Dermal Fillers: What to Know

Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on June 30, 2021

Dermal fillers are treatments that can temporarily fade fine lines on your face or hands, make your skin look fuller, and lessen other signs of aging. They’re soft, gel-like substances that a medical professional injects under your skin.

The FDA has approved these fillers for use in the face, lips, and hands:

  • Hyaluronic acid (Captique, Esthélis, Elevess, Hylaform, Juvederm, Perlane, Prevelle, Puragen, Restylane)
  • Calcium hydroxylapatite (Radiesse)
  • Poly-L-lactic acid (Sculptra)
  • Polymethylmethacrylate (Bellafill)

Doctors can also use your own body fat as a facial filler. They take a small amount of fat from another part of your body (usually with liposuction) and process it so it can be put into your face or hands through injections.

In general, it’s safe to get dermal filler shots from a board-certified dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon, who can help you choose the right one and manage any side effects you may have.

But there could be serious or life-threatening health problems if you get fillers in certain body parts, use materials that aren’t FDA-approved or considered safe, or get treated by someone who isn’t an experienced, qualified doctor or nurse.

How Are Fillers Misused?

The FDA says you should never use fillers for:

  • Butt or breast enhancements
  • Filling spaces between muscles
  • Large-scale body contouring

Misusing fillers in ways like these can lead to serious injuries, permanent scars or disfigurement, or death.

What to Know About Filler Dangers

Don’t be fooled by low prices. Dermal fillers sold on the internet may not be safe. They could be phony, contaminated, or dangerous in other ways.

For example, some fillers available online have had hair gel in them. Injecting things that aren’t sterile can lead to an infection, an allergic reaction, or dead skin cells.

It’s also dangerous to give yourself these types of shots or for someone who’s not a doctor or nurse to do it. The wrong injection technique can have side effects like swelling, lumpiness, death of skin cells, or a blood clot (or embolism) that causes blindness.

It’s generally not safe to buy fillers from someone who doesn’t have a medical license. One red flag is if they offer to sell fillers outside a medical setting, like in their home or a hotel.

There have also been instances of unqualified or fake doctors injecting people with illegal or unapproved fillers like silicone or oil. Shots of liquid silicone can be deadly. Unlike a silicone breast implant, the material may move through your bloodstream and lead to complications like a stroke.

If you’re thinking about fillers, get them from an experienced, licensed doctor in a medical facility like a hospital or doctor’s office. They should use vials that are labeled and sealed properly. Hold off on the procedure if the label looks strange or if the person offers you a deep discount on a dermal filler that’s not FDA-approved or accepted as generally safe.

Show Sources


FDA: “The FDA Warns Against Injectable Silicone for Body Contouring and Enhancement,” “FDA-Approved Dermal Fillers.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Fillers: FAQs.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Dermal fillers: The good, the bad, and the dangerous.”

American Board of Cosmetic Surgery: “Injectable Fillers Guide,” “What types of dermal fillers are available?”

American Society of Plastic Surgeons: “Dermal Fillers.”

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