If there’s one thing I’ve done that has raised a few eyebrows, it’s injecting my face with filler. While I don’t do it very often, the reaction among my friends, colleagues and even strangers shows how much taboo surrounds the topic of injectables.
Earlier this year, I got cheek fillers and while it’s not my first foray into the needle club (I broke my needle virginity in January with skin boosters and lip filler), it was certainly the most life-changing.
I have always been curious about injectables – why people get them, how they benefit you and, more importantly, how they can make you feel. We are often bombarded with stories of botched jobs but the majority of treatments, when administered by a properly qualified professional, can deliver a really natural finish.
I didn’t tell anyone I was getting cheek filler because I knew I’d experience a barrage of people saying: "You don’t need fillers, you are beautiful as you are." I know. "You’ll regret it later." Yeah, maybe. Or worse: "You are too young to have that done," which is actually factually incorrect. I am over the age of 25 (gulp) which means the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen found naturally in my skin decreases, which results in ageing. I may not need it by your standards, but I want to have it.
So I did. But I can’t lie; I was nervous. When I arrived at Dr Nina Bal’s clinic in London's Chelsea, like anyone who is about to have a needle stuck in their face, I was shitting it. But I did my research and knew what I was getting myself into. I have been following Nina, a cosmetic dental surgeon and facial aesthetics doctor, on Instagram for quite some time now. She’s a Botox specialist and is known for facial sculpting. I loved how she was so honest about her practices, explained each treatment in detail and is even open about the treatments she’s had herself. She’s also super passionate about natural beauty, so I knew I wasn’t going to look like a plastic doll.
I walked into her pristine white room at the Chelsea Private Clinic where she sat me down and talked me through the procedure. "I’d really like my cheekbones filled. I don’t have any and I’d like a more chiselled face," I told her. With her eyebrows raised, she whipped out a measuring tape and began to analyse my face in silence, like an artist studying their subject. I told her I wanted to look as natural as possible but I still wanted to see a difference. To my joy, she told me that around 1ml of Ellanse filler would lift my cheekbones to achieve the look I wanted. So we got started.
First, she numbed me up, speaking to me throughout to keep me calm (I’m neurotic). Fillers don’t hurt at all, however, the next part – and I cannot stress this enough – did. She injected a 1ml vial of Ellanse, a non-hyaluronic acid gel filler, into my left cheek and when she released the filler, it felt like hard concrete going into my face. I could hear the crunching and that was when I felt the pain. It didn’t last long though. Dr Nina ensured I had an ice pack on the injected cheek to help, then she started on my right cheek. Because she was sculpting cheekbones instead of injecting to superficially fill wrinkles, she had to use a blunt-tipped cannula (a thin, long metal tube) and went deeper under the skin, which is why it felt different to every other injectable treatment I have had.
The treatment took around half an hour and I could see and feel the difference instantly. I did ask Dr Nina to add a little bit more into my cheekbones because I wanted more of a dramatic yet natural look. Mine were raised and my face was sculpted the way I wanted it. I had a bit of swelling and my face was very sore to touch for a few weeks following the treatment. I took Dr Nina’s advice and applied an ice pack to the treated area every day and my face went back to normal, although it only took me two days to feel brave enough to liberally apply Fenty highlighter to my new cheekbones with pride.
The part that shocked me, though, was that no one noticed the difference. I went home absolutely terrified that my parents would detect my new cheekbones and lecture me on cosmetic treatments, but they spoke to me normally like any other day. None of my friends noticed either. It was only when I went out of my way to tell them that they spotted the difference.
Cheek filler with Dr Nina costs around £450 per ml, with 1ml used in each side, but you can have up to 2ml in each cheekbone. It’s quite pricey but considering the product lasts for around six to nine months, I think it’s quite reasonable. It also means I don’t have to spend 30 minutes each morning contouring my face.
So will I do it again? Yes, I love my new Ellanse cheekbones. For those thinking of getting their first injectable, I spoke to Harley Street cosmetic doctor, Dr Tijion Esho for tips.
Look out for red flags
"If there is an absence of medical qualifications on the aesthetician’s website or social media page, this is a red flag," Dr Esho said. "As is the use of non-FDA approved products and the sharing of needles or fillers between clients as part of a promotional deal," he continued. "You should also be concerned if the aesthetician is operating out of somewhere that isn’t a clean, sterile clinic."
Do your research
"Each practitioner is like an artist so will have different styles," explained Dr Esho. "Study examples of their work and arrange a consultation to discuss the procedure with them to ensure you feel comfortable with that medical practitioner's experience, treatment, setting and their style of work."
How to prepare
"Ensure that you attend your appointment makeup-free and don’t consume alcohol 24 hours prior. Taking arnica tablets (two tablets three times daily) five days prior to your appointment can potentially help with bruising and swelling. Also, avoid making plans for the evening post-procedure."
"How long filler lasts depends on the product used, how much is used and the age and activity of the patient," said Dr Esho. "If you are younger and more active, then the product will break down more quickly. But on average, filler will last for nine months or more."
Factor in aftercare
"Avoid all exercise, facial massages and makeup within 24-48 hours after the treatment and try not to sleep directly on the area for a few days," advised Dr Esho. "To help with the swelling, take arnica tablets and ice the area intermittently and hourly post-procedure."