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I Got Cheek Fillers for the First Time, and Here’s What It’s Like

Thanks to the numbing cream, I didn’t feel the opening of the injection site. The second part of the process was another story. It turns out a side effect of having so many colleagues tell me about their fillers was that I was unnecessarily nervous. Based on their fun anecdotes, I was expecting everything from loud crackling noises to the nauseating feeling of cement and needles squeezing into my facial muscles. A few even told me they began losing consciousness in the chair (I circumvented this by making sure to eat a cookie the size of my face before I showed up). You can see why I immediately tensed and braced for the worst at the first, unsettling sensation of the cannula going in.

I wasn’t numb beneath my skin, which meant I could feel something happening. But—and I promise I’m not saying this in the sadistic “It doesn’t hurt at all!” way while sitting back with popcorn when other people undergo the torture—it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had heard. It was definitely strange because it was happening in a level of my face that isn’t used to sensation, but I’d classify it as only a bit worse than getting a shot or giving a blood sample. There was just a vague, concentrated soreness, kind of like an extreme version of extractions. It was over in a couple of minutes. I suggest you spend those minutes with your eyes closed if you get squeamish.

Actually, it would have been over, but after one unit my cheeks weren’t quite as lifted as I wanted them to be. Dr. Golueke always prefers adding a little at a time, which allows you to easily request another round if desired. After examining my face in the mirror, I gave him the go-ahead to keep on injecting. We stopped after the second set, emptying a scant 1mL total of Restylane into my face, which he then massaged in so that it could settle properly. Restylane is slightly stiff and feels about as relaxing as getting a rock massaged into your cheekbone. Dr. Golueke estimates 1mL would cost around $450 in his Munich clinic, but the price will vary widely based on where you’re getting it done. In the US, expect it to be around $700—and note this is not an appointment you want to cheap out on. Happy with the final result, I held two ice packs against my cheeks for another 10 minutes, downed a cappucino, and was on my merry way back to Berlin.

I might have gotten especially lucky with my choice of derm, but my recovery was virtually nonexistent. Dr. Golueke advised me not to take any blood-thinning medications or exercise right after to minimize risk of bruising, a directive I had no problem following. My face was flushed immediately after being poked with needles—probably because, like most faces, it doesn’t really enjoy that—but the color had dissipated by the time I reached the airport. I didn’t bruise at all and I didn’t start swelling until the morning after. It was minor; on a scale of one to 10, with one being no swelling and 10 being the chipmunk cheeks you’re blessed with after wisdom teeth extraction, I was hovering around a 4. By afternoon, the swelling had gone down for good, and I was free to enjoy my remodeled bone structure in peace by engaging in my favorite activity, taking many selfies!

Jokes aside, Dr. Golueke is an artist and his work in no way resembles the kind of overdone fillers that make people so wary of them in the first place. The way he placed the material also slightly lifted and contoured my entire face, making my jawline and my overall features look sharper as a bonus. The change is subtle enough that you wouldn’t probably wouldn’t be able to pinpoint where the difference was if I didn’t point it out, but of course I have been enthusiastically pointing it out to everyone I know. Another bonus is that Restylane is based on hyaluronic acid, a moisturizing ingredient often found in serums and sheet masks. Injecting it delivers an intensely hydrating, glow-imparting effect and induces the production of collagen as well as (or better than) your most-loved topicals.

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