Silicone has been widely used for cosmetic treatments in Thailand in the past several decades. Whether it is silicone bars for a nose job or liquid silicone-filled bags for breast augmentation, the word "silicone" has secured its place in the cosmetic surgery glossary over many years.
Given the popularity of cosmetic silicone, the recent news regarding the Medical Council of Thailand considering a ban of a particular type of filler _ liquid silicone _ for cosmetic purposes has raised numerous questions, especially among cosmetic surgery enthusiasts regarding the safety of the material. The Medical Council reasoned against liquid silicone saying that it is likely to cause unwanted side effects on the skin. Silicone in the form of liquid can also penetrate through skin layers and flow to other parts of the body resulting in inflammation, swelling, distorted organ shapes or even death.
Secretary-general of the Dermatological Society of Thailand Dr Rataporn Ungpakorn said there are several downsides to a liquid silicone injection and, as a result, the method is not used by certified healthcare providers.
"Liquid silicone has not been approved by Thailand's Food and Drug Administration," said Dr Rataporn. "It is a non-resolvable substance that can potentially cause long-term side effects."
The injection of liquid silicone as a dermal filler became a public issue after a well-known beauty clinic chain used what they claimed to be their own technology to liquify hard silicone and used it for cosmetic injections.
On the back of this announcement, the popularity of liquid silicone injections skyrocketed as the technique is cheaper and rendered faster effects than the conventional use of hard silicone, commonly inserted into the body parts through invasive surgery such as rhinoplasty or chin augmentation.
Nonetheless, according to Dr Rataporn, liquid silicone is not considered a dermal filler.
''Liquid silicone and dermal fillers are different things,'' said the dermatologist and cosmetic laser specialist. ''Fillers are substances used to fill the missing volume of skin, lost through ageing.
''When liquid silicone was used for similar purposes, people believed it was also a type of dermal filler. Actually the FDA does not even have liquid silicone on their approved list of fillers.''
There are three types of dermal fillers _ temporary or fast resolvable filler, semi-permanent or slowly resolvable filler, and permanent or non-resolvable filler. Doctors decide which type of fillers are to be used on which part of the face and the body. Small-molecule fillers are suitable for fine lines and wrinkles while the large-molecule type is to fix deeper ones.
In most certified healthcare providers and beauty clinics, resolvable dermal fillers are usually used as they are basically safe and rarely cause adverse side effects nor allergic reactions. Also, the FDA-approved resolvable fillers are created and designed with the structure and components as close to human skin as possible.
And due to the fact that facial shapes are, to some certain extent, a subject of fashion, fillers that can be resolved allows more chances for ''fashionable faces''.
''One significant advantage of resolvable fillers is that it lasts only for a period,'' said Dr Rataporn. ''So if you do not like the way the filler makes your face look, you can just wait until its effect disappears and inject a new one. Or if you like it, you can decide to go for it again. But conversely, non-resolvable fillers will not go anywhere no matter how you like it. Your face will become out of fashion or, worse, the filler will move to other locations where it is not supposed to be.'' Using fillers that are not approved by the FDA is simply a threat to health. But using liquid silicone as dermal fillers is even worse.
''First, liquid silicone is unresolvable, which means it stays forever,'' the skin doctor explained. ''Second, because it is liquid, it can flow anywhere. You may see people opting for a nose job that need to insert hard silicone into their nose by means of invasive surgery. And then if you do not like it, the hard silicone can be taken out because it stays in one place. But how can you take out liquid silicone from your body if the liquid goes places?''
Then what about liquid silicone used for breast implants?
''Liquid silicone used for breast augmentation is in a practically unbreakable package. So again if you do not like it, you can just take out the whole bag,'' the doctor added.
The need for cosmetic treatments, especially filler injection, is indeed a matter of perspective. But Dr Rataporn has some advice for those who wish to make themselves look young by means of dermal filler injection.
Choosing a trustworthy healthcare provider is a must, he said, because it also comes with experienced and reliable specialists plus good-quality medical equipment and cosmetic products which are FDA-approved and safe to use.
''Side effects [of dermal fillers] can start from the injection process. Piercing the needle through the skin, if carried out improperly, can cause broken blood vessels resulting in bruises or swelling.
''And if large-molecule filler is not injected deep enough, the affected skin area will become wavy. If the filler is accidentally injected into blood vessels, the substance can potentially lead to blood clotting, which is life-threatening.
''Even though all these side effects are not commonly found, it all apparently depends on whether or not you choose to undergo the treatment with qualified and experienced doctors,'' the doctor said.
And before opting for not just dermal fillers but also other cosmetic treatments, it is paramount that consumers do some thorough study on the procedure. And, more importantly, information they obtain should be from reliable sources.
''You need to know how the treatment would affect you, but not from reading it on the internet,'' warned the specialist. ''You may also ask for a second or third medical opinion until you are certain about what you are about to undergo. Bear in mind that whatever it is that is going to be injected into your body must be carefully considered and you must be really patient before making a decision.''
Liquid silicone used for breast implants comes in a practically unbreakable package, which prevents the substance from leaking into other parts of the body.
Howwell do you know fillers?
Fillers are injectable liquid substances used to correct lines and wrinkles mostly caused by ageing. Basically, collagen is the major structural protein in the skin, which plays a crucial role in terms of the skin's flexibility and strength. As we age, the amount of collagen in the skin gradually decreases resulting in some significant physical changes, including thinner skin, deeper lines and wrinkles. Fillers are therefore designed to ''fill'' the missing collagen in the skin.
About the author
- Writer: Arusa Pisuthipan
Position: Muse Editor