Why That ‘Needle-Free Filler’ You’re Seeing on Instagram Might be a Bad Idea

Why That ‘Needle-Free Filler’ You’re Seeing on Instagram Might be a Bad Idea featured image

It’s called a Hyaluron Pen and it’s making big waves on social media. The trending “needle-free filler” treatment is prevalent in medspas and salons and is blowing up on Instagram—but what kind of filler is it, and is it safe?

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What It Is
Using a round-tip pen with a circular opening, the hyaluronic filler pen treatment uses pressure to deliver hyaluronic acid into the skin. “Hyaluronic acid is a water binding molecule, so this temporarily ‘fills’ the skin instead of injecting under the skin as with traditional HA injections,” explains Germantown, TN dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD. “They are popular in spa settings, as the administrator does not have to be a medical professional. The pen uses needles to penetrate the skin, so there are risks involved, especially if there is bleeding. Safety is in the hands of the injector, and it should be done in a medical or a medispa setting with a board-certified medical director. Risks include bleeding, bruising, infection—bacterial or cold sore activation—and asymmetric results.”

According to marketing materials used in salons and beauty bars, the ingredients are supposed to rejuvenate and lift the skin by “providing hydration and stimulating collagen production, leaving lips plump and wrinkles filled in.” Although advertisements boast results can last from four to 12 months like traditional filler, doctors say that claim seems rather unbelievable. 

What the Experts Say
According to Warwick, RI dermatologist Caroline Chang, MD, don’t expect filler-like longevity: “It reasonably will only penetrate the top layers of the skin which can give an immediate hydration effect, but that effect will be temporary. Most of the product does not even penetrate the skin and can be seen on the surface of the skin after the treatment.”

New Orleans dermatologist Mary Lupo, MD adds, “This is more than likely just a gimmick where the pressure makes the lip swell temporarily. Remember that uncrosslinked HA applied on the skin is broken down by naturally occurring hyaluronidase within hours.”

“There is no scientifically possible way that non-cross-linked hyaluronic acid would stay in the skin beyond a few days,” explains Ontario, Canada dermatologist Dusan Sajic, MD. “Their claim that it can last for many months despite not being crosslinked makes me very suspicious and almost confirms that this is a gimmick. Don’t trust anything that is not published in a peer-reviewed paper!”

Banned in Canada
On September 13, 2019, the Canadian department of public health announced, “needle-free dermal filler devices used for cosmetic skin treatments are not authorized in Canada and may pose health risks.” An Edmonton dermatology practice recently posted what they call a “Hyaluron Pen Intervention” on their Instagram page. The post shows Alberta, Canada dermatologist Zaki Taher, MD performing an emergency treatment to correct a Hyaluron Pen procedure that resulted in a blocked blood vessel in the lip. According to Dr. Taher, without intervention the patient could have had further lasting damage to her lip. 

The Final Verdict
“This is not the gold standard for lip plumping,” cautions Dr. Patel. “Given its popularity in nonmedical settings, safety is a concern. Once again buyer beware.”

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