Why You Shouldn't Try Needleless Lip Filler or Other DIY Fillers

Videos of people using DIY filler pens at home are popping up all over social media, but you really should not attempt this type of thing by yourself.

model posing with a syringe to their lips against a pink background
Photo: Adobe Stock

Facial fillers are a popular procedure for your lips or the under-eye area, for example — but it can be costly and time-consuming to get it done through a licensed professional. As a result, apparently, some people are taking matters into their own hands.

Several videos have popped up showing people using needleless filler at home. Most are using what they call hyaluron pens or hyaluronic pens, which are basically big, self-injecting pens designed to deliver fillers to your skin at home...sans doctor. Instead of a needle, they use heavily pressurized air to force fillers into your skin.

As you can imagine, doctors aren't impressed. Here's what you need to know about DIY injectable fillers, plus why experts really, really recommend you take a pass on this trend.

The Questionable Contents of DIY Fillers

You may be wondering, "what's in these DIY filler pens, exactly?" Great question! The pens and fillers are often sold separately — and because they're not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they're usually yanked off sites such as Amazon and Etsy not long after they go up, which makes it tough to know what's even allegedly inside. The lack of transparency is a big issue, says New York City dermatologist Doris Day, M.D. "You don't know exactly what's in these pens," she notes.

While the ingredients aren't clear, the name of the pens implies that they use hyaluronic acid, a topical skincare ingredient that is "not meant to be put into the skin," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City board-certified dermatologist. Doing so can cause "severe skin reactions," such as swelling, hives, permanent scarring, and even blindness, he says.

The FDA warns against buying fillers online, partially for this reason. "NEVER buy dermal fillers on the internet," reads a report by the organization. "They may be fake, contaminated, or harmful. Another important disclaimer: "NEVER get injectable fillers from unlicensed providers or in non-medical settings like hotels or private homes," notes the report.

The Danger of Needleless Lip Injections and Other DIY Fillers

Dermatologists have a laundry list of issues with needleless lip enhancements, and safety is a huge concern. "Injectable fillers are absolutely not safe to do yourself at home," says Dr. Zeichner. One of the biggest risks is the risk of vascular occlusion, which causes a blockage of a blood vessel, he says. "This prevents delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin and can lead to permanent scarring, or even issues such as blindness," warns Dr. Zeichner. Keep in mind that this is true even if you know you're using medical-grade, FDA-approved ingredients and when it's administered by a licensed professional (aka not some sketchy, unknown substance you attempt to inject at home).

And what about going to a pro? Well, the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa) published an article about the use of hyaluronic needle-free lip filler, writing, "While the injection technology is novel, the treatment is fundamentally the same as traditional filler injections. Although there is no needle being used, the skin is still being 'pierced' by the jet of hyaluronic acid." With that in mind, AmSpa's take is that it should be treated like an injectable filler, meaning physicians and nurses in some states (not aestheticians) should be the only experts providing it.

There's a very real risk that you could have an allergic reaction to the filler ingredients — and you never know exactly what's in a pen you buy, which is "precisely why" you want to have a board-certified physician there if things go wrong, says Dr. Day. Signs of an allergic reaction can range from swelling and a rash to anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.

Safety issues aside, you can also screw up the appearance of your face with DIY fillers, says Dr. Day. "It takes years of study of anatomy, proportions, and injection technique in order to deliver the right amount of product to the right plane of the skin," she explains. Doctors use different types of fillers that have different properties, adds Dr. Day. "Some are stiffer, others are softer, and some are more flexible. We do it in different amounts to carefully work around anatomy to create the desired effect," she says.

It's also just tough to do this kind of thing on yourself, says Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. "The appropriate angle of injections is difficult to perform," he says. A doctor (such as a plastic surgeon; the gold standard for getting injectables or fillers) or trained nurse (many are fully capable — ask about their training — and often provide these medspa services under the guidance of a physician) knows what will and won't work, says Dr. Day.

If you want to get fillers, it's worth seeing "someone properly trained, such as a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon," recommends Dr. Zeichner. Even then, it's best to take it easy the first time, says Dr. Goldenberg. "I always tell my first-time patients, 'let's do less than you may need initially, get comfortable,'" which usually creates more subtle results that you can build on from there, he says.

Overall, if it wasn't already crystal clear, it's best to skip this internet trend. To put it bluntly: "Creating a DIY filler is probably one of the worst ideas I have ever heard," says Dr. Zeichner. Still, if you're interested in plumping up your lips from the comfort of your own home, it's okay to try something less permanent, such as a plumping lip gloss, says Dr. Goldenberg. These cause blood to rush to the surface of the skin, making them temporarily swell. These products are generally considered safe and could give you a better idea of whether fillers are even something you really want.

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