If you’ve seen celebrities with wrinkle-free faces and majorly plumped-up cheeks and jawlines, that’s likely the result of facial fillers. Blac Chyna had hers for years, until she recently had them dissolved.
“I’m tired of the [filler] look and it’s just not flattering,” the model and reality star, born Angela White, said in an Instagram video earlier this spring, as she prepared to get her fillers dissolved from her cheeks, lips and jaw. “It’s just not what I look like. It totally changed my face ... It was making my face like a box.”
For many of us who’d only ever seen Blac Chyna with fillers, the results post-dissolve showed her with a dramatically different appearance, with a much softer jawline and cheekbones. In the video, Armita Amini, a physician assistant-certified at Allure Laser in Los Angeles, administers an injection, and Chyna’s face immediately starts to shrink down. “Sometimes it is pretty instant, if you don’t have swelling,” Amini says in the clip. “Most people see it pretty quickly.”
Fillers, as we know them, have been around since the early 2000s, and they’ve steadily gained in popularity over the years. In 2015, Kylie Jenner spoke about getting lip fillers, and Google searches for “lip fillers” increased by 11,300% in 24 hours, according to Allure. As injectors continue to hone techniques for subtle results, more and more people are trying the procedure — and some haven’t quite figured out when to stop.
“I have seen patients who have gotten overfilled by seeking many different providers to keep filling,” said Dr. Robert Schwarcz, a double-board certified oculofacial plastic surgeon in New York City. “I have suggested in the past they dissolve and let things calm down.”
So, what actually happens when you dissolve facial fillers? And can you ever fully get back to your pre-filler appearance? We asked three experts on the subject to break down all our burning questions.
What are fillers, and why do people get them?
“Fillers are injectable substances used to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles and overall signs of aging. They are also used to enhance facial features, such as lips and cheeks,” explained Dr. Julie Russak, a board-ceritified dermatologist who helms Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York City. “[Modern] fillers are typically made of hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring substance in the body. When done expertly, fillers help restore lost volume to the face, making it look fuller and more youthful.”
Fillers are most commonly injected into the cheeks, lips, jawline and chin, but they can also be used in the forehead, temples, tear troughs, nose, hands, chest and buttocks.
As with any cosmetic procedure, the benefits should be weighed against the risks.
“Common side effects include temporary redness, swelling and bruising,” said Dr. Macrene Alexiades, a dermatologist and clinical scientist who runs the Dermatology and Laser Surgery Center of New York and who edited the textbook “Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery.” “More serious adverse events include infections, nodules, vascular occlusion, blindness and necrosis of the skin.”
And not everyone is an ideal subject for the procedure. “Patients with a history of severe allergies might not be good candidates for certain types of injectable fillers, because they could lead to an allergic reaction,” Alexiades said. Additionally, people who are breastfeeding or pregnant should not get fillers, according to Russak.
People with “very thin skin” or “large rounder faces” are also not ideal candidates for fillers, and patients on blood thinners and those with skin elasticity disorders should likewise reconsider, Schwarcz said.
What happens when you get fillers removed, and what are the risks?
Don’t take for granted that fillers are always easily removable — it’s important to understand that only some fillers can be dissolved.
“The only types of fillers that can be dissolved are the ones that are hyaluronic acid-based, such as Juvéderm and Restylane,” Alexiades noted. “Non-hyaluronic acid-based ones like PMMA filler (Bellafill), calcium hydroxylapatite filler (Radiesse) and poly-L-lactic acid filler (Sculptra), are all examples of fillers that cannot be dissolved.”
During the process of dissolving fillers, hyaluronidase (an enzyme that naturally occurs in our bodies and can break down hyaluronic acid) is injected to the filler site, and “a chemical reaction takes place to dissolve the filler,” Schwarcz said.
As with the initial filler, “hyaluronidase must be injected with great skill,” Alexiades cautioned. “If too much is injected, it can cause an indentation, and if not enough is injected, it will not be successful. The main risk of removal is also the incidence of bruising, which is relatively high. Another important variable is that multiple sessions are often required if someone has an excessive amount of filler.”
For Blac Chyna, multiple sessions were involved, as she noted on Instagram. (And multiple sessions, of course, means a more expensive removal process.)
Additionally, “loss of volume” can result, as well as a “rare allergy to hyaluronidase or local infection to the injection site,” Schwarcz said.
How do you know it’s time to dissolve your fillers?
Fillers can sometimes get a bad rap, calling to mind images of celebrities who’ve overdone the procedure and changed the shape of their faces. But there is a trend toward being more selective and using a lighter touch with filler application, which yields more natural-looking results. And for anyone who feels they may have gone too far with their fillers, dissolving can be a relatively simple way to get back on track.
“The concept of dissolving fillers is gaining popularity on social media and providing a platform for discussing the definition, procedure, and purpose behind [fillers],” Russak said. “I’m very excited to see the trend toward... focusing on restoring the natural appearance of the face, versus distorting it and focusing only on unrealistic expectations of cosmetic procedures.”
Schwarcz recommends that you consider dissolving your fillers “when the face looks distorted or a patient feels they no longer look better from the volume provided by the fillers.” Or, as Blac Chyna put it: “It’s just not what I look like.”
Although it’s ultimately a personal choice, sometimes a doctor will recommend removing fillers based on their assessment of your appearance.
“I have a 50-year-old model who came to me with several syringes of filler having been placed under her eyes and in her lips, distorting her facial features entirely,” Alexiades recalled. “When I see a patient, I know instantly whether the filler is in excess and distorting her natural features. The filler should be dissolved if it is detracting from the patient’s natural beauty.”
Can dissolving facial fillers completely restore your pre-filler appearance?
Whether you can fully return your face to its pre-filler appearance largely depends on how long you’ve had the fillers.
“The body’s natural processes of aging, gravity and expression will continue to affect the face after the filler is gone, so there will be changes,” Russak noted. “Sometimes if the filler was done too much or placed in areas that were overstretched, you might notice sagging and changes in the skin after the filler was dissolved, and it might require a procedure to tighten the skin (most common around the eyes).”
Still, “the skin has an innate elasticity, and provided very large amounts of fillers were not used, it should be restored to close to [the] original state,” Schwarcz said.
As always, please consult your board-certified dermatologist before considering any sort of treatments.