confidence, too?
Despite this, I’ve held back on fillers and injectables until now for a few reasons. Aside from the expense (more on this later), I was afraid it would hurt. Does beauty have to mean pain?
However, as I surge ahead in my mid-30s, I’ve been feeling a shift towards more of a “why not?” attitude when it comes to things that I’m afraid of. So, when questions about whether or not lip fillers hurt kept coming up among my friends and colleagues, I decided to find out for myself.
What are lip fillers?
First things first, what do I mean when I say lip filler? Put simply, lip fillers are a type of dermal filler that is injected into your lips to add volume, change the shape of your lips or both. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, lip fillers are generally made of synthetic hyaluronic acid and are made by many different brands.
How I chose where to get lip fillers
My lip journey started with a lot of research. I learned that the price, results and experience can vary quite a bit depending on where you go, so it’s important to always do your own research to find the best situation for you. I asked people I knew and trusted for their opinions and references, scoured the internet for reviews and looked at photos on social media until I narrowed my search down to a few places in my area, downtown Vancouver.
Ultimately, I decided to go with a location that was highly well-reviewed and had before-and-afters that offered a look that I liked. Another deciding factor for me was the fact that I could get a consultation before any needles touched my lips. This was important to me, as I had questions and didn’t want to rush into a medical procedure without knowing what I was getting myself into.
What did my lip filler consultation look like?
Before I booked my appointment to get lip fillers, I met with the naturopathic doctor who would do the injections. She explained the process, asked me about my goals for the procedure and told me about my options in terms of pricing. She also answered my questions about things like pain.
As I suspected, the doctor noted that pain, swelling and bruising can vary from person to person.
What are the risks of getting lip filler?
During my consultation, I was also told about the risks of getting lip filler. It’s important to note that any medical procedure involves a certain amount of risk, and you should absolutely consider the potential downsides before making your decision.
The Cleveland Clinic outlines some of the potential risks of lip fillers, which may include:
- Bleeding and pain in the spots where you receive the injections
- Discoloration or tenderness
- Cold sore reactivation
- Potential infection
- Tissue death (which can occur if lip filler is injected into or around an artery)
- Asymmetry in the lips (i.e. your lips may end up different sizes)
- Migration (i.e. the lip filler could bleed into other areas of your face)
As dermatologist Dr. Katie Beleznay told Slice previously when discussing fillers, the risks of fillers can also include the potential for serious complications like skin necrosis and even (though rare) blindness.
“Ultimately, it’s important to see an expert who is trained in both injection technique and anatomy,” Beleznay said, adding that your expert should also be someone who knows how to treat and manage complications should they arise, and, of course, is someone you trust.”
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Does getting lip filler hurt?
For me, the process honestly didn’t hurt very much at all (again – this could be different for you, but my experience was relatively painless). Here is what happened on the day I got my lip filler injections.
As advised during my consultation the week before, I avoided any blood thinners (like alcohol or ibuprofen) in the days leading up to (and also the days after) my appointment to help avoid bruising.
When I arrived for my appointment, the doctor reviewed what we had talked about at my consultation and confirmed what I wanted to do, how much filler I wanted to use and how much it would all cost.
Next, she applied a topical anesthetic to my lips to numb them to the potential pain of the injections (Tip: be sure to avoid licking your lips once this is applied, as you don’t want your tongue to go numb too!). My lips felt a little numb and tingly, but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
After about 15 minutes, the doctor returned and began the injection process. Using a very tiny needle, she injected spots all across my top and bottom lips. Each injection felt like a little sting, but in a manageable way. I’d describe the feeling as similar to a kitten poking a sharp little claw into your skin — but at multiple points on your lips.
The entire process took less than an hour from start to finish, and I felt fine — though I did have noticeably swollen lips — when I left.
How much does lip filler cost?
The cost of lip injections will vary depending on a few factors: how much you use (I used three-quarters of a syringe of lip filler) and the cost per syringe.
I got my lip filler done in downtown Vancouver, and I paid about $500 for three-quarters of a syringe. From quotes and my research, I found that lip fillers in Vancouver typically range between about $300-$1,000, depending on the above factors. In Toronto, according to Canada MedLaser, the average cost of lip injections is about $500 to $2,000.
With that said, if you’re interested in getting lip fillers, it’s a good idea to get a quote for your specific situation before you agree to any procedures.
How long does it take to recover from lip filler?
As noted on RealSelf, the downtime for lip fillers is generally minimal. However, the amount of downtime you need will vary a lot from person to person — and on your own comfort level with walking around with swollen lips.
For me, downtime was indeed minimal. When I left my appointment, it took a few hours for the numbing to subside. It then took about two days for the swelling to settle into a more natural — though still noticeably plumper — look.
What were my lip filler results like?
When I first saw my lips, they were still swollen. I had a moment of concern: my lips looked huge (see above for how I looked a few minutes after leaving the clinic). However, this was something that the doctor had warned me about — initially, your lips are more swollen, and they can look alarming to you, because you’re used to looking at your own face.
But once my swelling subsided, I actually loved the look of my fuller lips. While I opted to go with just three-quarters of a syringe of filler (I didn’t want to attempt to alter the natural shape of my lips), I feel like I look like myself, but with rounder and plumper lips. No one has stopped me in the street to ask if I have filler and my mother didn’t appear to notice when she saw me a week after, so my hope is that the results are indeed, fairly natural.
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Would I do it again?
With that said, would I do it again? Currently, I’m undecided.
While I do feel noticeably more confident with my fuller lips, the expense of maintaining the procedure (depending on the type of injections you get, results typically last from six months to a year, though my injector noted that it can be even quicker after your first time) doesn’t feel realistic. At this point in my life, I’m not sure if this is something that I want to pay to maintain in the long term.
Still, I’ll also say that you should ask me again when the filler begins to wear off. As someone who struggles with her appearance, I also acknowledge that feeling more comfortable with what I see in the mirror is something to be taken seriously, and a benefit that may be worth the cost.