Unfortunately, there just is not a magical skincare regimen or a specific product that will replace or exactly replicate the effect of filler. That said, preventative skincare (aka what you are doing now!) can make a major difference in the texture and future of your skin along with other lifestyle habits and practices. Like, um, your sun protection strategy.
“Many of the aging changes that people seek filler to correct are caused by sun damage,” Samolitis points out to me. “Although most people consider sun damage to primarily cause dullness and discoloration, it also causes loss of skin thickness and volume of underlying fat.” Instead of (or in addition to) fillers, Samolitis suggests treating the underlying sun damage with skincare in tandem with skin-rejuvenating procedures like peels, micro-needling, laser resurfacing, regular facials, etc. Again, your dermatologist will be able to advise a strategy and treatment plan that will be best for your personal goals.
As Ronald Moy, MD, FAAD, of Moy Fincher Chipps explains, Botox/Dysport/Xeomin/Jeuveau are better for treating things like frown-line and crow’s-feet wrinkles, whereas rejuvenating and tightening procedures like radio frequency skin tightening or carbon dioxide laser resurfacing can yield better, longer-lasting results for the skin under the eyes. Ahead, we’re listing all of the best filler alternatives, according to Engelman, Herrmann, Moy, and Samolitis.
1. DNA Repair Enzymes & Epidermal Growth Factor
“Skincare products with DNA repair enzymes and epidermal growth factor will repair the past sun damage and thicken/tighten aged skin so that fillers can be postponed,” says Moy. “I like DNA Renewal’s growth factor, as it’s plant-based and made from bio-engineered barley plant from Iceland. It’s really the best skincare ingredient that can tighten and thicken skin because it stimulates epidermal stem cells and increases collagen.”
2. Antioxidants Like Vitamin C and Idebenone
“Antioxidants like topical vitamin C can keep the skin looking tighter and fresh and can aid in collagen synthesis,” says Herrmann. “But again, while topical treatments can help the skin stay looking as young as possible, they cannot replace the bone and soft tissue loss as well as the falling of fat pads, which accompany aging, that filler can better address.”
Engelman agrees, adding that antioxidants are a great way to postpone injectables. “Due to pollution, UVB/UVA rays or environmental aggressors, as well as internal stressors, free radicals are formed, which are highly destructive molecules that can wreak havoc on your skin. Free radicals are unstable compounds in search of a missing electron. When they ‘steal’ electrons from other molecules, it leaves those molecules unstable as well, and they then search for the missing electron. Because this produces a domino effect, this further weakens the skin barrier, leaving it vulnerable to premature aging (i.e., fine lines and wrinkles and uneven skin texture).”
In a nutshell, boosting your skincare routine with antioxidants will help protect your skin against free radical assaults by neutralizing the oxidative stress that can cause cell damage and tell-tale signs of aging. Engelman suggests looking for skincare products containing the most powerful antioxidant, Idebenone.
“Retinoic acid (retinol/retinoid) is an extremely effective cell-communicating ingredient that has the ability to connect to almost any skin cell receptor site and tell it to behave like a healthy, younger skin cell,” Engelman explains.
Retinoids, she says, can also function as an antioxidant, interrupting the damage (and wrinkle-inducing!) process caused by free radicals. With consistent use, clients can see improvements in fine lines/wrinkles, tone, and texture, etc. since the retinoid is strengthening the skin barrier.
4. Hyaluronic Acid—Lots of It
According to Samolitis, skincare products containing hyaluronic acid will help trap much-needed water and hydration into the skin (great for long-term plumpness and glow goals), but the HA itself won’t actually go into the dermis of the skin like filler can.
However, Engelman loves the two-step system above which includes a daily serum and Micro-Cone patches to help improve look of expression lines and other fine wrinkles while you sleep. No, it will not yield filler-esque results, but it’s better than nothing and will help significantly with texture issues over time.
5. Exfoliating Acids
Samolitis also adds that there are several skincare ingredients that can maximize the thickness of the dermis (the layer of skin that contains HA and collagen) which will be exfoliating heavy hitters that encourage skin turnover like glycolic (and other) acids and retinol—as we covered above!
Engelman is a fan of polyhydroxy acid, which she says will exfoliate surface skin cells and enhance natural cell turnover. Not only will this brighten your complexion, but it also gives your skin added protection against environmental aggressors that contribute to signs of aging like lines, wrinkles, and hollows people typically seek out filler for.
Sunscreen is also critical for the prevention of accelerated damage, says Herrmann. And as Samolitis points out, consistent sun protection applied at an early age will help prevent some of the changes that occur that require filler to correct.
7. Other Facial Rejuvenation Treatments
Botox or Dysport: “If someone has lines caused by muscle movement, a filler may not be the best option, and Botox or Dysport may be a better alternative,” explains Herrmann. And as Moy mentioned earlier, these treatments are better for those with more superficial (aka less severe) skin concerns like fine lines, crow’s-feet, and frown lines. Filler, he says, will be the best choice when there is a depression in the skin, a valley in what is normally flat skin, or a depressed scar or a skin hollow.
Micro infusion: “…a procedure at called micro infusion that uses very fine micro-needles to stamp tiny droplets of thin filler into the top layer of the skin,” shares Samolitis. “It is different from traditional filler injections because the filler is going more superficially but is blended with vitamins and a small amount of Botox to maximize texture improvement and skin brightening without the risk of lumps or changing your contour. It is a great starter procedure for someone who is nervous about traditional filler injections. The results last about a month and continue to build with additional treatments.”
Laser Resurfacing: According to Herrmann, if someone has significant sun damage and deep diffuse wrinkling, they may benefit more from full-face laser resurfacing, which can give much more natural results. It can also be a more effective treatment for those looking to treat the under-eye area.
Radio Frequency Skin-Tightening Treatments: “If minimal volume loss or sagging has occurred, adding a series of radio frequency heat treatments can help firm skin in a very non-invasive, no-downtime way,” Herrmann adds. “Such treatments aid in collagen synthesis and can help reverse early signs of skin aging like lightly visible laugh lines, and sharpen or firm the jawline, minimizing faint jowls.”