Real talk: I got lip fillers. But before you judge me, let me explain how they helped me confront negative self-perceptions.

By By Jahla Seppanen
October 24, 2018
Photo: ejlot / Getty Images

I've never been a fan of beauty procedures and upkeep. Yes, I love how confident I feel after a bikini wax, how long and elegant my hands look with acrylic nails, and how effortlessly bright and awake my eyes look with eyelash extensions (until they make my real lashes fall out). But while these rituals can be confidence-boosters, they're also expensive, time-consuming, and painful (hello laser hair removal). (Related: You Could be Allergic to Your Gel Manicure)

So it's safe to say I never imagined I would voluntarily get a needle injected into my face. But yes, I got lip injections and have never been happier. So why did I do it-and were they worth the pain, recovery, and price? Read on for my low-down on lip injections. (Related: I Tried Kybella to Finally Get Rid of My Double Chin)

Why I Decided to Get Lip Injections

I feel most beautiful when I wake up with clear, dewy skin and don't need to put on more than a touch of foundation and mascara. Most days, that feels hard to achieve though, especially because I've always felt like my face was too big for my eyes and lips-which caused me to overcompensate by wearing more makeup.

Every time I thought about getting lip injections though, I always ended the thought with, "no, that's crazy... it's plastic surgery!" But I was sold when I learned that Juvéderm is a gel filler with a base of hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring sugar in the body, that would work with the sugars and cells already in my lip tissue. The FDA approved Juvéderm back in 2006, and in 2016 alone more than 2.4 million procedures using hyaluronic acid-based fillers (including Juvéderm and Restylane) were performed. Clearly, I wasn't alone here. (Related: Hyaluronic Acid Is the Easiest Way to Transform Your Skin Instantly)

I also liked that lip injection would simply boost a feature that is wholly and innately mine-plus the procedure takes less than 30 minutes, requires no surgery, and lasts six to 10 months.

What to Know Before Getting Juvéderm

Next, I diligently researched practices, tore through every online review, stalked company Facebook and Instagram accounts, and eventually called a couple cosmetic practices until I found one I felt most comfortable with. I scheduled an appointment on that call with their board-certified plastic surgeon (emphasis on board-certified).

The cost was $500 per syringe. I was told most patients were happy with the results of one, so I decided to only get one. (When I nervously discussed the cost with my husband he positioned it as, "last year I went on my baseball trip and this year you're getting your lips done!" What's fair is fair, right?)

A few days before my appointment, they emailed pre-care instructions: Minimize blood thinners for three days like alcohol, multivitamins, fish oil, flaxseed oil, and aspirin and ibuprofen, to help alleviate bruising. They also suggested pineapple, since it contains both arnica montana and bromelaine, which can reduce the chance of bruising as well. I followed doctor's orders for the 48 hours leading up.

They explained that it would take two solid weeks to heal (yep, it did), with the potential of bruising in the first five days (which, again, it did). If I developed a blister or rash on my lip or if I hated the plump, call them and the Juvéderm could be removed with an enzyme. They also told me that lumping might occur on the inside of the lip, but smooths out, they explained. (Related: Why I Got Botox In My Twenties)

Going Under the Needle

The day of the procedure, I was so nervous. At 7:30 a.m., I entered my doctor's office and we first discussed how I wanted to fill out my lips (who knew there were so many options for shape and fullness?!). Then they applied a numbing cream to my lips, which almost all patients opt to use but can take 24 hours to wear off, my doctor warned.

Finally, I signed a slip and they brought out the needle.

Sitting in a dentist-like chair, I reclined my head (still über nervous). They inserted the needle into four spots on my upper and lower lip. I teared up because it definitely feels like a pinch (it's comparable to the sensation of plucking a nose hair). However, I wouldn't call it painful. The most painful spot was the center of my lower lip, but I breathed like a big girl and within 10 minutes the procedure was done.

The Lip Injection Recovery

Afterward, my lips were crazy swollen and difficult to move. Working from home, I followed instructions and made sure not to lie down for the next four hours and again avoided blood thinners for another 24 hours after the procedure (aka no aspirin or ibuprofen).

It hurt to move my mouth for a good four days and smiling or eating during the first two was nearly impossible. Dozing off with the pain on the first night was the only moment I thought, "this was a mistake."

By the end of the first week, I could move my entire mouth but had light, almost nonvisible bruising on my bottom lip. Midway through the second week, I looked up all the problems that could arise from injections, freaked myself out, and texted the receptionist. She had me send photos of my lips and reassured me everything was perfect and to wait until next week if I was still concerned. But by the end of the second week, everything felt normal and I was ready to start actually enjoying my new pout. By the third week, I was so used to my injections I forgot I even had them. (Related: I Tried Cosmetic Acupuncture to See What This Natural Anti-Aging Procedure Was All About)

My Newfound Self-Love

With my new lips came some surprising revelations. Even though my lips were technically "fake," I had a newfound confidence centered around being still me, but just a plumper-lipped me. This shift was entirely mental. I didn't get my nails, eyelashes, or bikini line done-and I didn't want to. It changed my mindset around what beauty looks and feels like. As a result, I wore less makeup because I enjoyed my natural look. (I even went without mascara!) I also took significantly fewer selfies because I felt confident without needing to check that my face looked okay all night. (Related: What Is Body Checking and When Is It a Problem?)

In the end, it might seem counterintuitive that getting a beauty procedure made me recognize my natural beauty, but it's true. I began appreciating my own brand of beauty that I hadn't seen hidden under makeup or fake lashes and was overall happier to be in my skin-no matter how blotchy it might look some mornings. In the end, plumper lips made me be kinder to myself.

Before getting injections, I thought something was missing: a small but significant beauty tweak that would make me feel I belong with other women. That's why we seek out beauty treatments in the first place: We feel our nails aren't long enough, our lashes aren't full enough, our skin isn't dewy and smooth enough. And it's okay to want to look beautiful. This desire really comes back to wanting to feel beautiful.

My lip fillers weren't huge. I compared older photos and hardly see a difference. But swiping through these old photos, I realized nothing had ever been missing from me; not long Rihanna nails or dramatic eyelashes or Kylie Jenner-esque lips. I realized we can splurge on beauty enhancements as much or as little as we like. But it's still going to be us in the mirror, either finding a flaw to pick apart or choosing to love what we see. And even as my fillers fade, that newfound self-love will remain.