The Liquid or No-Surgery Face Lift

woman getting facial dermal fillers
Renee Keith/Vetta/Getty Images

The liquid facelift uses injectables known as dermal fillers, along with Botox, to help plump up, relax, and fill in the appearance of facial lines and wrinkles. It also can restore youthful volume to the face, reduce sagging of the skin by filling it up from the inside, and re-contour drooping facial features or hollow eyes. It is one of the latest anti-aging trends in non-invasive cosmetic procedures and is touted as a less expensive and less risky alternative to a traditional facelift.

What Ages Us Most?

What do you think ages our appearance the most? Is it lines and wrinkles? Discoloration? Sagging skin? Truthfully, it is a combination of all of these factors, but there is one major underlying cause that contributes to the sagging, lines, and wrinkles—a loss of fullness.

It is a cruel irony of aging that as we grow older, we seem to accumulate fat around our middles, but lose it from our faces. Think of a youthful face, and you’ll most likely picture a face with full, rounded cheeks. That’s because fat plays a large part in filling out the skin and keeps our faces looking smooth and supple.

Of course, loss of fat is not the only factor in the equation. There is also a loss of collagen, which our bodies stop producing around age 25. To a lesser degree, our facial appearance is also affected by the loss of muscle that accompanies the aging process. All of this adds up to an overall decrease in facial fullness.

So, if a loss of fullness is primarily responsible for aging our faces, then why is a facelift the go-to for some looking to reclaim a younger appearance? The truth is, for many patients, it seems as though it’s not. More and more doctors and patients are seeking to improve the appearance of the aging face not through stretching the skin tighter but filling it from the inside. Enter the age of the liquid facelift.

What Is a Liquid Facelift?

A liquid facelift is the lifting, plumping, filling, smoothing, and/or re-contouring of the face through the use of injectable dermal fillers, such as Restylane, Perlane, Radiesse, Juvederm, Artefill, and Sculptra. These products are produced in different ways using different materials, and their specific applications vary somewhat, too. As part of the overall procedure, these products are often used in conjunction with each other and in addition to Botox.

The use of Botox in addition to dermal fillers can make for better, longer-lasting results. Botox blocks the nerve impulses that cause muscle contractions. When injected into specific areas, it effectively relaxes the muscles that are responsible for making certain facial expressions; these repeated facial expressions contribute to the breakdown of collagen in certain areas, leading to deep creases and expression lines.

Botox can be especially useful when dermal fillers have been used to fill in expression lines, such as the creases that form when you smile, as repeated over-use of the surrounding muscles will cause the filler to break down more quickly. This breakdown shortens the length of time before more injections are needed to maintain results.

A Few Words of Caution

Do not agree to have anything injected into your face or body that is not available in the United States, even if your physician claims it is "all the rage" in Europe. Many patients have been hurt or damaged, some irreparably, by making this mistake. Specifically, you should be aware that silicone in liquid or gel form is not approved in the U.S. for injection into the face or body, and its use in this type of procedure has been associated with many unpleasant, disfiguring, and even fatal complications.

Do not get injected by anyone other than a licensed physician, preferably a board certified plastic surgeon or qualified dermatologist who is trained and experienced in the use of injectable dermal fillers. In some areas where "injection parties" are popular, people are being injected by nurses, aestheticians, and who knows who else. Dermal fillers should be taken as seriously, just like surgery, as the risk of complications increases significantly in the hands of the untrained.

Do not get a dermal filler procedure in the presence of any active skin sore, herpes outbreak, pimple, rash, cyst or infection near the intended injection site. Postpone any such planned procedure until the condition is fully resolved. Also, bear in mind that getting laser treatments, microdermabrasion, chemical peels or other similar skin treatments at the same time as your dermal filler procedure is not recommended. Be sure to inform your physician of any existing medical conditions, as well as any medications you may be taking.

Avoiding the Dreaded "Wax Museum" Look

We've all seen them—certain celebrities (or next-door neighbors, perhaps) who look as if their faces might melt if they went outside on a warm day. Luckily, there are precautions that you can take to help avoid this sort of outcome. Finding a well-qualified doctor who uses only FDA-approved dermal fillers (in other words, no silicone liquid or gel) is a start. Still, there is more you can do:

  • Opt for one of the "temporary" fillers, so that if anything is not to your liking, you need only wait until it "wears off" in six to twelve months. Once you've decided that you like the result, you can always go back and ask for one of the longer-lasting fillers when your results begin to fade.
  • Ask your doctor to be conservative. Don't aim for taking off twenty years.
  • Don't combine too many procedures at the same time. The "wax figure" look is often associated with very deep chemical peels performed in conjunction with other overly aggressive treatments.


Unfortunately, there are far too many variables to give an accurate estimate of the cost of how much a liquid facelift will run you. These variables include number and location of injection sites, type(s) of dermal filler(s) used, the degree of existing facial volume loss, maintenance costs, physician experience, geographic location, and more. Costs can vary anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

Things that you should keep in mind when considering the cost:

  • Many doctors will offer a discount for routine touch-up treatments because they know that returning for touch-ups is key to increasing overall patient satisfaction. Speak to your doctor about this during your first visit.
  • With this type of procedure, differences in price from one doctor to another can be deceiving. A doctor who uses advanced injection techniques and correct placement of just the right mix of products can significantly reduce the number of touch-ups needed, as well as the amount of filler necessary to maintain the results.

Different Types of Fillers

Because there are so many different products currently in use as dermal fillers, you do need to do your research. Some last longer, some are best suited for different areas of the face, and some have been around a little longer and, thus, are a bit more “proven.” Some may even seem distasteful to certain prospective patients. For instance, some patients may be uncomfortable with the idea of having fat that has been harvested from their buttocks injected into their faces.

Just as is recommended for any cosmetic surgery, you should consult with several doctors before making your decision. Ask about the advantages and disadvantages of the different dermal fillers available. The best doctors will offer more than one option that can be used to meet a patient's needs.

Of course, there are certain questions to ask and steps to take when considering any type of cosmetic procedure. Connecting with others who have undergone procedures can also be helpful, as you can get opinions from those who have had the experience you're considering.

Finding an Experienced Physician

Although word of mouth can be quite helpful, it should not be your only method of determining who is right to perform your procedure. Verifying experience and credentials is a must, especially since there are unfortunately a number of phony “doctors” who are hosting "injection parties" (also called “plumping” or “pumping parties") all over the world.

It’s always a good idea to start with professional organizations and certifying bodies, such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Board of Plastic Surgery. To find a physician who is specifically trained and experienced in the use of dermal fillers, you may wish to check with the Liquid Face Lift Association (LFLA), where physician members are required to have performed at 1,000 documented dermal filler procedures, with the average member has performed over 5,000 of these procedures. Members of the LFLA have also been subjected to verification of their medical credentials before being accepted as members.

Is It the Facelift of the Future?

The liquid facelift seems to be a good option for addressing the signs of aging without going under the knife. In many ways, the risks seem less than those of surgical approaches, and the results can be quite impressive from an aesthetic standpoint. However, only you can decide for yourself if it’s worth it to go in for a touch-up periodically to maintain your results.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Dermal Fillers, Consumer Information Sheet, American College of Osteopathic Dermatology
  • Injectable Fillers, Consumer Information Sheet, American Society of Plastic Surgeons
  • Product Information Sheet on Brand-Name Dermal Fillers, Liquid Face Lift Association