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How To Keep Your Face Safe

In 2016, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2,700,000 people in the U.S. were administered soft tissue fillers, a 2 percent increase from the year before, and a 298 percent increase from the year 2000. Clearly, the growing number of available providers, lower costs and the less-invasive nature of these procedures obviously appeal to a country that is increasingly obsessed with youth and looking good.

I was one of those people...starting with Botox in my late 30’s. My physical appearance had always been my identity and I spent most of my life and career in the beauty industry, first as a model, and later, in an aesthetic medical practice. In 2009, I was persuaded that as a preventative aging measure, to have permanent fillers injected in areas of my face. As a result, I experienced severe complications that led to extreme facial disfigurement and an unprecedented face transplant that saved my life. I recently shared my story on The Doctors, whose host Dr. Travis Stork, described my situation as the worst case of disfigurement caused by injectables he had ever seen. I am not sure how I survived the seven reconstructive facial surgeries I had to endure that were all with unknown risks including possible total facial paralysis and blindness. With all that said, I did go blind in one eye irreparably though I feel blessed that I still have use of one eye.

Sharing my personal experience has become my life’s purpose with my hope to help bring awareness to how a simple filler can cause great damage if done incorrectly or administered by an untrained or uncertified provider. So for everyone who has had a procedure that resulted in complications as well as for those who are contemplating having a procedure, I am committed to make some commotion and stop the unethical and unsafe practice of aesthetic procedures being performed in the United States.

Complications that arise from the injections of fillers are more prevalent than most consumers realize. Buyers need to be aware of the possible risks. Some permanent fillers that are injected are not FDA approved and even FDA approved fillers being injected into areas that are not indicated by the manufacturer can result in permanent damage and even blindness. That is what happened in my case and was the initial cause of the complications that I experienced.

All aesthetic or cosmetic procedures carry a risk and these risks should be clearly explained in detail to you before you voluntarily seat yourself in any physician’s chair or any other practitioner’s chair, for that matter. There are hordes of people practicing illegally out of the back of salons or in homes having pumping parties! There are aestheticians and others calling themselves Aesthetic Medicine Practitioners practicing who are using medical grade and non FDA approved products with no doctor’s oversight. There are even medical doctors who are practicing aesthetic medicine who are not qualified and don’t have the supervised training or experience let alone the specialty credentials who are putting patients at risk for complications.

I learned this lesson the hard way and I actually lost the face that I was born with due to injections of dermal fillers. In all honesty, I really didn’t need the procedure, but was persuaded to have fillers injected for loss of volume. I thought that I was in safe hands and that I was being injected with FDA approved fillers. It is hard to admit that I was wrong and I cannot turn back the hands of time, but I can alert the future generations of aesthetic procedure hopefuls to be cautious and aware of what is happening.

So to keep your face safe from possible complications, my advice is:

  • Do your due diligence—take the time to do your own research on the procedure, doctor and facility.

  • Don’t try to save money by shopping for discounts or bargains. This is time to get the best money can buy!

  • Only go to a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist. Any medical doctor can legally perform a cosmetic surgery procedure for which they have inadequate or no training. Just because it is non-surgical doesn’t mean is non-medical. Only a certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist can provide maximum safety and the best outcome no matter what the treatment.

  • Ask questions of the doctor, get references, and trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, walk away. When it comes to who you let enhance or alter your face, remember that you only have one!!

I am not advocating to discourage non-invasive aesthetic procedures; I do not judge anyone who feels the need for self enhancement. But I am committed, through the SAVING FACE INITIATIVE, to bring awareness to the safe practice of aesthetic medicine so that anyone going for a consultation about a possible facial procedure is a smart, educated consumer. If I can save one face from complications through sharing my experience, my mission will be accomplished!


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