Worried About Swelling After Lip Fillers? Here's What to Expect

Close-up of beautiful young woman face with freckles and no-makeup

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What once felt like a controversial topic has now become one of the most popular and trending cosmetic treatments on the market: lip filler. A fun way to plump your pout, lip filler is a non-permanent injection that can enhance the size of your lips or tweak the shape.

Before getting filler, it's important to consult a professional to discuss the best options for you. It's also important to understand the risks, aftercare, and timeline of filler prior to making the decision to go forward. We tapped three experts to break down the stages of lip filler and what to expect when you inject. Keep reading to learn more.

Meet the Expert

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The first step to caring for your lip filler is ensuring you're properly prepared for your visit. There are a handful of things you'll want to avoid to minimize any potential risk. Pensa shares the following list:

  • Avoid alcohol intake for at least 24 hours prior.
  • Avoid NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, and Advil for at least 24 hours prior, but if possible, the entire week leading up.
  • Eat a proper meal before treatment.
  • Hydrate and drink adequate amounts of water before treatment.
  • Avoid dental work, including cleanings, at least two weeks before (and after) treatment.
  • Avoid receiving vaccinations for at least two weeks before your appointment.
  • Reschedule your appointment if you've recently had a viral infection within two weeks of your appointment or if you are still experiencing any lingering symptoms.
  • If you have a history of or are prone to cold sores, discuss with your primary care provider or aesthetic injector about prophylactically taking medication to prevent an outbreak.
  • Providers may suggest dissolving old prior lip filler before refilling you, especially if there is a concern for migration or visible migration.
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The First Few Days

The day of injection and the days following can be the most intense when it comes to appearance and discomfort. "I recommend taking Arnica, a supplement to help reduce bruising, a few days before and a few days after any filler," says Dr. Sperling. "Lip filler can be tender, so I use topical numbing cream to help numb the area before injection. Most injectables have lidocaine in the filler, which also helps lessen the pain associated with filler."

During your consultation, your provider will explain the filler you plan to use, how it will heal, and what final results you can expect. The professionals note that different types of filler can have different effects on the lips. "Typically, hyaluronic acid fillers are used, of which there exist multiple brands and types that vary in stiffness but also in how hydrophilic they are," says Dr. Ramanadham. "Due to this, swelling is expected following your treatment. The extent of this can vary from individual to individual and based on the product used. In general, after filler injection, swelling will often worsen on day one to day two."

The first few days of aftercare are the most important, and Pensa suggests doing the following to keep your lips looking their best.

  • Avoid massaging the lips yourself, especially during the first 24 hours.
  • Stay hydrated: drink plenty of water, and apply Aquaphor as needed to the lips.
  • Avoid alcohol for the first 24 hours.
  • Avoid smoking/vaping.
  • Again, avoid NSAIDs and take Tylenol for any pain if needed.
  • No exercising, swimming, or strenuous activity for the first 24 hours.
  • Apply a cold compress as needed for swelling and bruising during the first 24 hours.
  • Avoid lipstick or lip glosses for 24 hours.
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The First Two Weeks

Despite popular belief, aftercare does not stop after the first few days. Your lips will continue to heal for the first few weeks after your appointment and should be treated with care.

Bruising is likely, and may worsen after the first few days, but can typically subdue after five days. That being said, bruising is not uncommon for the first ten days in some patients.

Dr. Ramanadham also notes that swelling can take a week to settle and that you'll typically see your actual results in week two. "I always tell my patients that when injecting, I like to put in a little bit more of product to account for swelling," Dr. Sperling adds. "I advise that the swelling will decrease in a few days and people often like their lips better when they were swollen. So, to account for this, I make sure to warn them that swelling occurs and the final look will be less than what is seen immediately after filler."

The first two weeks are also when you'll want to keep an eye out for lumps and bumps, the experts note. If at the two-week mark, the filler has not fully integrated into the tissue; it's recommended that you pay your provider a visit so they can do a gentle massage on the lips to help break down the filler.

"If there is fullness outside the border of your lips, this is generally a sign that the filler has migrated," adds Dr. Ramanadham. "This can occur if too much was injected or injected incorrectly. If this occurs, it’s best to follow up with your injector to discuss options that would likely involve dissolving the filler. The most important thing to look for is a change in the color of your lips. If they turn purple, look mottled, or look white, this can indicate vascular compromise, and your provider should be alerted immediately. Additionally, increased pain can coincide with these symptoms."

Like any cosmetic medical treatment, there is always a risk with filler, and it's important to monitor any symptoms.

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After Two Weeks

After the first two weeks, everything should generally be settled. Healing can vary in every client, and you should always monitor your filler for any red flags, but once everything looks good, you can enjoy your new plump pout.

When it comes to a refill, Pensa notes, "Lip filler lasts anywhere from 6-9 months on average. We always suggest you come back around 6 months after your initial treatment to see if it's time to be re-treated."

It's also worth noting that if for any reason you no longer want filler in your lips, dissolving it is an option.

Regardless, if you're thinking about lip filler, the experts say, go for it. "Lip fillers are a great treatment to enhance the fullness of your lips," Dr. Ramanadham concludes.

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