Dermal fillers and volumizers combat the signs of aging on the skin in different ways. However, they are similar in that they are both delivered via injections into the dermis, and can considerably improve the appearance of the skin.


Injectable dermal fillers and volumizers have a very similar effect on the skin, but are separate products used for specific purposes. Dermal fillers use naturally occurring chemicals to draw water to certain areas in the skin in order to fill in fine lines, wrinkles and other depressions, such as acne scars.


Volumizers, however, are used to add volume to the face. This can certainly have the secondary benefit of smoothing out the skin’s appearance, but the use of volumizers does not necessarily target skin depressions. Volumizers work by stimulating the natural matrix-bulking components in the skin, notably collagen.


Injectable dermal fillers and volumizers are primarily used on the face. There are a lot of different facial areas that they can be applied to, including:

  • Cheeks
  • Temples
  • Lips
  • Under the eyes
  • Nasal labial folds
  • Marionette lines

Dermal fillers and volumizers can also be used to treat the signs of aging on the skin of the hands.


The smoothing effect of dermal fillers can be seen immediately. However, these effects only last as long as it takes the body to breakdown the dermal filler ingredients. Depending on the type and brand, fillers typically last between 12 and 18 months before another course of treatment is required to maintain the benefits.

Because volumizers work by stimulating natural processes in the body, the effects are longer-lasting, sometimes persisting for several years before reinjection is necessary. However, this also means that the effects of volumizers may not be immediately apparent, and can take several weeks to manifest themselves.

Some cosmetic treatments combine both a dermal filler and a volumizer in a single product to provide a result that is both instant and long-lasting.


The application for dermal fillers and volumizers is the same. Injections with fillers or volumizers are a medical procedure that should only be performed by a licensed practitioner at the practitioner’s office or private clinic.

Preparation is minimal. You should avoid taking warfarin, aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs, like NSAIDS (e.g. ibuprofen, ketoprofen) one to two weeks before the procedure in order to reduce the risk of bruising. Some practitioners also recommend stopping vitamin E, ginseng, fish-oil tablets, or herbal supplements with anticoagulant effects for the same reason.

An experienced practitioner should always:

  • assess your skin
  • wash the target area with antiseptic
  • mark the injections sites with a non-permanent pen

Depending on the target area, your skin type and the treatment, you may first be injected with a localized anesthetic, but for many procedures this is not required. The dermal filler or volumizer is then delivered into the injection sites, with the practitioner holding the skin taut. Filler injections are shallower than volumizer injections, while both will likely involve several applications – for dermal fillers this may be a series of injections along a wrinkle, while volumizers may have a series of injections around a target area to fill it in. Typically, a single treatment session for a dermal filler or volumizer won’t take more than around 30 minutes.


There is no no downtime required for recovery from dermal filler or volumizer injections. You can go about your normal day-to-day life immediately after the treatment. However, it is recommended that you avoid prolonged exposure to strong sunlight for a day or two of hot or cold temperatures. Keeping exercise light and gentle for a day or two after the treatment will also help to minimize the risks of swelling or bruising.

With dermal fillers, if you wear make-up, it is generally a good idea to go without for 24 hours on the area targeted for the treatment to avoid excess pressure on the injections sites, which could be painful. However, following a volumizer injection, it is advisable to massage the target area frequently for a week after the treatment to achieve the smoothest results.


As with most cosmetic medicine treatments, there are some potential side effects with dermal filler or volumizer injections. However, they are minimal if they occur at all, and will usually disappear very quickly.

Injection sites – for any medical or cosmetic application – can be a bit sore afterwards, but this will fade over a couple of days. Redness on the injection site likewise. Occasionally, dermal filler injections can leave small bumps or nodules under the skin. If this occurs, return to your practitioner for advice on a remedy.

Volumizers don’t create nodules, but there are some caveats to use. For instance, they should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, or those who are susceptible to bad scarring, as the volumizer can worsen the appearance of scars on the skin. If any side effects of filler or volumizer treatments persist for more than a few days, seek medical advice.


There are many different brands of injectable filler, and an experienced practitioner will advise on which one is most suitable for your skin. There are, however, several common types of filler on the market and three of the most well-known are:

  • Collagen
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Polyacrylamide gel

Collagen is a common active ingredient in dermal filler injections, as it is a naturally occurring substance in the skin anyway – by adding some via a cosmetic medicine procedure you are primarily simply augmenting or stimulating naturally processes. Collagen is a protein that helps the health of skin in many ways including improving its:

  • Strength
  • Elasticity
  • Smoothness
  • Firmness
  • Resilience

These functions can decline with age as collagen levels drop, so injectable collagen boosts the levels of this important element of the skin’s matrix. The filling effect is temporary, typically lasting for between three and nine months. For optimal results, repeated treatments of two to four injections are usually necessary. However, injectable collagen is often combined with volumizers to stimulate matrix production for longer lasting results.

Hyaluronic acid

Fillers containing hyaluronic acid (HA) are among the most common cosmetic skin treatments. Like collagen, HA is an element that occurs naturally in the body, serving to attract water and so plump the skin, smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles. As we age, the level of HA in our bodies declines, and injectable treatments can be an effective way to reestablish a higher proportion. Such fillers are not, however, comprised of hyaluronic acid as it is in the body. To augment the effects and make them more long-lasting, HA fillers are made by chemically cross-linking molecules of HA in a laboratory before injection. This slows down the breakdown of the HA once it is injected, prolonging its effectiveness as a skin filler. However, this combining of molecules makes the product more viscous – similar in structure to a gel rather than a liquid – which can make accurate deployment to targeted areas more difficult. So a qualified, experienced practitioner is essential for the best results.

Polyacrylamide gel

Like hyaluronic acid treatments, polyacrylamide gel is also comprised of cross-linked molecules. The resultant viscous gel is injected into the subdermis to plump up the skin around fine lines and wrinkles. It is a very elastic product that moves with facial expressions so although it acts a little like an implant, it does not compromise normal skin movement.


As with fillers, there is a wide range of products available, each with their own characteristics and combination of ingredients. Consultation with an expert practitioner will help to determine which product is right for you, your skin, and the results you wish to achieve. However, there are two active ingredients that are often key elements of a volumizing treatments. They are:

  • Polylactic acid
  • Calcium hydroxylapatite

These elements can be found in combination with other ingredients, deepening on the particular brand of volumizer being used, but they are significant contributors to volumizing cosmetic treatments.

Polylactic acid

Polylactic acid – or PLA – is a synthetic polymer of lactic acid. Lactic acid is a natural compound that is produced when glucose in the body is broken down. As a treatment for the skin, it (and its natural and synthetic derivatives) can help smooth the skin’s appearance and help add volume under the epidermis. PLA has been used since the 1960s in medical procedures (such as in dissolvable sutures), but in cosmetic treatments it is primarily used to add volume to the face, particularly the temples, cheeks and mid-face.

As an injectable volumizer, polylactic acid comprises thousands of microparticles of the active ingredient. These microparticles are like tiny beads and are delivered within a carrier fluid. The beads have a smoothing effect while the fluid adds volume. The effects start immediately, but over the the weeks and months following the injection, the PLA starts to stimulate the skin’s production of collagen. Essentially, the collagen fibres in the skin react to the microparticles as though they are damaging the structure of the skin. This stimulates a healing response within the skin which increases skin strength, volume and elasticity. Over time the PLA is converted by the body into lactic acid, further aiding skin rejuvenation.

PLA treatments usually comprise three or four injections delivered about a month apart. The cumulative effect of the collagen stimulation and the slow breakdown of the polylactic acid over time means that the effects of PLA cosmetic treatments can be tangible for up to two or three years after the end of the treatment regime.

Calcium hydroxylapatite

Calcium hydroxylapatite was one of the first volumizers used in cosmetic medicine. It is a naturally occurring mineral component of bone and teeth, so there is no chance of an allergic reaction when it is used as a volumizer. When injected into the skin, microparticles both stimulate the skin to make collagen and act as a scaffold to hold it in place, resulting in a firmer, plumper skin tone. Although good results can be achieved after one treatment, additional applications are sometimes needed to maintain optimal effects.

Last reviewed 27-Nov-2016

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