Which dermal filler you choose really depends on what you want to accomplish. Start by telling your doctor what you want to improve and how long you'd like the filler to last, so that he or she can help you narrow down your choices. Also, do a little research on possible side effects. In November 2008, the FDA recommended that dermal fillers should carry stronger warnings, so patients would be more aware of potentially serious side effects. Dermatologists will most likely be using FDA-approved products -- and are trained to administer them -- which should minimize your potential for bad reactions [source: Doheny].
Dermal fillers typically fall into specific categories: synthetic or natural, absorbable or non-absorbable. The FDA has approved several synthetic fillers that have proven to be effective. Artefill, for example, is a non-absorbable synthetic filler made of microbeads floating in bovine collagen. Because your body can't absorb or metabolize it, Artefill -- formerly known as Artecoll -- lasts longer than collagen or fat injections. Experts refer to it as a "permanent" filler for its enduring results [source: Miller]. The FDA has approved Artefill for use in improving smile lines.
On the other hand, Radiesse -- an absorbable, synthetic filler -- is considered semi-permanent because its effects last only one to two years. How it works is simple: collagen, a protein that gives skin its structure, forms around the microspheres in Radiesse upon injection and firms the skin. The FDA approved this filler for treating wrinkles and folds that are moderate to severe [source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons]. In July 2009, the FDA also approved the use of a combination of Radiesse and the anesthetic lidocaine. This mixture has been shown to provide greater comfort for patients receiving fillers [source: Reuters].
Like Radiesse, Sculptra is a semi-permanent filler that causes the body to form collagen around microspheres [source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons]. However, the FDA has only approved Sculptra for treatment of fat loss in people with HIV [source: FDA].
Read on to find out how the effects of natural fillers differ from those of synthetics.