Everything You Need To Know About Cheek Fillers, According to Doctors

From risks to recovery times — and everything in between.

Close-up of the bottom half of a person's face
Photo: Image Source/Getty Images

Let's face it: images of faces plumped with filler are everywhere you look — whether you can spot them or not. According to a 2018 report published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, this is one trend that's not going anywhere, especially for one highly coveted feature in particular: sculpted cheekbones.

With the help of renowned double board-certified facial plastic surgeons Dr. Dara Liotta and Dr. Lesley Rabach, as well as "clean" skincare pioneer Dr. Macrene Alexiades, we break down the basics of cheek fillers to give curious minds all the need-to-know info.

Find out more about how the procedure works, how long it lasts, and the risk factors, ahead.

What Are Cheek Fillers?

Basically, cheek fillers are injectables that aim to make skin look plumper and more contoured (think: a more chiseled or highlighted appearance). "Cheekbone filler is a truly amazing way to refresh your appearance in a natural-looking way," says Dr. Rabach.

How Do Cheek Fillers Work?

Cheekbone filler is a cosmetic procedure that involves injecting a gel-like formulation under the skin to increase vibrancy or restore volume from signs of aging. The process is completely tailored to your specific needs, goals, and anatomy in order to enhance your natural bone structure. Cheek filler is most commonly used to add more lift to the outermost part of the cheekbone and bring more light up around the eyes, Dr. Liotta tells us. It's also used to boost volume at the apples of your cheeks to eliminate areas of shadow, she adds. "The good and the bad of fillers is that they're not permanent," says Dr. Liotta. In fact, cheek filler is an excellent shorter-term solution to correct asymmetry and achieve facial balance and harmony.

What Type of Filler is Best for Cheeks?

"There are two main types of filler that are best for the cheek area," says Dr. Rabach. "One is hyaluronic-based filler Juvdérm Voluma and the other is called Radiesse, which mimics bone." Dr. Rabach frequently combines the two types of filler for enhanced, albeit natural-looking, results. Meanwhile, Dr. Liotta exclusively favors HA-based fillers due to the fact that they can be dissolved in the very unlikely event that they need to be removed.

How Long Will Cheek Filler Last?

So in order to sustain your cheeks' newfound fullness, Dr. Liotta says you'll have to plan on repeat injections about every one to two years. The lifespan of cheek fillers will depend on the type and amount of filler used. Also, your metabolism can impact longevity, as each person's body chemistry absorbs filler a little differently, notes Dr. Rabach.

How Much Does it Cost?

The price of filler tends to vary by geographic region and doctor experience, in addition to what kind of filler and how much of it is used. Generally, for an appointment with a reputable, experienced board-certified dermatologist or surgeon, you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $1,500 per syringe. While injectables can be costly, it goes without saying: don't bargain shop when it comes to your face.

What Should I Know About Recovery and Aftercare?

"The beauty of this treatment is precisely how incredible the result is with essentially no downtime," says Dr. Rabach. Still, she recommends skipping the gym on the day of your procedure and popping a Tylenol if the soreness becomes uncomfortable.

Bruising and swelling, although uncommon, are best soothed by applying an ice pack. While the affected area may be a little tender to the touch for the next day or so, it typically feels like nothing more than what Dr. Rabach calls "a faint bruise."

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Are There Risks or Side Effects?

Often, the biggest risk with cheek filler, or filler period, is not knowing when to cool it. "Filler is biostimulatory," says Dr. Alexiades, founder of Dermatology & Laser Surgery Center of New York and Associate Clinical Professor at Yale University School of Medicine. What that means is that skin is stimulated to expand to accommodate the injection. So if skin is overstimulated (aka overfilled), you can expect adverse reactions: "[cheeks] end up looking round, almost like softballs, overinflated, and sometimes have a dimply appearance," Dr. Alexiades cautions. To avoid such a scenario, check in with yourself to make sure your goals are realistic and listen to your doctor if they discourage the procedure. And although it's rare, if you experience any sensory loss or severe pain post-procedure, reach out to your doctor immediately.

What if I Hate My Results?

One of the most important steps to ensure you're happy with your cheek filler is to leave no stone unturned when researching a prospective doctor. This includes taking a long, hard look at the before-and-afters on their site to ensure their work vibes with your vision. "You need to choose someone who has an aesthetic that you trust," emphasizes Dr. Liotta. "Beauty is, of course, subjective, and overdoing it can make a body positive decision to get filler into a regretful waste of money."

If you're feeling a little unsure about your results, try to hold judgment for about two weeks post-procedure to let any lingering swelling subside, but if you're still anything less than totally happy, you can have your provider dissolve hyaluronic acid-based fillers with an injection of hyaluronidase, which Dr. Liotta says should work within 48 hours.

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