Silicone is a synthetic substance that is used as a permanent filler to add volume and correct wrinkles in the aging face. However, injectable silicone is not FDA approved in the United States for cosmetic treatments.
Silicone injections were approved by the FDA in the 1990s for certain medical uses, such as retinal detachment. Since then, liquid injectable silicone has been used off-label for lip augmentation, facial rejuvenation, and body contouring (augmentation of the breasts and butt). Although silicone injections are not technically considered illegal, the use of injectable silicone for soft tissue augmentation is controversial because it can lead to several complications.
Keep reading to learn everything about silicone injections, including when they are not worth it and when they can be useful.
What is liquid injectable silicone and how is it used?
In cosmetic treatments, liquid silicone injections are used as permanent dermal fillers. Silicone is a synthetic substance that has a chemically inactive structure, making is easy to use. Injectable silicone provides long lasting results, and therefore, has cost advantages over other temporary and semi permanent FDA approved dermal fillers. The main advantage of using an injectable silicone product as a dermal filler is its permanence. Meaning, patients do not have to keep returning for injections again and again.
Liquid silicone injections have been used successfully for decades for things like filling in scars and improving lipoatrophy (facial fat loss) in HIV patients. Medical grade injectable silicone is also FDA approved for use in the eye sockets. However, the use of silicone liquid for soft tissue augmentation in the face and body contouring purposes is off-label, meaning it is not recommended, but it is not illegal either.
The FDA has issued warnings against using silicone oil for large-scale body contouring and enhancement. However, some practitioners offer silicone injection treatments for lip augmentation, volume loss in the aging face, acne scars, and correction of other signs of facial aging.
What is silicone injection used for?
FDA approved uses of medical grade silicone include silicone oil used in small quantities in the eyes. Silicone is also FDA approved in breast implants. Silicone liquid is used by doctors as a lubricant for syringes and needles. Injectable silicone may be appropriate for HIV patients with lipoatrophy (loss of facial fat).
A liquid silicone product called Silikon 1000 is approved by the FDA for use in the eye. Licensed practitioners used this silicon oil off-label as a filler for the face. Silicone oil can be used alone or in conjunction with other FDA approved dermal fillers like Juvederm, Restylane, and Sculptra. It can also be used for facial rejuvenation with Botox or combined with chemical peels or facial plastic surgery.
It is worth noting, however, that the use of injectable silicone for body contouring, such as butt or breast enhancement, and soft tissue augmentation treatment of the face are not FDA approved uses of injectable silicone products.
How does it work?
Liquid silicone has the same consistency as motor oil. When a silicone product is injected into the skin, the body recognizes it as a foreign material and surrounds it with collagen. The collagen bulks up the skin, thereby providing correction of volume loss. Ultimately, the filling in of wrinkles or volume addition in the chin or cheeks gives the face a more youthful appearance.
Liquid silicone injections – The microdroplet technique
Some plastic surgeons use the microdroplet technique for silicone injections. This injection technique involves placing numerous tiny droplets of sterile medical grade silicone at several points under the skin. The microdroplet injection treatment is less painful than other fillers and there is no downtime. A topical local anesthetic cream is used for added comfort during the injection treatment. Patients can resume normal activities immediately without restrictions. The entire injectable silicone procedure takes under 30 minutes.
Most patients require a series of injections with Silikon 1000 using the microdroplet technique to achieve the desired results. Younger patients typically need fewer treatments. The injections are offered at monthly intervals to allow collagen to build up slowly and safely. The result is a natural looking younger face.
The key advantage of the microdroplet technique is that surgeons can avoid overcorrection, i.e., avoid placing too much product in the treatment area. The technique also minimizes shifting or movement of the injectables that is sometimes encountered with other filler procedures.
How long do silicone injections last?
Many patients prefer correction of facial aging with injectable silicone treatment because the results are permanent. A temporary dermal filler like Juvederm or Restylane may last only 6 months, requiring a number of injections over and over again. In contrast, when silicone is used for volume loss or wrinkle correction, it stays that way forever. However, this also means that any side effects of the treatment, although rare, can be permanent as well.
Are silicone injections safe?
In the right hands, meaning in the hands of experienced healthcare practitioners, silicone injectables are quite safe. However, if an unlicensed practitioner or a person who is not a doctor or surgeon uses injectable silicone non-medical grade products, the consequences can be deadly, leading to serious long term health complications.
To ensure safety, it is critical that you choose licensed board certified providers and have the procedures done in a clinical setting (never in a medical spa, hotel, or home).
Are there any risks involved with silicone injections?
Liquid silicone injections with the microdroplet technique, when performed by licensed doctors in a clinical setting, have a good safety and efficacy record. However, like all cosmetic procedures, liquid silicone procedures carry some risks.
Common side effects of injectable silicone include bruising and swelling, which are transient and typically improve in a few days. Rarely, there can be more severe inflammatory reactions with redness and swelling.
Other rare complications of liquid silicone injections are overcorrection (this risk can be minimized with the microdroplet technique). Sometimes, discoloration or firm texture of the treated area may occur due to scar tissue formation.
When injected into areas of the body that have a lot of blood vessels, such as the buttocks to add volume, liquid silicone can migrate to other parts of the body such as the brain, heart, and lungs and block a blood vessel there, causing permanent damage, heart attack, and stroke.
Another side effect or reaction to liquid silicone injections, although rare, is the formation of silicone granulomas. A granuloma is a nodule that is the body's response to a foreign substance. If silicone granulomas formation occurs, the nodules need to be treated with local steroid injections and/or surgical removal of the tissue.
Are silicone injections reversible?
Liquid silicone injections, such as lip silicone treatments, are permanent and non-reversible. The liquid silicone is very difficult to remove without surgery. This is why the FDA warns against indiscriminate use of these products for cosmetic purposes.
The arguments against cosmetic silicone injections
Many doctors are opposed to liquid silicone injections, citing complications like granulomas and infection, although these adverse events are rare. Liquid silicone does not cause systemic (body-wide) disease. However, delayed granuloma formation in reaction to liquid silicone fillers can happen even years after the treatment. The granulomas are difficult to treat and there is a risk of migration (movement away from the treatment site). In the face, liquid silicone injections can potentially exert pressure on the surrounding nerves, leading to problems with sensation and movement of the facial muscles.
Another argument against liquid silicone injections is their permanence. The very feature that patients like about this treatment can become a liability if things go wrong. Liquid silicone is very difficult to remove without damaging surrounding tissue. This is because, over time, the body forms scar tissue around the liquid silicone injections, which keeps growing. The liquid silicone weaves its way into the tissues, becomes lumpy and hard, and nearly impossible to remove.
Am I a good candidate for silicone injections?
Your plastic surgeon or dermatologist is the best person to decide if you are a good candidate for liquid silicone injections. Injectable silicone can be very effective for the treatment of soft tissue volume loss, lip augmentation, deep nasolabial folds, and scars.
How much do silicone oil injections cost?
One of the reasons patients are drawn to liquid silicone injections is the cost factor. Silicone butt treatments can cost one-tenth of the price of a butt enhancement with autologous fat transfer.
For facial rejuvenation, medical grade silicone liquid is injected by microdroplet technique into acne scars and used for the correction of a sunken chin or hollow cheeks. The cost of the treatment varies, but typically starts from $500 and up.
The MeTime app makes it easy to find licensed board certified plastic surgeons and dermatologists for cosmetic treatments like liquid silicone injections. You can click and upload pictures and have suggestions sent directly to you. Interested in finding doctors who offer injectable silicone in your area? Try the MeTime app now!