What Materials Are Used for a Liquid Face Lift?

Not only are injectable dermal fillers the number one cosmetic procedure performed in the U.S., but they also can be used as a no-surgery facelift option. Known as the liquid facelift or the filler facelift, it promises a more youthful appearance with no downtime, no anesthesia, and no going under the knife.

Woman getting facial injection
Adam Gault / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Basically, during a liquid facelift, fillers are injected underneath the skin to fill in and relax facial lines and wrinkles, and to plump up and re-contour facial features, as well as reduce the appearance of sagging skin. The most popular and well-known of these injectables is Botox. However, Botox isn't even half the story when it comes to injectables. More and more youth-seekers are using Botox in conjunction with dermal fillers to plump up, fill in, and re-contour the face.

It is important to know that not all injectable dermal fillers are created equal, and each has specific purposes for which it is best suited. The list below is not exhaustive but does represent the most widely used dermal fillers available for use in the United States.

The Fillers

  • Juvederm: Made of hyaluronic acid, a natural substance in the body that helps maintain skin volume and hydration as well as joint lubrication and cushioning. Hyaluronic acid retains moisture, absorbing more than 1,000 times its weight in water. It also binds with collagen and elastin, transporting essential nutrients to these fibers which make up much of the support structure of the skin. The hyaluronic acid in Juvederm and the other dermal fillers listed here is not derived from animal sources. As a dermal filler, it is used to fill and smooth moderate to severe facial wrinkles and folds, and it is available in modified versions which are useful for adding volume to lift and contour the face.
  • Restylane: Also made from hyaluronic acid but is used mostly for volume restoration, moderate facial lines and wrinkles. Restylane is often used in conjunction with Botox to enhance and extend the life of results.
  • Perlane: Made by the same company (and from the same hyaluronic acid) as Restylane. The difference is that the gel particles are larger and, therefore, Perlane is more effective at filling in deeper folds and achieving increases in facial fullness. Perlane is also often used to augment lips and other areas of the face that could benefit from a restoration of youthful volume.
  • Radiesse: Made from calcium-based microspheres suspended in a water-based gel. Radiesse provides both immediate and extended results because it stimulates the production of collagen and encourages tissue regeneration. It is most commonly used for the smoothing of nasolabial folds and marionette lines, for cheek augmentation, and to plump up sunken areas below the eyes.
  • Artefill: The first and only non-reabsorbable dermal filler to be approved by the FDA. Its claim to fame is that it provides a permanent support structure for lasting wrinkle correction, which means that its effects are both immediate and long-term. Artefill is made of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) microspheres, a material that has been used for years in surgical implants. However, since it is not a natural substance, there is a risk of an allergic reaction. Because the results are considered to be permanent, physicians using Artefill generally prefer to under-fill on the first treatment, adding more at a subsequent appointment, if needed. Generally, full results are seen within six months of the procedure.
  • Sculptra: Sculptra is most frequently used cosmetically as a volumizer. The main component of Sculptra is poly-L-lactic acid, a biocompatible substance that does not cause damage to surrounding tissues. Unlike other dermal fillers, Sculptra does not produce immediate results. It works by stimulating collagen production, so results appear gradually over a period of a few months. Three to five treatments are usually required, and results can last up to two years or more.
  • Autologous Fat: Simply fat harvested from one’s own body. Its use eliminates the risks of allergic reaction or rejection by the body since it is one’s own tissue. However, not all of the live fat cells survive when transplanted into the new site, so a fairly high rate of re-absorption is to be expected. Because of this, the physician will usually overfill the area being treated, which can leave the patient with a result that may look—at least temporarily—abnormal.
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  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2014 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, ASPS National Clearinghouse of Plastic Surgery Procedural Statistics
  • Dermal Fillers, Consumer Information Sheet, American College of Osteopathic Dermatology
  • Product Information Sheet on Brand-Name Dermal Fillers, Liquid Face Lift Association