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You are here: Anti-Aging Skin Treatments > Invasive Methods >

Facial implants: Bridging the beauty gaps

You only get one chance at a first impression. Regrettably (or not, depending on your personal phylosophy) a lot of the first impression we make comes from the way we look. While various bodily imperfections can be masked by carefully chosen clothes and posture, the face is always out there, for all to see. This makes a "proper" balance of facial features quite important. For instance, a small chin can make the nose appear big. Furthermore, certain facial features are associated (often erroneously) with undesirable traits of character: a receding chin may be seen as a sign of weakness; people with less than prominent cheekbones may appear tired or sad.

Facial implants - relatively hard pieces of biocompatible material - can enhance facial features and give a boost to your self-esteem. Implants are most effective at the sides of the nose, chin, jaw, cheeks, and edge of the eye socket. Chin, cheek and jaw implants are the most common. Cheekbone implants can come in somewhat different shapes/sizes and are chosen individually, while most chin implants look vaguely like a chin guard. Once in place, they should create natural, strong lines.

Surgeons may use natural or synthetic materials as implants: solid silicone, coral-based natural hydroxyapatite, or the patient’s own body tissue and cartilage (which have to be harvested in additional surgery). All these materials have their own benefits (for example, hydroxyapatite integrates well with the bone tissue while silicone does not and can be easily removed later), but ultimately the choice will depend on your goals and tolerances (including allergies). You should discuss your options with your surgeon.

The implantation procedure

Facial implant surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure under local anaesthesia and can last between 30 minutes and one hour, while some jaw implants may take up to two hours. The surgeon will usually make an incision inside the mouth (an intraoral incision), or an external incision (in the lower eyelid for cheek implants, or beneath the chin for chin implants). The surgeon will then make a pocket adjacent to the hard cheekbone, chin, or jaw, and place the pre-selected implant into the pocket, closing the incision with sutures. The surgeon will put tape or bandage over the implant to keep it in place and reduce swelling and general discomfort. The patient usually can be taken home to rest – but make sure there is somebody to take you home and stay with you for the first night. A short hospital stay may sometimes be required.

The cost of placing implants (including the surgeon’s, anaesthesiologist’s and facility fees, and the implant itself) may range from about $2,000 for a simple implant to $5,000 or more for multiple implants. Since face implants take relatively little time and are a rather light surgery, they are often combined with face lifts, rhinoplasty ("nose job") or other facial procedures, to reduce cost and compress the combined recovery time.

Recovery and results

Talking and smiling, as well as moving parts of the face close to the implants can be difficult for several days. Also, you may have to stick to rinsing your mouth for several days, as brushing can disrupt the healing process. The area above the implants may become black and blue and swelling is to be expected, especially in one or two days after the surgery. Internal stitches dissolve within 10 days, external stitches have to be removed after about the same amount of time. Thus, recovery is fast, and most patients do not have to take more than one week off work. Some residual swelling is likely to linger for several months, somewhat obscuring the effect of facial implants.

The result of facial implants is usually not so much a different appearance, but rather a better appearance, and casual observers tend to note that former patients "look good" rather than "different". Some degree of facial asymmetry is normal with or without implants, but balance and proportions of your face are likely to improve with competently placed implants. The results of facial implants are generally long-lasting.

Risks and complications

Some unpleasant effects (like bruising and swelling) are normal and should subside within a few days. Serious complications are rare, although possible. Complications may or may not be ralated to the specific mateial the implant is made of. One of the safest implant materials is solid silicone, which, unlike silicone gel implants, does not leak.

More serious complications for facial implant surgery include hematoma, infection, anaesthesia risks, nerve damage resulting in altered skin sensitivity, scarring and lingering pain. Some of these side effects are transient and resolve of their own; others (e.g. infections) will require a physician’s attention; yet others, such as altered skin sensitivity, may continue indefinitely.

A facial implant can shift out of alignment and may have to be re-inserted. If there’s an infection, and if it does not go away after it is treated with antibiotics, the implant may have to be removed and reinserted at a later time. Facial implants are not a good idea if you are taking certain kinds of medication, such as anticoagulants or Accutane® which affects bone growth.

As with most surgerical procedures, non-smokers in good physical health are much less likely to have complications. The surgeon’s experience is also a factor, as is following his instructions before and after the surgery. Make sure you discuss possible complications and your response with your surgeon and/or your physician. It is also important to remember that, since facial implant is elective surgery, neither it nor its complications may be covered by your insurance plan.

Alternatives to facial implants

If you are experiencing substantial problems with your health, making even minor surgery too much of a risk, you may consider less invasive alternatives, such as dermal fillers. (For details, see our section on fillers.) Keep in mind that many (albeit not all) dermal fillers are temporary and require repeated treatment over time.

Bottom line

Facial implants can be a durable alternative to repeated treatments with injectable fillers. Also, some facial improvements implants can provide are not fully achievable with injectable fillers. The implants may give you a stronger facial outline, enhance your appearance and boost your self-esteem. On the other hand, placement of facial implants is a significant surgical intervention with all the associated risks and costs. Depending on the changes you are looking for and the state of your general health, facial implants may be appropriate for you – as long as you have realistic expectations.


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