Why People Are Confused about Facial Fillers and Relaxants

In this blog, I will give you an overview of the difference between facial fillers and relaxants utilized by our team at the Whole Beauty® Institute to optimize facial appearance.  All of these are non-surgical therapies and can be injected with a fine needle during a visit to one of our offices.  When used with intelligence and artistry, these injectables can provide our patients with a wonderful freshening of their facial appearance with very little downtime.  In fact, many of our patients who undergo injectable therapy return to work or social interaction within a few hours of treatment.  Our Chicago area patients want to know more about facial fillers.

Many patients who come to us for their first visit are confused about the difference between muscle relaxants, such as Botox®, and fillers, such as Restylane®.  If you are similarly confused I hope that this short discussion will provide helpful clarity.

There are three general categories of materials that can be injected into the face for medical aesthetic reasons.

First, there are relaxants, which are used to soften the activity of the muscles that produce frown lines between the brows or squint lines in the crow’s feet area.  Since the muscle contracts less forcefully after treatment, the grooves and furrows in these areas become less deep.

A second category includes injectable fillers.  Possibilities include collagen, a natural sugar known as hyaluronic acid, and the patient’s own fat.  The purpose of the injectible filler is not to relax muscle, but to fill in grooves and lines that are either the result of expressive activity of the facial muscles or the descent of structures that occurs with the aging process.  A common example is the nasolabial fold where the upper lip meets the cheek; as people age, this natural fold deepens because of the way the cheek settles.

The reason people are confused about the difference between fillers and relaxants is that in certain areas they can be used to treat the same thing.  The best example is the frown lines that develop in certain people between the brows.  These can make a person look tired or angry.  If these frown lines disappear entirely when a person voluntarily relaxes the frown muscles completely, treatment with a relaxant such as Botox® can be highly effective.  Within a few days of treatment, the relaxant will take effect; since the frown muscles are softened, the expression lines will disappear until the relaxant wears off after a few months.  Some people after years of frowning will develop memory creases in the area of the frown lines.  Even when they are not contracting the muscle there will be a groove.  The years of expressive activity will have thinned out the skin in the area of the frown line.  In this case, the combination of a relaxant (to quiet the muscle) and a filler (to correct the groove) is optimum therapy.

Grooves that do not come about because of overactive muscles, but are really a result of structural descent should be treated with fillers, not relaxants.  The nasolabial fold, where the upper lip and cheek meet, deepens as the cheek loses its tone during the aging process.  It would be a mistake to treat this fold with a relaxant since it does not come about as a result of muscle activity.  On the other hand, one of the fillers such as Restylane®, Juvederm®, Radiesse®, or Evolence® can help to fill in the depression.  This produces a softer, fresher appearance.

I will mention a third category of injectibles only to warn against it.  Every now and then I hear of some practitioner who is squirting a “fat-melting” material into the face in an attempt to reduce fullness in the eyelid or cheek area.  The chance of getting a good result from this is virtually nil and there is a significant likelihood of serious complications.  I would suggest that you check the credentials of any practitioner who proposes this type of treatment to you; you might be surprised by what you discover.

You can learn more about the difference between facial fillers and relaxants in other blogs in this series.

In our offices in Chicago and Winnetka, we see patients from all over Chicago including the Gold Coast, River North, Old Town, Near North, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Uptown,  Hyde Park,  Evanston, Wilmette, Libertyville, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Deerfield, Northbrook, Northfield, Glenview, Barrington, and many other areas of the city and suburbs as well as patients from other states such as California,  New York, Wisconsin and Indiana and outside the country from England, Denmark, and Japan to name a few.