Although botox has been around for many years and its safety and efficacy proven, the fear of looking “overdone” and expressionless remains. Aesthetic medicine has evolved to create an alternative: dermal or soft-tissue fillers, giving both women and men a more youthful appearance and boosting their self-confidence.

“I’m definitely seeing a lot of interest in non-invasive anti-ageing procedures like fillers in my practice,” says plastic surgeon Dr Gabriel Doucas of Pure Aesthetics in Johannesburg. “It’s about making small, almost unnoticeable changes that make patients feel better and more confident.”

Popular fillers like Restylane, Emervel and Juvederm consist of a gel formulation, which is injected into the skin to restore lost volume and smooth out lines and wrinkles. They’re mostly made up of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid – ingredients similar to those in anti-ageing creams. Because they’re injected directly into a specific target area, they work immediately and have been praised for their very natural effect.

Changing the way you look, and approach, business

Subtle changes boost self-esteem and, with it, the way you socialise, interact with others and even do business. “When we think we look good, we feel good. That affects the way we carry and present ourselves,” says Doucas. Your partner might not notice that your smile lines have smoothed out, but he’ll notice a bounce in your step.

Dr Salome Gurgenidze from aesthetic practice Radiance for You in Johannesburg agrees. “Some people are fortunate enough to always look happy and radiant, but many others live with negative emotions etched on their faces, irrespective of what they’re feeling. They’re often judged by that expression, which can severely impact their professional lives,” she says. Because our emotional responses are instinctual, they often show on our faces before we’re able to process them – and those around us pick up on those emotional cues just as quickly.

Gurgenidze believes this can also work in reverse. In his Facial Feedback Hypothesis study in 2002, Robert Soussignan proved that the construction of an expression will produce the subjective feeling of an emotion. “If you force your face to look sad or angry, the rest of your body will react as well and you may begin to actually feel those emotions,” he wrote.

Where does SA stand?

However, South Africans are still behind their European counterparts when it comes to education about these products. A study conducted by pharmaceutical company Allergan found that only one-third of respondents were aware of
facial fillers, compared with 83% of Europeans. South Africans expressed concerns regarding complications after the procedure and an unnatural-looking result.

“It’s crucial that aesthetic practitioners understand the intricate musculature of the face,” says Gurgenidze. “The ultimate aim is to help patients improve their features by achieving a positive, harmonious expression or eliminating a negative one, but without losing their individual charm.”