Procedure in preview

September 1, 2008

You want to change your look a little - maybe fill out your cheeks, plump up your lips or smooth out the profile of your nose - but you want to check the look out first before you commit because you want to be sure it's right for you.

You want to change your look a little - maybe fill out your cheeks, plump up your lips or smooth out the profile of your nose - but you want to check the look out first before you commit because you want to be sure it's right for you.

So, what's a girl to do?

One option you have is to "test drive" the look with a temporary filler before you actually decide to undergo a permanent procedure.

"Occasionally, someone will come in and say, 'I think I want my lips done, but I don't want to look like Angelina Jolie.' We can inject saline solution in the lips - it's very fast, lasts for about an hour, and gives the patient a pretty good idea" of what to expect by simulating the look, but not the feel, of a permanent procedure.

Even though using fillers for test drives is relatively rare, it does have its place, Dr. Niamtu notes. First, he says, it can give you a good idea of what to expect if you proceed with a permanent filler or implant. And second, and perhaps more importantly, it gives you a safety net to decide that a look is not for you before you undergo a more permanent procedure.

First impressions

With any procedure, it's important that a patient's expectations are as reasonable as possible. For this reason, Dr. Niamtu says, "Before I do a lip implant, I always do a filler first. People get impulsive and impetuous, and maybe jump into something they won't like in the end. I tell them if they like the look they get with the fillers, then we can proceed with an implant."

If you want your chin or cheeks changed, Dr. Niamtu says the surgeon can show you the potential end result using an implant as a template. The surgeon traces around the implant on your skin, then injects that area. This gives you a preview of what look a particular implant will provide.

Even if you have a hump in your nose, a temporary filler can give you an idea of whether or not you want surgery to correct the hump. While a temporary filler "obviously won't reduce the hump," Dr. Niamtu says, "it does give the impression of doing so. The same can be said for fillers' use to check out the look for upturning the tip of the nose, for instance. It's not actually changing the shape, but rather giving an impression of what an end result would look like."

Of course, there are other options available for you to test drive a look, but none of them are foolproof, Dr. Niamtu stresses. In addition to using temporary fillers or saline to see how you would look, computer-imaging software is frequently used as a noninvasive mode of showing before and after images.

Filler foibles

How can you feel assured that your "preview" look represents what your actual result will be?

"I don't think you can, totally," Dr. Niamtu notes. "Even with computer imaging, I'm creating a 'computer cartoon.' If I tried, I could make anyone look like the Mona Lisa." Computer imaging is popular and noninvasive, while an injection requires you to undergo a procedure. But at least with a filler test drive, you see the potential in real-time, and it's "a fairly reasonable facsimile."

There are also instances in which Dr. Niamtu would advise against filler test drives. No doctor should ever use a filler to try and sell a permanent procedure. If you feel that a doctor uses a temporary filler to try and convince you to undergo another procedure, find a different doctor.

Dr. Niamtu also says it's a red flag for him "if a patient has so much trepidation and so many reservations that she can't get comfortable with the idea [of cosmetic surgery]."

According to him, you need to be sure that you're ready to undergo cosmetic procedures. It's a big decision, and there are financial considerations that come into play.