Are there any truly effective dermal filler alternatives? That depends on what you want to achieve for your skin. Fillers are designed to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and to plump up skin volume in areas that have been affected by aging. These are goals that can also be achieved in a number of other ways. Here are a few dermal filler alternatives to consider:

Topical Products

There are many, many wrinkle creams on the market that claim to reduce the appearance of fine lines. These may resurface the skin by removing the dead, outer layer of the epidermis and promoting more rapid turnover of skin cells. The improvement in fine lines from these products is typically minor and may require many weeks of application to show results.

Products that act by plumping and tightening the outer layer skin may also provide temporary improvement in the appearance of fine lines (this effect wears off quickly). Such products include lip plumping creams that actually work by causing mild irritation to the delicate lip tissue, making it swell. Firming creams for the face often include ingredients that make light bounce off the skin in a way that reduces the appearance of shadows. This optical illusion makes skin look smoother without actually affecting its texture.

Be aware that wrinkle creams that claim to penetrate through the skin and stimulate collagen production are unlikely to actually provide the benefits advertised. Such products would have to be FDA approved for marketing as drugs if they actually did what the label claims. These creams are not true dermal filler alternatives.

Minimally Invasive Skin Resurfacing

Microdermabrasion, medium-depth chemical peels, and non-ablative laser resurfacing are all options for treating fine lines. Microdermabrasion only removes the very top layers of the epidermis. However, medium-strength chemical peels and laser treatments affect the skin at a deeper layer and may help build more collagen in the skin during healing. Microdermabrasion has no down time while chemical peels and laser resurfacing do entail taking a break. The wrinkle correction is mild-to-moderate with these dermal filler alternatives. So, they may not show much improvement for deep folds like the nasolabial lines that reach from the corners of the nostrils to the edges of the mouth. In fact, many patients choose to have dermal filler treatment and skin resurfacing to provide the full amount of skin correction possible.

Non-Invasive Collagen Stimulation

There are a number of skin-tightening products that claim to work by promoting collagen production without actually resurfacing the skin. These include Thermage (a radiofrequency treatment), Titan (laser stimulation) and IPL (intense pulsed light). Some patients report seeing modest improvement after these treatments while others say results are not noticeable.

Facial Implants and Grafting

Dermal filler alternatives for rebuilding or reshaping facial contours include implants and fat grafting. Lip and cheek implants are made of soft silicone and inserted via small incisions. This kind of augmentation is reserved for patients who want a substantial change in the size or shape of their facial features. Plastic surgeons usually recommend trying dermal fillers first to ensure the patient really wants to make these changes permanent.

Autologous fat grafting involves harvesting the patient’s fat, processing it to maximize the chances of successful grafting and injecting it into the treatment area. Fat can be used to fill in areas that have become hollow-looking with age (such as the temples and cheeks). It is also commonly used for lip plumping and treating deep nasolabial folds. This is a much more expensive treatment than dermal fillers. In addition, there is no guarantee that the fat graft will “take.” Some or all of the fat cells may die and be absorbed by the body. However, if the treatment is successful, it may provide long-lasting and very realistic results.