Maybe you’ve been looking forward to your first lip procedure for a long time, or you’ve had a treatment done in the past and have finally gotten some time off work to update your look. Maybe you’ve been getting Juvederm Ultra Plus injections for years now, and you’re feeling more confident than ever. For many women (and men), we’re finally learning to love what we see in the mirror. In fact, we’re going out of our way to look in the mirror—looking over our shoulder at the gym, staring into our own eyes in the hair salon, gazing up at the mirrored ceiling in the elevator or back behind the bar where the mirror reflects the delicate bottles. We’re waking up looking forward to attending our best friend’s birthday party. We’re looking forward to social gatherings we’d normally dread, because we don’t feel like dressing up, to events like charity balls or Green Drinks or to dinners with old friends in town. And this is all because of a little lip filler procedure.
Sometimes, however, the treatments aren’t quite as comfortable as we expected, or they’re more painful than we remembered. This can give us pause. What’s going on? Am I doing something different? Maybe we’ve switched brands of filler because the doctor recommended it, or maybe we’ve even had to switch surgeons when we’ve moved to a different state. Even if we’ve gotten fillers before, it can be good to go into the procedure with an open mind, and to reeducate ourselves on what to expect during and after our visit to the doctor’s office, how to prepare, and how to speed up our recovery.
Ways to Recover after the Procedure
Did you know that if it’s your first time getting a lip filler injection, you’re more likely to experience some discomfort and swelling? Michael Kim, a plastic surgeon in Portland, Oregon, says that surprisingly, younger patients (in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s) often have more swelling than patients over the age of fifty.
Many patients find that they require a full 72 hours to recover after the surgery, as they tend to feel a bit swollen and sore. This is why it’s a good idea to schedule your injections for the weekend, so that you don’t have to show up bruised and in pain to work the next day.
To combat swelling, many doctors use anesthesia, which helps tighten the blood vessels in the area so that the bruising as a result of the needle puncturing the dermis is minimal. Ask your doctor what his or her plan is for your treatment beforehand, so that you know what to expect. You can also always ask what they recommend to help with bruising or pain after the injections.
Uneven Facial Swelling
What if one side of your lips appears to be more swollen than the other side? This can happen, and sometimes it’s necessary for the doctor to add a little more here and there to ensure a uniform look, so that your lips are even in terms of structure, fullness, and overall contouring (in the same way that a tattoo artist will need to add a little color here and there to a completed tattoo, once the redness dissipates and he or she can see where the color and lines settled). There’s no need to worry; if it isn’t possible to touch up your look, your doctor can always inject something to dissolve the filler.
Often, however, some uneven distention is not unusual. Don’t be alarmed. Many of us in fact have slightly uneven lips to begin with, and the temporary swelling after the procedure just temporarily exacerbates the uneven appearance. Just wait for a day or two, and wait for the swelling to even out. Take a relaxing bath, go for a walk, or spend some time binging on your favorite Netflix series (and perhaps don’t stare too hard into the screen or look in the mirror until those first two days are over, so that you don’t obsess over any unevenness or asymmetry). We recommend treating yourself to your favorite foods, and using these days to reflect on why you wanted the procedure done in the first place and how great you’ll feel when the swelling goes down. During this time, you shouldn’t touch the area much; massaging your lips isn’t advisable. You can, however, get an ice pack and gently ice the area for several minutes every hour or two. You can also apply arnica. Arnica, or arnica montana, is a an herb that is excellent for speeding up the healing of bruises. It also can help reduce inflammation and swelling. Arnica works by helping shoot white blood cells to the affected area so that they can repair the affected cells. It’s great for after your procedure, and also works well for any sprains, sore muscles, headaches, insect bites, or scarring. By using ice and arnica in combination, you can greatly reduce the swelling and soreness in the area.
If you do experience pain that doesn’t feel normal, you should get in touch with your doctor right away, as you may be allergic to the filler. Bruising can last a lot longer than swelling (remember how long, as a kid, you had to wait for those bruises on your knees from soccer or volleyball to go away). If this discoloration is an issue at work or in your social life, you can always use makeup to cover it up.
Many surgeons recommend that, in the week or two leading up to treatment, that you refrain from taking any over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like aspirin or Motrin, and that you stop taking multivitamins and Vitamin E, as these can contribute to more bruising.
When to be Concerned
So, when exactly should you start to worry? We want to avoid causing ourselves unnecessary stress, but we also of course want to be vigilant, so that if our bodies aren’t healing properly from these injections, we’re able to get in touch with a medical professional right away and to figure out what is going on. What’s normal, and what isn’t?
Certain patients do suffer from swollen lips a month or more after their procedure. This could potentially indicate an infection. Not the outcome you want.
If your lips feel swollen more than a few days after your treatment, and especially if the swelling and pain continues for more than two weeks, you should get in touch with your doctor. You should always be able to contact your doctor, for dermal fillers or for anything else, without feeling as though you’re bothering him or her.
In one case, a patient who was injected with Perlane in her nasolabial folds and her cheeks suffered from an allergic reaction and experienced major swelling and pain that increased over the next 30 days. She also saw a small nodule appear on her face, and noticed increasing firmness in the treated areas. This woman was over 50 and had used facial fillers before in the past without any issues. Others in this case study suffered from infection, adverse swelling, and other unwanted symptoms after using Elevess and Juvederm, respectively.
So, when should you start to worry? You know your body best. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. If you notice any unusual redness, excessive pain, excess water in the area, or the formation of hard lumps under the skin, call your surgeon and let them know, especially if this is occurring more than a week or two after your injections. Make sure you keep a record handy of when your injection was, for reference, and so you know if it has been more than seven days after your treatment. You can also take photos of your injection sight for your records (just make sure that you keep the lighting and the proximity similar so that you have a point of comparison), and so that you can see whether the swelling has gone down or not.