Prof Laurence Chait, former president of the Plastic Surgery and Reconstructive Association of South Africa, answers questions on wrinkle fillers:
Why are injectable hyaluronic acid gels so popular at the moment?
The upside and the downside of the procedure is that it's not permanent. For example, if too much filler is injected into the lips, making them look too puffy, the gel is gradually and harmlessly absorbed into the body over the next few months.
The treatment is relatively cheap compared to a face lift. It is non-invasive, unlike the earlier permanent fillers, and if used appropriately can produce very effective results. No pre-testing is needed and the results are instantaneous.
How safe is it?
Completely safe. Although the cosmetic use of hyaluronic acid gels (such as Restalyne and Perlaine, for example) is relatively new, the products have been carefully researched and are biodegradable.
Will it replace facelifts?
You can’t compare a facelift to a wrinkle filler. They are two different cosmetic procedures that treat different things.
Certain lines, such as the frown lines, nasio-labial lines or folds, superficial lines around the mouth and other ingrained lines that occur in different places are best treated with fillers.
A facelift helps to correct sagging skin to a large extent and doesn’t help the wrinkles described to any great degree. Treatment can be used in conjunction with a facelift.
How much do treatments cost, e.g. for a lip filler?
Roughly R2 800, depending on the surgeon’s fees.
Is the treatment painful? How deep do you inject?
No more than a dentist’s injection. I inject the thinner gel into the dermis as a filler for the delicate fine lines around the lips.
Denser gels are injected into to the subcutaneous tissue to fill deeper grooves, such as the nasio-labial lines, and to make the lips fuller.
Don’t you get irritated by women who come to see you, wanting a little line removed, when you’re dealing with a child who is seriously injured?
Not at all. These patients all fall into the ambit of what plastic surgeons are trained to do and have their own personal needs.
How would you rate the effectiveness of injectable fillers on a scale of one to ten?
If used correctly, highly effective – ten out of ten if the patient's expectations are realistic as to the improvement that can be achieved, and if a reputable filler is used.