Beauty


Antoni Bernard/Blaublut Edition/August

I’m sitting in the office of New York dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, letting her repeatedly and systematically stick a needle into my face. Her panoply of pricks—I’ve counted at least 60—is quick, but I made the mistake of declining preprocedure numbing cream, and it hurts. This isn’t Botox, nor is it standard filler, but it is supposed to make me look like I’ve been permanently Instagram-filtered.

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I first learned about this procedure, called skin-boosting, at a beauty-industry dinner in Switzerland, where I was seated next to a Russian editor whose skin was so plump and dewy it glistened. Her secret, she explained, was that every six months, a dermatologist injected tiny amounts of hyaluronic acid (HA), the supremely moisturizing ingredient found in most face creams, all over her face. “It’s about 100 injections,” she said, casually returning to her meal. “Everyone in Moscow is doing it.”

This isn’t Botox, nor is it standard filler, but it is supposed to make me look like I’ve been permanently Instagram-filtered.

The treatment is common in Europe, where Juvéderm Volite, an ultrathin HA gel designed for shallow injections, was approved last year. HA, a naturally occurring sugar, is typically used for deep, volumizing injections, thanks to its ability to hold 1,000 times its molecular weight in water, but when delivered diffusely just beneath the skin’s surface, it can smooth lines and bolster elasticity for up to nine months. Because Volite is not yet FDA-approved (though it’s expected to be by 2019), enterprising dermatologists like Engelman have developed their own off-label techniques with existing FDA-approved HA fillers, such as lip enhancer Volbella: diluting them with saline, and injecting microdroplets of the solution from forehead to chin.

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Engelman’s method consists of up to 100 injections of a 50/50 solution of Volbella and saline, depending on the patient’s needs (pricing begins at $3,000). “HA plumps from within, so you’ll get immediate textural improvement,” she says as she works her way around my wincing face. “But you’re also going to see long-term benefits in firmness because dermal fillers build collagen and elastin.” Indeed, she’s found the procedure to be most popular with younger patients: “For millennials, who want Fraxel, fillers, and Botox earlier than previous generations, this is a great global preventive. It’s like injecting anti-aging cream into the skin.”

My face feels increasingly silkier and bouncier to the touch, and it requires vastly less moisturizer.

When she’s done, she hands me a mirror. The good news: Despite being blotchy, I don’t look crazy. The not-so-good news: Tiny blue dots under my eyes augur nascent bruises. For nearly a week, I look like a prizefighter, but as my double shiners fade, everything else continues to improve. My face feels increasingly silkier and bouncier to the touch, and it requires vastly less moisturizer.

I’m thrilled with the results, but dermatologist Annie Chiu, MD, of Redondo Beach, California, who has been conducting U.S. trials for Volite, advises patients to wait until the specialized filler is available before going under the needle. “The problem is that everyone’s technique is different,” she says. “Most don’t know what injection pattern would be optimal or what depth to put microdroplets in.” Volite will provide greater safety and standardization.

The subtle but significant changes I see in my complexion plateau after about two weeks. Do I look 10 years younger? No. But my skin is juicier and more radiant. Even the cigarette-paper crepiness under my eyes is noticeably diminished. For this, I would face a thousand more needles—but next time, numb me, please.

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of ELLE.

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