In the eternal pursuit of the fountain of youth, fillers — the injectable plumpers that reduce fine lines and boost collagen — are becoming more and more popular (so much so, this is apparently where some people are spending a good portion of their tax returns this year). Historically, you’ve had to go under the needle to reap the full filler effects but that could be changing big time thanks to a new crop of potent topical fillers.
Fillers are injections of hyaluronic acid, a topical skincare superstar that’s probably already part of your moisturizing routine. “Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which is like a sponge that pulls in hydration to the skin,” Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist in New York City, tells Allure. In other words, hyaluronic acid gives your creams and serums a little boost that can make them more effective moisturizers.
Up until now, most over-the-counter treatments have used single strands of hyaluronic acid to boost topical plumping power, but to get the full effects of the filler, you need a different, longer-lasting, chemical structure, Zeichner says. “Hyaluronic acid is cross-linked and processed differently for use in injectable products. The cross-linking ensures that the product will not be immediately degraded and give long lasting results,” he says. That means the hyaluronic acid found in injectable fillers is more durable than that found in your moisturizer.
But thanks to new formulations with super-high concentrations and stronger structures of hyaluronic acid, the scientists behind the latest skincare products like Skinmedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, which are designed to be applied directly on those irksome lines, may have figured out a way to nix the needles while still delivering similar line-erasing results. “The thing with hyaluronic acids is that they’re not created equal,” Kenneth Beer, a dermatologist in West Palm Beach, and Jupiter, Florida, tells Allure. “They can be very small molecules that really do nothing, or larger molecules that can help attract water and plump the skin. What’s happening is that the technology needed to bring bigger molecules through the skin has evolved so we’re starting to see topical solutions getting better.”
Topical fillers certainly seem a lot less scary than getting needles involved, but are they actually safe? Injectables are considered medical devices, which means they have to go through FDA approval before your derm can use them. But the new breed of super-potent topical fillers are considered no different than any other beauty product you buy over-the-counter (and not regulated by the FDA). “Topical hyaluronic acid does not penetrate as deeply as injectables, so there is not as much of a concern over safety as there is with an injectable,” says Zeichner. “I have the same levels of concern with a topical hyaluronic acid filler as I do with hyaluronic acid containing moisturizer.”
Introduce a powerful topical filler into your skincare routine carefully, just like you would with any new product, he says. “If you develop an allergic reaction, burning, or stinging, discontinue use of the product immediately.”