It Happened: I Got Fillers for the First Time and Almost Passed Out

Turns out I do, in fact, have a fear of needles.

Face Fillers Beauty Shot

 Westend61/Getty Images

If you were to have told me a few years ago that at 26 I'd be injecting my face with filler, I would've first said you were crazy, and then I would've pointed out the years I spent watching Dr. 90210 with my mouth wide open and a burning fear in my heart of undergoing any type of cosmetic procedure. Sure, I can watch Dr. Pimple Popper videos and Grey's Anatomy like it's nothing, but when it comes to the thought of doing something to my own body, I'm tapping out.

But then I became a beauty editor. Talk of Botox and fillers rolls off our tongues in the office as easily as asking each other what we're ordering for lunch. In fact, it's such a commonplace topic of conversation that somehow, some way, I convinced myself that I not only wanted it, but I needed it. I have hollow, thin under-eyes, and from what I've seen and heard, popping a bit of filler in the area would solve all of my problems. (It's hard to say whether this viewpoint was totally warped or not.) So I excitedly booked an appointment at Union Square Dermatology with as much emotional reserve as I have booking a hotel room—I was fearless and excited to soon have the under-eyes of a 12-year-old.

What are Dermal Fillers?

Injectable dermal fillers are substances injected into the skin to help fill in wrinkles and fine lines in the face for a more rested, youthful appearance. Most are temporary and eventually absorbed into the body. 

Read on for more about my facial filler experience.

What Are Restylane Fillers?

"Restylane is the trade name for a group of injectable fillers with non-animal sourced hyaluronic acid with specific formulations," says Stacy Chimento, MD, a board-certified dermatologist practicing at Miami's Riverchase Dermatology. "In the United States, Restylane was the first hyaluronic acid filler to be approved by the FDA for cosmetic injection. Hyaluronic acid is produced naturally in the skin, especially in connective tissue. We lose this volume as we age, or sometimes we simply want more of what nature did not give us."

In other words, as far as fillers go, Restylane is the gold standard. The Restylane line of fillers is comprised of hyaluronic acid and formulated to mimic the naturally occurring hyaluronic acid already in the body, so they work to add volume to the skin when injected. The company has a number of Restylane-branded products, including those to smooth facial wrinkles, add lift and volume to the cheeks, and even some that can be injected into the back of the hands.

What to Expect When Getting Restylane Fillers

"About to get filler right now. Gunna vom," I texted my friends at the appointment, my fearlessness quickly escaping my body. There was something utterly clinical about my current situation—the white walls, the leather patient chair, the lighting. It was a lovely office, to be sure, but waiting for a doctor to shoot a needle full of Restylane (a nonpermanent form of hyaluronic acid filler) into your face is much less appealing five minutes before it happens than it is days before.

Shereene Idriss, MD, stepped into the room and examined me. "Your face is crooked," she pointedly told me, something I've known for years and blame on my mom pushing me out of the womb wrong (kidding…maybe). She wasn't being insulting, though—her point being that the real cosmetic issue is the unevenness of my face—the under-eyes are hollow, but they aren't textbook filler candidates. Also, the way my skull is shaped, there's quite a bit of space between the eyeball and the bone underneath my eye, so the filler would have nothing to "sit" on.

Idriss had me hold a mirror and explained that in order to ameliorate the darkness and the hollowness under my eyes, she wouldn't be injecting the area as she would a patient whose bone lies closer to their eyeball—instead, she would work to correct the crookedness of my face and lift each side, paying special attention to the left side, which had drooped more so than the right. Doing so would "lift" my cheekbones and fill out my under-eye area. She'd also insert the filler into my temples to help fill out the face a bit more. After applying some numbing cream, it was go time.

Side Effects

As with any sort of injection, swelling, bruising, or pain at the injection site is to be expected. "You should also restrict your sun exposure to prevent added swelling or bruising," notes Chimento. The primary side effect for me, however, was nausea mixed with dizziness. Idriss's assistant handed me two squishy stress balls that I grabbed skeptically, thinking although I was nervous, I certainly wouldn't need them, but as soon as the first injection went in, I squeezed the life out of them, my palms as sweaty as my neck, back, and, well, entire body. What I didn't know is that Restylane makes a crackling noise when it enters the skin, sort of like Pop Rocks. It didn't hurt, but the proximity of the needle to my eye mixed with the noise was making me feel incredibly queasy.

"Should I be seeing little flashes of light right now?" I asked Idriss, to which she immediately stopped and asked the assistant to get me some orange juice and ice. I hadn't eaten lunch yet, which made the faintness even worse. I was petrified of fainting, something I'd never done in my life before, and I felt embarrassed that I was freaking out internally as much as I was. But after noshing on some chocolate, chugging OJ, and icing down my body, I was ready to continue.

Once all the injections had been made, Idriss handed me the mirror once again, and we marveled at how much fuller and more even my face was. She took before-and-after pictures on her phone and swiped left and right to show me the difference, which was subtle yet palpable.

Aftercare

Chimento recommends patients take precautions to avoid too much swelling. "Taking Arnica before and after the procedure can help reduce bruising and swelling," says Chimento. "Arnica can be found without a prescription at a drug or health food store." She adds that, though you can return to work after a procedure, you might be swollen. "I do not recommend getting injections before a big event or a special date," she says. "Always allow one week before to fully heal."

Idriss noted that the filler would last four to six months and dissipate after that time.

It's normal to bruise after injections, so it's best to steer clear of red wine, aspirin, and vitamin E—all things that can exacerbate bruising—and to avoid sun exposure, massages (because your face is pressed down in the pillow), and facials for a few days while still healing.

Leaving the office, I was sore and still a bit queasy thinking about the procedure, but I was excited about my new look. Take a look at the before-and-after photos below.

Lindsey Metrus before facial fillers
Lindsey Metrus

Before

Lindsey Metrus after facial fillers
Lindsey Metrus

After

The Final Takeaway

Four days later, my face is still quite sore, but no bruising happened whatsoever. I even caught a glimpse of myself foundation-free in the mirror a few times and was shocked at how well-rested I looked. Truth be told, though, I'm not itching to go back in six months and have it done again. I'd rather save injections for when I'm older and experiencing deep wrinkles and fine lines instead of at such a young age. (I know, I know, this is something I should have realized before saying, "Shoot me up, doc.") Yes, I liked the results, but looking back on it, I'm happy with the way I look naturally, and I don't want to continue a downward spiral of nipping and tucking to keep "fixing" myself. Plus, I'm not sure I'm ready to stomach the sound of Pop Rocks near my eyeballs again.

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