Soft tissue injections

March 22, 2017


Soft tissue injections

Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • Injectable fillers, injectable collagen, injectable fat, soft tissue fillers.


  • Soft tissue fillers are injected underneath the skin as a cosmetic procedure to reduce lines and wrinkles, usually on the face. Fillers are usually used on the face because lines and wrinkles are usually the most visible on this part of the body. After the procedure, these fillers thereby give the skin a smoother appearance.

  • The soft tissue fillers that are injected under the skin take one of two forms: collagen or fat.

  • The collagen used as a soft tissue filler may be derived from the body tissue of a cow or from human cells and some of these fillers are synthetic. The fat used as a soft tissue filler is taken from another part of the patient's own body and injected into the desired site.

  • Soft tissue injections are most often applied to the face. Wrinkle lines most often appear in areas where the most muscle movement occurs. For this reason, the areas treated with collagen injections are the forehead and around the eyes and mouth.

  • The effects of injectable fillers are not usually permanent, and it is difficult to predict how long the collagen or fat will remain at the site before being metabolized by the body. Reabsorption depends on factors such as age and genetics. For this reason, some individuals choose to have soft tissue fillers injected into their skin on multiple occasions.


  • Before the procedure, an individual arranges an appointment with a plastic surgeon. The individual discusses cosmetic concerns with the doctor, and the doctor discusses treatment options. Based on the patient's skin and the area where the procedure will be performed, the doctor and patient choose the type and brand of filler that will be injected into the skin. If soft tissue injections are decided upon as a treatment, then the patient makes an appointment for the actual procedure.

  • Soft tissue injections are usually performed at a doctor's office. However, if the soft tissue procedure is combined with a more surgically invasive procedure, such as a facelift, the patient may have the injections performed at a hospital.

  • Collagen injections: Some patients are allergic to the collagen used in soft tissue injections. In order to screen for this allergy, the doctor injects the patient with a very small amount of collagen three to four weeks prior to the scheduled procedure. Patients who experience an allergic reaction are not able to have all of the desired areas of their body treated with the soft tissue injections.

  • The collagen used in soft tissue injections is available in several different brands. A painkiller called lidocaine is usually mixed into the collagen. However, some doctors also apply a painkiller to the surface of the skin as well. The doctor injects the collagen into several places along the undesired wrinkles or lines. The patient may feel some stinging or burning around the area. The doctor may put a pre-determined amount of collagen into each area; however, in some cases, the patient holds a hand mirror and tells the doctor when to stop injecting collagen. Some individuals have swelling, itching or reddening at the injection site for up to a week after the procedure.

  • Fat injections: This type of soft tissue injection takes fat from one part of the body and transfers small amounts of it underneath the facial skin. Typically, this fat is taken from the thighs, buttocks or stomach; this is called the donor site. The fat is removed using a very large needle attached to a liposuction machine. The fat from the donor site is then cleaned of impurities and injected into the face using a much smaller needle. The area receiving the fat that came from the donor site is called the recipient site. Both of these sites are numbed before the procedure begins. If a patient chooses sedative drugs to feel drowsy during the procedure, then they are required to arrange for a friend or family member to return them home after the procedure. The doctor typically injects more fat than what may seem necessary into the face because the body slowly absorbs its own fat after the procedure. Some swelling, redness and bruising is common at either or both the donor and injection sites.


  • Skin is thought to change composition and show characteristics of aging as a result of factors such as facial muscle movement and sun exposure over time. Also, the composition of skin tissue naturally changes as a part of the aging process as well. Wrinkles or lines on the face may result from these processes. Soft tissue injection reverses the appearance of this aging process by filling in the lines that result from the effects of time on the skin. Soft tissue injections do not change the composition of the skin or reverse factors that cause a change in its appearance; however, the injections may conceal the wrinkles or lines that occur as a result of these processes.

  • A 2007 article by Gladstone et al. reviewed the adverse effects that may result from soft tissue injections. The authors discussed that although some undesired effects may occur in the short term, others may only manifest after time. The most commonly reported short-term side effect is bruising while the most common long-term side effect is tissue death (also called necrosis).


  • Some patients may have an allergic reaction to soft tissue injections. Patients who think they are having an allergic reaction to the material that was injected should contact their health care provider immediately.

  • Pregnant women, individuals allergic to the painkiller lidocaine, and those with autoimmune disorders should not receive soft tissue injection procedures.

  • The outcome of treatment with the injections is never completely predictable.

  • Scarring, lumpiness or other permanent changes in the skin may occur at or around the injection site.

  • Other risks associated with soft tissue injections include the possibility of infection, abscesses, open sores, and the skin peeling at the injection site.

Author Information

  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. www.aad.org.

  2. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. www.plasticsurgery.org.

  3. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). www.fda.gov.

  4. Gladstone HB, Cohen JL. Adverse effects when injecting facial fillers. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2007 Mar;26(1):34-9. View Abstract

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017