You’ve had collagen in your body since the day you were born. But once you reach a certain age, your body stops producing it entirely.
This is when collagen injections or fillers can come into play. They replenish your skin’s natural collagen. In addition to smoothing out wrinkles, collagen can fill out skin depressions and even significantly reduce the appearance of scars.
This article will explore the benefits (and side effects) of collagen injections, and how they compare to other cosmetic skin procedures. Keep reading to find out what you need to know before you plump.
Collagen is the skin’s most abundant protein. It’s found in your bones, cartilage, skin, and tendons.
Collagen injections (commercially known as Bellafill) are a cosmetic procedure that is done by injecting collagen — made up of bovine (cow) collagen — under your skin.
Possible benefits include the following:
They can replace your skin’s natural collagen
With the breakdown of collagen occurring in the body after a certain age, collagen injections can replace your body’s original supply of collagen.
As collagen is largely responsible for the skin’s elasticity, this leaves the skin with a more youthful appearance.
One study looked at 123 people who received human collagen in the folds between their brows for a year. Researchers found that 90.2 percent of participants were satisfied with their results.
Collagen injections reduce wrinkles in other specific facial areas as well, including the:
- eyes (crow’s feet)
- mouth (frown lines)
They can reduce the appearance of scars
Soft-tissue fillers such as collagen are ideal for improving the appearance of depressed (sunken) or hollow scars.
Bovine collagen is injected under the scar to stimulate collagen growth and to elevate the skin depression caused by the scar.
They can plump the lips
Collagen lip fillers plump up the lips, adding fullness and volume.
While these were once some of the most commonly used fillers for lips, fillers that contain hyaluronic acid (HA) have since become more popular.
HA is a naturally occurring gel-like molecule in the body that keeps the skin moisturized. Like collagen, it plumps the lips and can be used to smooth out the vertical lines above the lips (nasolabial folds).
Unlike collagen, however, HA is temporary and is broken down by the body over time.
- Bellafill is the only type of collagen filler available in the United States. It’s also the only type of filler that’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat scars.
- It’s made of bovine collagen and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) beads, or microspheres. It’s also formulated with lidocaine, a local anesthetic to help make the procedure as painless as possible.
- The PMMA microspheres remain in place, and your body uses them to create a structure onto which your own collagen can develop.
- Sculptra Aesthetic is not a collagen filler. It’s a collagen stimulator that has poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) as its main ingredient.
- The PLLA microparticles work with your body to stimulate collagen production after they’re absorbed. This rebuilt collagen gradually results in younger-looking skin over time.
- People typically require three injections over 3 to 4 months. However, this varies for each individual. For example, depending on how much collagen is lost in the body, more treatments may be required.
- Sculptra Aesthetic lasts up to 2 years or until the synthetic material from the PLLA is broken down by the body.
Collagen injections are not a one-trick pony.
In addition to smoothing out various areas of the face, they can add plumpness to:
- acne scars
- stretch marks
Regarding the latter, collagen has a lot more to do with stretch marks than you might think.
Stretch marks are caused when the skin stretches or shrinks too quickly. This could be due to various reasons, such as pregnancy, growth spurts, sudden weight gain or loss, and muscle training.
When this happens, the collagen in the skin ruptures, leading to uneven scars in the skin.
Injecting collagen into stretch marks causes the skin to heal itself and appear smoother.
Collagen injections for breast augmentation
There’s not enough long-term evidence to support the use of collagen injections for breast augmentation. In addition, the FDA hasn’t approved the use of fillers to increase breast size.
Collagen injections are considered permanent, although results are reported to last up to 5 years. This is in comparison to HA fillers, which are temporary, only lasting around 3 to 6 months.
May last longer the more you have
In some cases, results may last longer the more collagen injections you have.
For example, this 2005 study found that the positive results lasted about 9 months after the first injection, 12 months after the second injection, and 18 months after the third injection.
Location may affect how long results last
Other factors can predict how long the results last, such as the location of the injection site as well as the type of injection material used. Here are a few examples:
- For smoothing out wrinkles on the face, you may have to get touch-ups several times throughout the year.
- For scar reductions, you may only have to make one to two visits a year, depending on how severe the scar is.
- Lip enhancements should be done every 3 months.
The effects of collagen injections are immediate, although it may take up to a week or even months for full results.
This a major plus for those who are looking to walk out of their plastic surgeon’s or dermatologist’s office with more radiant, younger-looking skin.
Since a skin test is administrated by a healthcare professional and monitored for a week prior to injecting collagen, serious reactions are rare.
It’s especially important to do a skin test if you’re using bovine collagen to avoid aggravating any allergies.
However, as with any cosmetic procedure, there could be possible side effects. These include:
- skin redness
- skin discomfort, including swelling, bleeding, and bruising
- infection at the injection site
- skin rash with itching
- possible scarring
- wound on the face if the injection penetrates too deeply into a blood vessel (a rare side effect)
- blindness if the injection is too close to the eyes (also rare)
Additionally, you might not be satisfied with the results from your plastic surgeon or dermatologist.
Asking a lot of questions beforehand and bringing in an image of your desired results may be helpful.
Research has found that collagen supplements and peptides are useful in slowing down the aging process by increasing skin elasticity and hydration.
Research has found that taking a collagen supplement containing 2.5 grams of collagen daily for 8 weeks led to significant results.
The most noticeable difference between collagen supplements and injections is how fast results show.
The effects of injections are immediate, while collagen supplements show results over time.
Microlipoinjection, or fat injection, involves recycling the body’s own fat by taking it from one area and injecting it into another.
It’s commonly used for improving the appearance of:
- aging hands
- sun-damaged skin
There are fewer allergic risks involved compared to using collagen because a person’s own fat is used for the procedure.
Botox may be popular, but it’s not the only way to fight signs of aging.
Right now, dermal fillers that contain HA are commonly used in the United States.
Compared to collagen injections, they provide shorter-lasting results but are considered a safer alternative.
Collagen fillers are a long-lasting way to get younger-looking skin. They reduce wrinkles, improve the appearance of scars, and even plump the lips.
However, due to the risk of allergies, they’ve been replaced with safer (albeit shorter-lasting) materials on the market.
When deciding where to get collagen injections done, make sure you do the following:
- Choose a certified healthcare professional who performs the procedure regularly.
- Ask if you can see before and after images from other patients.
- Understand that you may need to get several injections before you see the desired results.
Remember, the decision to get fillers is entirely up to you, so take the time to research your options.