As you can imagine, the quest to look younger has been ongoing since the beginning of time. Over centuries, people have tried different ways to improve their facial contours to rejuvenate their appearance. And quite honestly, it is interesting to see where we have arrived in the fabulous world of injectables, especially from a science and safety perspective.
We can trace cosmetic injectables all the way back to the late nineteenth century when doctors transplanted fat from the arms into the face to combat facial volume loss. Dr. Franz Neuber pioneered this process in Germany. Dermal fillers as we know them today have been around for more than 40 years, but they have drastically changed over the years: from their bovine collagen roots to the advanced dermal fillers that we use and love today.
You read that right: bovine, as in beef. Believe it or not, dermal fillers arrived on the scene in the 1970s when collagen sourced from various animals was researched and tested for use on humans, leading to the emergence of collagen injections and implants. Bovine collagen (a.k.a. collagen derived from cows) was popularly used as a dermal filler and branded as Zyderm and Zyplast. However, the main problem with this type of filler was that bovine collagen is completely foreign to the human body—in most cases, the body did not respond well to it. Before use, a sensitivity test was needed to ensure that your body could tolerate and was not allergic to it, and not everyone passed the test. Furthermore, the formulation of these Bovine collagen products also resulted in a lot of swelling, and the results were not as long-lasting. Sounds horrible, right? Even more shocking is that bovine collagen is still used today! Bellafill is a bovine collagen filler that is used for nasolabial folds and facial acne scars that you can still get today. Thankfully, it’s not the only dermal filler available. The industry knew even then that a better product was needed.
Enter Hyaluronic Acid. In the early 2000s, the FDA approved hyaluronic acid fillers. This revolutionized dermal fillers. Hyaluronic Acid is a naturally present substance in our bodies that attracts and retains water moisture. We love Hyaluronic Acid based products, which are favourites for our clients because of their amazing effects on the skin. Hyaluronic Acid products experienced instant fame and success because they lasted much longer than collagen fillers.
First on the market was a brand that you’re probably very familiar with, Restylane, quickly followed by another brand that is also a household name, Juvederm. In fact, both of these products are still incredibly popular today. Over the last twenty years, particularly, there has been significant development in the production of dermal fillers, both synthetic, semi-synthetic, organic, and inorganic. Whilst there has always been a preference for products that are made with natural and organic ingredients, fillers that contain inorganic materials have an advantage, too: they tend to last longer and are much thicker. Radiesse is an excellent example of this, being a calcium hydroxylapatite filler that uses a mix of organic and non-organic materials. And just because something is synthetic doesn’t mean it is bad for you! Quite the opposite. In fact, Sculptra, which contains Poly-L-lactic Acid—another synthetic ingredient, is biocompatible—meaning it is completely safe for use in your own body.
However, one of the most significant advancements in the world of dermal fillers was when their method of delivery was changed forever with the introduction of lidocaine. Before lidocaine, none of the dermal fillers (such as our Bovine collagen) had a numbing effect—meaning patients had to endure pain with their dermal filler injection. Now that lidocaine is mixed in with filler, the dermal filler injection process is much more tolerable and comfortable.
Yet another technological advancement came with the invention of microcannulas, an alternative to the traditional syringe needle, which is now commonly used to inject filler. Traditional needles are stiff and sharp, whereas the microcannula is blunt and flexible; instead of piercing through the tissues of the skin like a needle, the microcannula forges a path between the anatomic structures of the skin. Microcannulas are more flexible, cause less discomfort, less bruising and bleeding, and are more precise than traditional needles, which is why they are now a gold standard in the aesthetic clinic.