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Collagen Injections

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Collagen injections have been used for decades to treat minor imperfections in facial skin, including laugh lines, wrinkles, creases, crow’s feet, and acne scars. Collagen is also used to create fuller lips and cheeks and can be used to treat areas of the chest, back, and neck. However, facial collagen injections are by far the most common. In many cases, collagen treatment is combined with other procedures such as a facelift procedure or laser skin resurfacing treatment. Although collagen injections are safe, quick, and easy to administer, it is important to seek treatment from a qualified cosmetic surgeon who can discuss all of the available treatment options with you.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is a natural protein found in bone, cartilage, skin, and tendons; there are 27 different types of naturally occurring collagens in the body. Certain collagens found in skin tissue are essential for skin strength and elasticity. Over time, this collagen breaks down, causing skin to lose its suppleness and begin to wrinkle and sag. In an effort to fight these signs of aging, many people turn to collagen injections to replace their original supply. Since it is a natural protein, there are relatively few side effects associated with its use in cosmetic procedures.

Candidates for Treatment

Most people opting for collagen treatment are 35 to 60 years old and would like to minimize early signs of aging such as faint or moderate smile and frown lines. Collagen injection treatment can also be used to achieve fuller, more voluptuous lips, as well as to touch up areas around the mouth and forehead where wrinkles have begun to reappear after previous cosmetic procedures. Older patients may also benefit from collagen injections, although ideal collagen candidates have skin that is still relatively flexible.

Because collagen is a natural substance and requires no surgery to achieve results, collagen treatment is one of the safest ways for people to enhance their appearance. Candidates for collagen treatment include people beginning to notice smile lines around the mouth, creases and lines on the forehead, and deepening furrows between the brows. As an added benefit, collagen can provide lip enhancement, making lips fuller and more voluptuous. In general, people who choose collagen treatment are looking to "refresh" or enhance their appearance rather than treat more advanced signs of aging.

General Treatment Requirements

Before a patient receives collagen injections, steps should be taken to avoid complications and help ensure excellent results. After reviewing the patient's medical history during the initial consult to see if there are any factors that could lead to complications, the doctor generally performs a skin test to determine whether the patient might develop an allergic reaction to collagen. During the test, a very small amount of collagen is injected into the forearm, and the area is then monitored for roughly one month. If swelling, redness, or itching develops during this time, the patient is probably not a good candidate for collagen treatment. If the patient is eligible, the doctor may provide instructions regarding diet, nutrition, smoking, and drinking. Following these instructions is a crucial part of achieving optimal results.

Is Collagen Right for Me?

If you are in good health, between the ages of 35 and 60, and still have relatively flexible skin, you are probably a good candidate for collagen treatment. However, as with all cosmetic procedures, it is important for anyone considering injections to have a realistic understanding of what collagen can accomplish. You should bear in mind that collagen treatment is intended to address moderate, relatively early signs of aging. While it can be an excellent way to minimize or even eliminate certain facial lines and wrinkles, collagen is not intended as an antidote to advanced aging or more serious cosmetic problems. People with particularly deep facial lines or substantial skin sagging, for instance, should probably consider more aggressive surgical options, such as a facelift or a brow lift.

Medical and Health Considerations

During the initial consultation, doctors carefully review the medical history of prospective patients to make sure they meet the basic criteria for collagen treatment. Most people who are in good health are good candidates for injections. In some cases, however, existing medical conditions or physical situations make the use of collagen inadvisable. Women who are pregnant or nursing, for example, should postpone treatment, and people with certain autoimmune diseases should avoid the use of collagen altogether. Additionally, since most of the collagen used in cosmetic procedures is derived from cows, patients with an allergy to bovine products should ensure their doctor is using human-based collagen instead. Lidocaine, a natural anesthetic, is also contained in collagen; anyone allergic to this substance should also inquire about cosmetic filler alternatives.

Types of Collagen Fillers

There are two main types of collagen fillers used in cosmetic procedures, bovine- and human-based fillers. Since some people are allergic to products derived from cows, patients should verify with their doctor that bovine-derived collagen (the most common) is suitable for them prior to treatment.

The many different types of collagen fillers have advantages and disadvantages in terms of their composition, price, duration of effect and other factors. With research and discussion with your physician, you can determine the collagen filler that will work best for you.

Bovine Collagen

Bovine collagen is one of the most common types of collagen fillers, and it can effectively reduce the appearance of wrinkles and other facial imperfections. Extracted from the skin of cows, bovine collagen is purified and sterilized, then liquefied in preparation for cosmetic treatment. Typically the least expensive of collagen fillers, bovine collagen injections generally cost from about $250 to $800 per session. Branded bovine-based collagen fillers are Zyderm® and Zyplast®, and Artefill (Artecoll®). Results can last from six weeks to a year, depending on the patient and which brand of collagen he or she is treated with. Allergic reactions and connective tissue disorders, such as lupus and/or arthritis, are risk factors associated with bovine collagen treatments. Patients are tested for allergies, and their physician should carefully examine their medical history before treatment.

Autologen

This type of collagen is derived from your own skin, harvested during a previous operation. The skin is sent to a lab, where the collagen is extracted, sterilized, and liquefied for re-injection. Autologen typically requires no allergy testing because it is a natural collagen found in the human body. This makes it an excellent alternative for patients who cannot tolerate a bovine collagen treatment. Autologen is popular for lip augmentation, and lasts longer than bovine collagen. However, it may cost a bit more than bovine collagen, typically from about $800 to $1000 per session.

Isolagen

Isolagen is another of the collagen types that are derived from your own skin. However, instead of being made from skin harvested during an operation, Isolagen is made by cloning collagen-making cells taken from behind your ear. Isolagen collagen injections are typically performed in intervals of about two weeks, and results steadily improve over time. Since Isolagen does not contain animal proteins, there is considerably less risk of an allergic reaction. Isolagen treatments are more expensive than bovine and Autologen injections, costing around $1000 to $1500 per session.

Dermalogen

This collagen is taken from deceased human donors and subsequently sterilized and processed. The main benefits of using donated human collagen are that it may last longer than bovine types of collagen, and the risks of allergic reactions are minimized. Human-based collagen fillers such as Dermalogen do not require extensive preparation time. Also, because Dermalogen is human-based, there is no need for an allergy test. However, if a patient is allergic to lidocaine or other numbing agents, the patient should inform his or her physician before having treatment. The cost of Dermalogen treatments ranges from $500 to $1000 per session.

What Type of Collagen Filler is Right for Me?

Of the two broad categories of collagen fillers, bovine and human, treatment with bovine-derived products such as Zyderm® and Zyplast® is usually the least expensive. However, because the collagen is not human-based, the risk of allergic reaction is higher. Additionally, the results of bovine collagen treatments tend to disappear more quickly than the results of human-based-collagen treatments. Isolagen is the most expensive collagen treatment because extensive laboratory work is required to create the collagen. However, because Isolagen is comprised of live cells that are cloned from your own tissue, the results last longer, sometimes up to several months following an injection. CosmoDermTM and CosmoPlastTM are two other dermal fillers created from purified human collagen.

There are also hybrid forms of collagen available. Artefill® (known in Europe as Artecoll®), is a mixture of bovine collagen and homogeneous polymethylmethacrylate microspheres, which are tiny plastic spheres. As the injected collagen breaks down, the spheres reportedly not only help maintain the desired results much longer, but also stimulate natural collagen production. According to the manufacturer, Artefill® injections are not temporary fixes, but nearly permanent solutions.

The Collagen Treatment Process

The actual collagen injection procedure is relatively straightforward. Treatment typically occurs at the doctor’s office and usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes. On the basis of each patient’s cosmetic needs, doctors place collagen injections in areas that will optimize the elimination of wrinkles and facial lines. Within a couple of days, patients usually begin to see noticeable improvements in their appearance, and any puffiness or bruising resulting from treatment disappears.Collagen Candidates

Preparing for Treatment

Prior to collagen treatment, the patient is first given a skin test to detect for a possible allergic reaction to the collagen material. The physician injects a small amount of collagen into an inconspicuous location on the patient's body, and the patient monitors the area for about a week. About 97 percent of patients show no allergic reaction. Whether or not an allergic reaction occurs will help determine the type of collagen used during treatment.

The Collagen Injection Process

Collagen treatment involves one or more injections of collagen into a specific area. Some patients find the injections slightly uncomfortable; especially injections performed on the lips or around the nose. A topical anesthetic can be applied to the injection area to minimize pain. Some types of collagen contain a small amount of lidocaine, which also helps to numb the injection area. Most treatments take less than an hour and can be accomplished during a lunch break.

Following Treatment - What to Expect

Immediately after the treatment there may be some temporary bruising, puffiness, or tenderness around the injection site. This is normal and gradually subsides in a few days. Patients can resume their day-to-day activities almost immediately following treatment. The longevity of a collagen treatment varies, lasting anywhere from six weeks to six months or more. Over time, the body will naturally absorb the collagen, and additional treatments will be necessary to maintain the aesthetic enhancement.

Maintaining Results

Maintaining results from collagen treatment largely depends on the types of collagen fillers used. Bovine collagen treatment results typically last around six to twelve weeks; Autologen and Isolagen collagen treatments are generally performed in intervals for steady aesthetic improvement, with results ultimately lasting several months in many cases. The results of initial Dermalogen collagen treatments typically dissipate after several months.

Most collagen treatments require "touch up" injections two to four times a year to maintain results.

Risks and Benefits of Collagen Injections

Facial collagen injections are a safe and effective way to achieve shapely lips and smoother, less wrinkled skin. However, patients should be aware that the treatment does involve possible risks and complications, including allergic reactions, uneven skin tone around the treatment area, and infection. As with any cosmetic procedure, patients should have a thorough understanding of the risks and benefits of collagen treatment before deciding to undergo the procedure.

Treatment with collagen benefits patients by adding volume to the lips and smoothing out facial lines and wrinkles. However, as with any cosmetic treatment, there are also some risks. Learn the details of how collagen can help you, along with possible complications associated with collagen treatment, from the information provided below.

Collagen Benefits

Collagen injections have been used for decades to replenish the skin's suppleness and help maintain its youthful appearance. Collagen Replacement Therapy is a safe, non-surgical treatment that can even out facial lines and scars, as well as improve the look of specific parts of the body.

When utilized by a qualified cosmetic surgeon, collagen offers patients:

  • Smoother skin Fewer wrinkles and lines 
  • Defined lip lines 
  • Lip fullness 
  • Filling in of shallow acne scars 
  • Overall younger and fresher appearance 

Collagen benefits are not limited to the physical; there are psychological benefits as well. As you begin to look more like you did years ago, your confidence and self-image improve.

Risks and Possible Complications of Collagen Treatment

Collagen injections, although not considered surgical procedures, carry some of the same risks as cosmetic surgery. Risks include:

  • Bacterial infection 
  • A reaction to the anesthesia - liquid collagen injections contain a local anesthetic (lidocaine). 
  • Allergic reaction - collagen injections are derived from bovine collagen, so anyone who is allergic to bovine-derived products should not receive this treatment. 
  • Redness Swelling or bruising 
  • Itching 
  • Abscesses 
  • Open sores 
  • Peeling 
  • Scarring
  • Lumpiness 

In very rare cases, a shallow scar can form at the injection site. If you experience prolonged redness, swelling, itching, and firmness at the injection site, contact a physician immediately.

General Health Concerns

Women who are pregnant, patients with certain diseases of the autoimmune system, and people with allergies to various components of collagen are typically not approved for collagen treatment. One of the main risks of collagen injections is an allergic reaction. However, allergy tests are typically performed before treatment to determine if patients are allergic to components of the collagen being used. Your physician will give you a full evaluation at your initial consultation to determine if you are a candidate for collagen treatment.

DocShop Can Help You Locate a Doctor in Your Area

The decision of whether to have collagen injections should be made after consultation with a qualified dermatologist who can assess your physical condition and advise you on the specific collagen treatment that will help you achieve optimal results. Locate an experienced dermatologist in your area today to find out more about collagen injection treatment and cost.

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