Exactly What To Expect From Lip Fillers

I have always loved to modify my look. From low stakes, easy-to-reverse alterations (nail extensions, spray tanning, hair coloring), to the permanent (a scattering of large tattoos across my body), I am pretty much down for anything.

Well, not anything: I do NOT take big risks with my face. It’s probably important to factor in that I make beauty products for a living. I’ve worked on the product development team at Glossier for three years, and testing out products and staring at myself in the mirror to track their effects is a big part of my job. I get really research-happy before trying new skin treatments outside of work. After all, a consequence of analyzing your face all day is that any impulsive decision will always stare back at you.

This year, however, I finally mustered up the courage to make a few small changes, starting out with a mole removal and then lip fillers. While these kinds of tweaks seem to be more common than ever, with doctors’ Instagram accounts devoted to documenting the process, there’s less transparency when it comes to the patient’s experience. I wanted to know: What do these procedures look like the morning after? How do we incorporate the addition of foreign goops into our faces and go back into the world boldly, but maybe also a little bit bruised and swollen? I couldn’t find the information I needed, so I have volunteered to walk you through the secret life of the freshly injected.

After surveying a group of my injected friends and doing some intensive Instagram shopping, I decided to visit the Plump Injectables Clinic on the UES for some lip fillers. What I liked about Plump is that they specialize in cosmetic treatments. Everyone has their own perspective, but I would rather put my face in the hands of someone who does this, than with someone who does lip fillers from time to time. At Plump I met Derm NP Kelsey Salvatico and I felt completely at ease in her hands. She understood exactly what I was going for: noticeable, but not too noticeable. The needles freaked me out a little, but a combination of numbing cream and her very light touch laddered up to virtually zero pain. The process was actually easy? What took me so long!? Here’s the play-by-play of my journey:


I feel that my natural lips are “just fine.” Nothing special. Two weeks leading up to my appointment I follow Kelsey and Plump’s pre-injection recommendations, but am emotionally prepared to look busted as I am known to collect bruises completing simple house tasks (coffee table = shin enemy).

Kelsey recommends that I avoid fish oil, vitamin E, and ginkgo biloba to lower my chances of bruising, and to increase my intake of vitamin K-rich foods (i.e. spinach, kale, celery), and pineapple, which is naturally rich in Bromelin, a superstar anti-inflammatory ingredient. I order these Bromelin supplements off of Amazon and add pineapple to my weekly FreshDirect order.

I also start taking Arnica supplements. Kelsey says these are key to speeding up healing and decreasing bruising—my ultimate goal. Not only do they calm inflammation and prevent fluid build up (sorry, gross), but also provide moderate pain relief. She recommends applying a combination of topical Arnica and vitamin K two to three times daily, until I’m fully healed (FYI they sell this topical and oral combo at Plump and I used it throughout the first week—big fan of the roller ball). I also avoid blood thinners like Aspirin.

The supplements are easy enough. But the final and arguably most important tip is to avoid alcohol for 24 hours pre and post injections. Now, when the only time you can get with the injector you want is the day after Glossier’s holiday party, refraining from alcohol is next to impossible. I succumb to multiple tequila sodas the night before my appointment. This is probably not the best idea, and I am sure this lack of self-control will contribute to heavy bruising in the days to follow.

Immediately Post-Injection: Excitement!

immediate post

I love my lips! I can’t believe I was so afraid to do this. They do not look “too done” and I feel comfortable riding the subway home. I got just under 1mL (~0.8mL) of dermal filler, which I think was just the right amount. If you’re looking to go bigger, know that the more filler you use, the more likely you are to bruise. (Other bruising factors include skin that is sun damaged or mature.)

Later That Night: The “Uglies” Start

Per Plump’s instructions, I have been icing all evening and applying the topical Arnica to reduce swelling and bruising, but I have a bad feeling about tomorrow morning. As instructed, I also double up on my pillows at night so I can stay elevated and wake up less puffy.

Day 1: A Few BLumps In The Road

A lot of visible bruising, swelling and lumpiness. I spend the whole day icing and watching old episodes of Viva La Bam on iTunes. Eating and drinking is weird. I hide from the world.

Day 2: House Arrest

Woof. Another day of not leaving the house. I feel sure that my bruising is worse than average and I have many hard, purple lumps at the injection sites.

Day 3: Time To Go Outside

day 3

I venture out to see my friend in Chelsea. I feel comfortable taking the subway with a hat and some lip makeup on. She tells me my lips look great but they feel so weird and swollen that I am second guessing my decision (this feeling fades acutely after 48 hours).

Day 4: Things Are Loooking Up

Bruising is still pretty visible, but swelling is going down. I am happy that I chose a long weekend to do this because the injections are still very evident.

Day 5: Hiding In Plain Sight

day 5

Finally feeling confident, which is good ‘cause it’s time to go to work. Wearing Glossier Lip Gloss in Red to hide some discoloration while adding shine and hydration. Some people notice I got my lips done and others don’t. I find them very obvious.

Day 6: The Blob

I text Kelsey to ask if I should massage my lips if they are lumpy: all is well when my mouth is relaxed, but a blob of filler is still evident when I smile. She tells me I should and that this is normal (at this point lumpiness is my only concern).

Days 7-10: Massage Envy

kelly days 7-10

I am massaging and the lumpiness continues to subside every day. I am smitten. No unevenness or bruising or ugliness.

Days 11-14: Home Stretch

The fillers have finally settled and I have no regrets (except I almost want a little more in my bottom lip)! I understand why Kelsey recommends scheduling injections one to two months prior to any big event. This allows for the dermal filler to settle and for any bruising and swelling to resolve. The absolute closest to an event that she would treat a patient is two weeks.

The Takeaways

Follow your injector’s suggestions because they definitely know best. I believe the Arnica and Bromelin I took helped the swelling subside more quickly, and I am sure the tequila did not help my already easily bruisable skin. Next time I will refrain and see if the healing experience has improved. I say next time because there will certainly be a next time.

—Kelly Wilbur

Photos via the author

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