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Fillers - how they work, and why you might choose them

Medically reviewed by
Dr. Samar Khalil from Skin Experts Polyclinic

Skin can start to lose its elasticity in our late 20s, with the effects becoming more visible in our 30s and 40s onwards. If this bothers you, there are a superabundance of treatments out there to try, one of the most popular being fillers.

A non-surgical treatment, fillers are designed to support your skin, giving it an extra layer of defence against sagging or wrinkling. But how do they work, and are they right for you?

Fast facts

  • Best results

    1 procedure

  • Duration of results

    3 month to 1 year

  • Back to work

    Same day

  • Full recovery time

    1 week

  • Price range

    500 SAR to 5,000 SAR

  • Treatment duration

    30 minutes

  • Comfort

    Optional pain relief

  • Treatment type

    Minimally invasive

What are fillers?

Fillers are a type of injectable mainly used on the face. Minimally invasive, they are mostly designed to smooth out wrinkles and add fullness in areas such as the cheeks, jawline and chin among others, with fillers around the mouth a particularly popular choice of treatment.

  • There are different levels at which filler can be injected – deep injections are designed to create volume, while superficial injections hydrate and plump the skin.
  • Most are dissolvable, meaning your body can naturally absorb the gel over time without permanent effects. Nowadays, permanent fillers are not advised.

The most common types of fillers offered are:

  • Hyaluronic acid – the most popular, this substance is naturally found in your body and helps retain water.
  • Calcium hydroxylapatite – a mineral found in our bones, it’s mostly used for adding shape and volume to our cheeks and jawlines. Also commonly used to restore volume loss in the hands.
  • Poly-l-lactic acid – synthetic but biodegradable, it helps reverse the signs of ageing or illness.

How do fillers work?

Fillers are completely different to Botox for many reasons, the most prominent being that while Botox freezes, fillers plump.

Once injected, the gel or liquid gets to work smoothing the skin from the inside. It fills in any gaps left by a lack of protein – hence the name – and adds volume to any hollow areas.

Unlike Botox, fillers treat static lines, not dynamic ones because they work to smooth out wrinkles, not just freeze them in place.

  • Dynamic lines are caused by facial movements, such as frowning or smiling. These are treated with Botox.
  • Static lines remain visible on our face even when it’s relaxed and are treated with fillers.

Aside from wrinkles, there are many other cosmetic uses for fillers.

Non-surgical rhinoplasty

A series of small injections of hyaluronic acid gel are applied to the soft tissue in the nose to shape, straighten and contour. Results should last roughly 12 months.


Fillers can be used to lift and plump cheeks, chins, jawlines, fill out thin lips and even plump sagging hands.

Acne scar treatment

Fillers are an excellent way to improve the appearance of depressed scars by – you guessed it – filling them and plumping the skin.

Before treatment

Meet with your clinician or practitioner before booking a treatment. They will advise you on the best type of injection for your target area and desired results.

They may also suggest another type of treatment if fillers are unlikely to give you the results you want, or even suggest having another treatment at the same time to maximise results.

It’s recommended you avoid taking any painkillers a few days before your appointment, as doing so can slightly increase the chances of swelling and bruising, although paracetamol is allowed.

On the day

The filler experience usually takes under 30 minutes, making this a very quick procedure. After a run through of the next steps and what to expect afterwards, a numbing cream will be applied to help relax your face and minimise any discomfort from the injection.

Once you’re comfortable, usually after 15 minutes, they’ll begin injecting your chosen filler into selected areas of your face. This will only take a few minutes.

It’s not uncommon for your clinician to then massage the area to smooth out any lumps, and help the gel get to where it needs to go.


It’s natural for your face to feel tender for a few days after the injections. Your practitioner will usually advise against taking drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin, recommending

a cold compress to alleviate any pain instead.

Other things you should try and avoid for a select time include:

  • Touching your face (six to eight hours).
  • Applying makeup (six to eight hours).
  • Excessive heat or exposure to the sun (24 to 48 hours).
  • Strenuous exercise (24 to 48 hours).
  • Facials (two weeks).

Remember to drink plenty of water to help speed up your recovery (two to three litres a day is recommended), and if you are experiencing any severe side-effects, seek medical help as soon as possible. These are rare, but may include:

  • Bruising and swelling for longer than a fortnight.
  • Raised bumps around the targeted areas.
  • Blurred vision or disorientation.

What else do I need to know about them?

Is it a good idea to get fillers around the mouth?

We develop wrinkles around the mouth more easily because the skin is much thinner and holds less collagen than other areas of the face, and we tend to use our mouths every day, for lots of activities.

Using dermal fillers around the mouth’s static lines as opposed to those caused by movement, should produce visible results even if you have deep-set smile lines or wrinkles.

Smile lines can also be improved by injecting the cheeks, lifting the face.

However, if you’re looking for longer-lasting results, laser skin resurfacing or a facelift may be other options to consider.

Do fillers work immediately?

Some walk away from the clinic already noticing a difference, while it can take a few weeks for others.

Depending on the type of filler you opt for, the results can last anywhere between six and 18 months.

Fillers can actually improve your complexion over time. By injecting your body with natural ingredients, you’re encouraging your skin to start producing its own collagen again. You’ll typically see the best results at around four weeks.

Do fillers hurt?

You’ll likely feel some discomfort, but this varies from person to person – and the area injected.

The lips the most sensitive area for fillers but the pain is rarely severe.

If you are worried, ask your doctor before you have the treatment about numbing the area.

Are fillers better than Botox?

While they both treat wrinkles, they are completely different in terms of results.

Doctors usually recommend fillers for deep wrinkles, and Botox for creases. If you’re worried about deeper lines that are prominent even when your face is expressionless, fillers may be the better option.

How often should you have them?

Most are temporary, so you will need further treatments in the future if you wish to keep the results. Many people return for a top-up every six months to a year.


The following may also help reduce the appearance of static lines:

  • Hyaluronic acid retinols and serums.
  • Collagen supplements.
  • Cryotherapy.
  • Microcurrent facials.

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