Are Liquid Silicone Injections Safe?

Liquid silicone injections are the subject of much controversy, thanks to sensational news stories about celebrity cosmetic procedures gone wrong. Yet some doctors swear by the benefits of liquid silicone as a dermal filler and/or lip plumper. Is liquid silicone safe to inject for cosmetic purposes?

For more than 60 years, liquid injectable silicone has been used for soft-tissue augmentation, drawing mixed reactions from the public and medical community. While many doctors consider silicone too risky for facial cosmetic injections—which is not spproved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—there are doctors who use it legally (and successfully, they say) for off-label use.

Professional cosmetologist injecting silicone in lips
Nastasic / Getty Images

What Are Silicone Injections?

Silicone injections, also known as dermal fillers, are injections of silicone into the tissue to change the body's shape. This practice started in the 1960s and has since been banned by the FDA, following numerous reports of dangerous and life-threatening complications.

There are many kinds of injections that can temporarily alter the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines or change the appearance of the face. Temporary fillers use ingredients similar to those naturally occurring in the body, such as hyaluronic acid or poly-l lactic acid. These temporary fillers last for about six to 12 months.

Dangers of Silicone Injections

Surgery is the only way to remove liquid silicone because injected silicone is permanent and the silicone cannot be absorbed or removed by the body. There have been many reports of complications following silicone injections for cosmetic purposes, including granulomas (clusters of white blood cells signaling inflammation) and pneumonitis (inflammation of the tissue in the lungs).

Silicone injections can lead to side effects such as:

  • Scarring
  • Tissue death
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Silicone mastitis (infection of breast tissue)
  • Long-term pain

The silicone that moves beyond the injection site (silicone embolism syndrome) can block blood vessels in the brain, lungs, and heart. This can result in stroke and even death.

The most notable complications are usually the result of large-volume injections and industrial grade or adulterated materials.

Although it has not been established that silicone causes any systemic disease (disease throughout the body), numerous studies have shown that silicone may be potentially problematic. For instance, delayed reactions to liquid silicone fillers can occur months to years after the procedure and often do not respond to treatment.

Migration (silicone moving away from the intended site) is another danger. Localized inflammation can also present issues of its own, including exerting pressure on nearby nerves, which can affect the sensation and movement of the facial muscles.

Furthermore, the quality sometimes touted as silicone’s main advantage—that it is permanent—is possibly its biggest liability. This is because if things go wrong, liquid silicone is impossible to remove without causing significant—often disfiguring—damage to the surrounding tissue.

Potential Benefits of Silicone Injections

On the other hand, proponents of injectable silicone point to its inert chemical structure, ease of use, long-lasting results, and low cost as advantages over other available injectable fillers. They say that liquid silicone injections have been successfully used for decades in applications like filling acne scars and improving facial areas affected by AIDS-induced lipoatrophy (disappearance of fat tissue), as well as in nonsurgical rhinoplasty to change the shape of the nose.

Another popular argument put forth in favor of using liquid silicone injections to make cosmetic changes to soft tissue is that while not FDA approved for facial injections, liquid silicone is approved for injections into the eye to treat a detached retina and as a lubricant for hypodermic needles. Technically, liquid silicone is introduced in tiny amounts every time anyone receives an injection.

Summary

Silicone can be used as an implant or as an injection to change the appearance of the body and assist with the treatment of a retinal detachment or rhinoplasty. Silicone is permanent when injected into body tissues and can cause significant side effects when used in large amounts. While there are some benefits associated with silicone injections, there are definitely risks and unapproved uses that can cause serious damage.

A Word From Verywell

If you're looking to change your facial appearance, seek out a dermatologist who will use temporary dermal fillers that are FDA approved and considered generally safe. For those looking to increase the size of their breasts or buttocks, consult with a plastic surgeon to explore silicone implant options instead of silicone injections.

FDA-approved dermal fillers and implants are the safest way to achieve the cosmetic appearance you desire, without risking your health and quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does the body absorb silicone?

    The body cannot absorb silicone, but silicone can migrate throughout the body.

  • Is silicone toxic inside the body?

    Silicone is considered nontoxic and chemically stable in the human body. Silicone can be used safely as an implant to increase the size of the breasts or buttocks. Silicone injections directly into the body and not contained in an implant can be dangerous and painful.

  • What happens if silicone leaks into your body?

    Silicone that leaks into the body does not dissolve or absorb. It requires surgical removal in the case of a ruptured breast or buttock implant. Injected silicone fillers can migrate throughout the body via blood vessels and cause serious harm such as a stroke or even death.

  • Can silicone injections be removed?

    Silicone injections are permanent, and the silicone stays in the body. Complicated and advanced surgical procedures may be necessary to remove large amounts of body contouring silicone fillers.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  8. Haneke E. Managing Complications of Fillers: Rare and Not-So-Rare. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015;8(4):198–210. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.172191

  9. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on the Safety of Silicone Breast Implants. Silicone Chemistry. Safety of Silicone Breast Implants.

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  11. Azen SP, Scott IU, Flynn HW, et al. Silicone oil in the repair of complex retinal detachments. A prospective observational multicenter study. Ophthalmology. 1998;105(9):1587-97. doi:10.1016/S0161-6420(98)99023-6

Additional Reading

By Blyss Splane
Blyss Splane is a certified operating room nurse working as a freelance content writer and former travel nurse. She works as a freelance content writer for healthcare blogs when she's not spending time with her husband and dog.

Originally written by Natalie Kita