With the demand for dermal filler set to rise among millennials, injectables may be one of the last beauty taboos to shatter. More and more of us are looking to aesthetic procedures for a cosmetics boost, and with no shortage of providers — from dermatologists and dentists to so-called medical spas — it’s easier than ever to book that appointment.
But filler doesn’t come cheap. At reputable dermatology clinics in London, prices can start at £450 and exceed £750 for just 1ml of hyaluronic acid filler; in the US, the average price is $1,025. With that said, the cost does vary depending on the amount of filler administered, and by who. “Generally, registered medical professionals will be a little pricier than non-health-care practitioners,” says Dr. MJ Rowland-Warmann, aesthetician and founder of Smileworks. “This is because of training, experience, product, and practice.” Dr. Rowland-Warmann advises that you’re likely to get a much safer and more predictable result in the hands of a trained medical professional who is experienced not only in administering filler, but who can also properly manage negative outcomes or reactions.
As a result of safety measures and quality ingredients, higher costs can often put people off filler. But a new survey conducted by beauty clinic Dr Aesthetica found that millennials have no qualms about asking friends or family members to contribute to filler procedures, especially during the holidays. Out of the 500 individuals surveyed, half said that they would ask for a procedure or money towards one as a holiday gift, and almost one in five reported have done so in the past. The results also found that women were more likely than men to ask for this type of gift.
Of course, a person’s choice to get filler is entirely theirs. The procedure should then only be done by a trusted, qualified expert who has assessed the person during an initial consultation, as Dr Aesthetica’s medical director and lead doctor, Baldeep Farmah, explains that mental-health conditions like body dysmorphia can also factor in deciding to get cosmetic work. If the consultation goes smoothly, no complications have occurred as a result of the procedure, and the patient is happy with the outcome — then what’s the issue?
But with so many different views on filler procedures, including whether they are ethical (there have been several undercover reports about UK practitioners performing treatments on patients who are underage) or safe in the long run, asking for filler for the holidays is a lot more complicated than an Amazon gift card in your stocking.
My boyfriend kicked up such a fuss when I asked him for money towards filler, and my parents would never agree to it.
Jasmine*, 27, asked her boyfriend to contribute toward a lip filler procedure for Christmas last year. “All I really wanted for Christmas was a pair of Dr. Martens and lip fillers. I asked my parents for the boots as there’s no way they would pay towards cosmetic stuff,” she tells Refinery29. “I asked my boyfriend upfront and said I wanted money towards lip filler, although not the whole amount as it was £185 [or ~$250 USD] a pop, which I thought was steep for a present. He wasn’t happy about it and refused at first. He made it clear that he thought I was throwing away money, and always tells me I look great as I am. I reasoned that anything else he got me would be a waste as I wouldn’t use or enjoy it as much as I would filler. Plus, if I had to pay for the procedure myself, it would have taken me months to save up, which meant we wouldn’t be able to go out for dinner or on dates for a while.”
Eventually, Jasmine’s boyfriend did gift her money for Christmas, and she booked in for lip filler. “He agreed that if filler will make me feel better, that’s my decision. My parents, on the other, hand hate filler. They know I get my lips done and tell me how over-the-top and ridiculous they look,” she says. “I don’t think they do, as I go for a very natural amount and people who find out I have filler don’t believe me! All of my friends are pro-cosmetic procedures if it’s not ‘overdone,’ but I’m the only one who has ever had filler because it’s so expensive.”
The negative response is the reason why Jasmine wouldn’t ask for money as a Christmas gift to put towards filler again. “My boyfriend kicked up such a fuss and my family just wouldn’t gift me money towards the procedure,” she says. “Now, I tend to save a little every month, so when I book in every six to nine months, I have the money already.”
Being judged or scolded could explain why many millennials are dishonest about using holiday money for cosmetic procedures. Zoe, 24, says that she has lied to family members about how she has spent gifted money in the past. “I was asked what I wanted as a gift, and if they were offering, I’d say that money is fine,” she says. “I’d tell them that I would put it towards my savings, which isn’t true. The reason I keep it to myself is because older-generation family members would judge me, or I’d feel as though they wouldn’t understand why I wanted something done.”
Zoe says that her family was vehemently against her decision to get lip filler when she was younger. “They’d call me crazy, especially when I was in my late teens, which is understandable. On the other hand, some of my friends are into filler, so I wouldn’t feel as judged by them,” she says. “To be honest, I work so hard for my money to pay my bills and to buy essentials, so any procedure is a luxury and the extra money helps if I really want something done. One thing I wouldn’t do when accepting money from a family member as a gift is ask for permission for filler. Essentially, it’s my decision.”
Amara* recalls asking her mum for money towards lip filler as a Christmas gift and, after some resistance, she eventually agreed. “My mum has had a breast reduction and a gastric band, so I don’t think she can really judge my decision to get filler,” Amara says. “She offered to give me money for Christmas because I’m difficult to buy for, and when I first asked her to help towards the procedure, she was wary. She was worried it would go wrong, as all we see in the press is pictures of botched jobs. But we did lots of research together and finally found someone we trusted — it was very expensive. I’m lucky she isn’t critical. My body, my choice, really.”
Dr. Rowland-Warmann says that while the majority of her patients still want to look “naturally good,” there are a very few patients who actually want that “overdone” look, which could contribute to how filler is often perceived negatively. “I always grow a little concerned when I see people with very large lips or obviously exaggerated aesthetic treatments because I worry not only for their physical safety, but also for their mental health,” she says. “Body dysmorphia is a huge thing in aesthetic medicine, affecting around 5-15% of all patients. Unfortunately, many beauticians aren’t trained in spotting this, and this is where a lot of the scary results come from.” A good doctor will always insist on a consultation prior to a procedure.
You also get what you pay for, according to Dr. Rowland-Warmann, who recalls seeing a lot of counterfeit products on the market which have been bought cheaply by people who call themselves “experts,” but don’t have a proper medical license. “Cheap products are low quality, produce a lot of complications, and give bad results. Well-researched and developed, high-quality products make good results in the right injector’s hands, but they are expensive,” she says. “This is where a large chunk of the treatment cost will come from.” It also pays to take the premises into consideration. “If you’re being treated behind a curtain in a hair salon, then your injector is likely cutting all sorts of corners with regard to protocols for safety,” Dr. Rowland-Warmann says. “A proper, purpose-built practice is the best place to have treatment. This means that rooms are clean and contain the right amenities, and staff are on hand to deal with any concerns or questions you may have. You get a better standard of treatment in a safe environment.”
Dr. Farmah finishes with some sound advice for those interested in filler: “If you or a loved one are thinking about asking for money to go towards a cosmetic procedure this Christmas, ensure you have done your research. Being well-informed will help you to decide on the best treatment plan to suit your individual needs.” There are also a number of helpful and educational websites, such as RealSelf (and SaveFace in the UK), that include real reviews of clinics with patient pictures. As you can imagine, they can be quite graphic, so fair warning — and maybe don’t link your parents to an article about non-surgical nose jobs when you email them your Christmas list.
*Name has been changed. This story was originally published on Refinery29 UK.
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