Think it over before you makeover with cosmetic injectables

In the age of smartphones, virtual reality and 3D printing, technology never fails to amaze — but the elusive fountain of youth remains (for now) out of reach. So thousands of Aussies are forking out a billion dollars each year for the next best thing: cosmetic procedures.

With an increasing number of patients using cosmetic injectables, it’s important to recognise the potential risks and complications — these injections are still considered a medical procedure, not simply a beauty treatment. So before battling your crows feet and frown lines with a needle, you should fully arm yourself with the right info.

Cosmetic injections and their benefits

The two main kinds of cosmetic injections are botulinum toxin type A (botox) and dermal fillers.

Botox’ nickname of the ‘anti-wrinkle injection’ is pretty self-explanatory — this is used to relax muscles in the face, and can help soften things like forehead wrinkles, ‘bunny lines’ around the nose and lines around the mouth.

Where botox smooths lines, dermal fillers plump. Facial fat and muscle lost in the ageing process is restored by these volumising injections, typically used on the cheeks, jawline, nose, chin and lips.

The risks

The rise of celebrity culture — teamed with the growing popularity of social media (and the primped and primed influencers that go with it) —  may make it seem like ‘everyone’ is dabbling in a bit of botox.

Despite the boom in figures, cosmetic injections remain a medical procedure, meaning they do pose a risk to patients. Serious and even life-threatening complications can occur, so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms to look out for.

Risks and complications include bruising and swelling, allergic reactions and infection. In rare cases, patients have suffered permanent blindness and even vascular compromise.

Professor Mark Ashton, President of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, says people need to remember invasive procedures are not risk free.

“We are concerned the general public think cosmetic procedures such as injectables, fillers and lasers are not hazardous and therefore pose no risk,” says Professor Ashton.

“People need to understand things can go wrong and they should always think [it] over before they makeover and conduct their research on the experience and qualifications of the person undertaking the procedure,” he says.

What to look for in a doctor

The first step in getting a cosmetic injectable is having an initial consultation with your doctor. You should use this opportunity to explore what treatment options are available to you, and to make sure your practitioner checks out.

Ask lots of questions about the procedure, including who will administer it, what their experience is and how their facilities stack up.

In Australia, only medical doctors, registered nurses (and enrolled nurses endorsed to administer medication) can perform cosmetic injections. That’s the law and there are no exceptions.

“We cannot emphasise enough the importance of people being aware of the risks and doing their research into the qualifications of their practitioner and facility where their procedure is being conducted,” says Professor Ashton.

Injections should always be given by a registered health practitioner (like a nurse) with a registered medical practitioner (doctor or specialist plastic surgeon) overseeing the procedure. It’s also important for the doctor to talk you through the process and any risks involved.

“Many of these procedures are invasive in nature or involve prescription item drugs which can be toxic if administered incorrectly,” explains Professor Ashton.

Some self reflection

Once you’ve weighed up the pros and cons of cosmetic injectables, and found a qualified practitioner you’re comfortable with, the only thing left to do is be honest with yourself.

Most cosmetic injectables are not permanent and last just three to six months. Do you want to commit to (and can you afford) ongoing treatment? You could also see if your problem area could be improved with a less invasive treatment, like laser resurfacing or dermabrasion.

Don’t take cosmetic injectables lightly; know the facts, arm yourself with info and make sure you’re totally honest with yourself about your expectations and motivations before making a decision.