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Dermal Fillers: Cannula vs. Needles

Cosmetic dermal fillers are used to replace volume that’s been lost in the face as a result of ageing. Dermal fillers are safe and made from a substance that’s also found naturally in the body, and they add fullness to skin, reducing the appearance of folds and wrinkles. They offer fast results and can be combined with other treatments like Dermapen skin-needling or photo-LED therapy for complete facial rejuvenation.

While traditionally these fillers have always been injected using sharp tip needles, a new alternative to using needles is using blunt tipped cannulas to inject dermal fillers or known as dermal filler cannula. Although there’s a role for both methods of injection, the cannula method does offer some excellent benefits to patients. Here’s a definitive guide at both methods of injection, their benefits, and cases when sharp needles may still be the right choice.

Sharp Tip Needles for Dermal Fillers

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Sharp needles can pierce veins and arteries beneath the skin. Since blunt cannulas simply push aside any arteries and veins encountered beneath the skin, there’s a reduced risk of bleeding and bruising.

Sharp tip needles use a very thin, short, sharp needle to inject dermal fillers. When using needles, multiple injection points are required, which can increase the risk of hitting a vein. If a vein is hit with a needle, there’s a higher chance of bruising after the procedure.

Sharp tip needles may also result in trauma to the skin, causing swelling, particularly when used on the lips. In fact, some doctors may recommend that lip fillers are done late Friday evening so patients have the weekend to allow the swelling to go down before they have to be seen in public. Along with pain and bruising, other risks that can occur, although they are rare, include skin irregularities post injection, infection at the injection site, and tissue death, which can occur when a filler is injected into a blood vessel by accident.

Blunt Tipped Cannulas for Dermal Fillers

Cannulas have a hollow bore, just like needles, allowing the filler to pass through into the tissue. However, instead of a sharp tip like needles, cannulas have a rounded, blunt end. It’s a bit like a long needle, but the tip is blunt. The process involves numbing the skin with ice, then injecting a small amount of local anesthetic beneath the skin with a tiny needle. When the skin is numb, a needle is used to pierce the skin, and then the cannula is threaded into the puncture site, sliding along the natural planes of tissue, providing access to a large area for filler placement.

With just a small puncture on the cheek, it’s possible to access bags located under the eyes, a spot that’s tough to treat with needles because the skin in the area is so thin. Using this same access point, it’s also possible to use fillers in the cheeks, all the way from the middle to the outer edge of the face.

Instead of using multiple injections to the lips, it’s possible to get to the top and bottom lips from two access points located at the corners of the mouth. Only two points are needed instead of using multiple injections with needles. Those same corners of the mouth points also offer access to nasolabial folds and the marionettes lines, which extend from the corner of the mouth down towards the jawline. With just four injection points, it’s possible to add volume to the lips, lower face, middle face, and cheeks.

The Benefits of the Cannula Method for Injecting Fillers

  1. Less Pain During Treatment – Being injected multiple times with sharp needles can be painful, but while it may sound a bit uncomfortable to have a cannula beneath your skin, there’s very little discomfort. Patients often note that they experience a strange “pushing” feeling, but there is very little pain. Fewer actual pokes with needles also reduces the amount of pain, even when multiple areas of the face are being treated.
  2. Decreased Risk of Bleeding and Bruising – Sharp needles can pierce veins and arteries beneath the skin. Since blunt cannulas simply push aside any arteries and veins encountered beneath the skin, there’s a reduced risk of bleeding and bruising.
  3. A Safer Option – When using needles for filler injections, one of the scariest potential complications is accidentally injecting filler into an artery, which can cause tissue death. In extremely rare cases, blindness has occurred. Cannulas do not pierce arteries, so they offer a much safer option for patients.
  4. Minimal Downtime – Since needle injected fillers can cause swelling and bruising after the procedure, they do often have some social downtime. No one wants to be seen with swollen lips or eyes after injections. Since the cannula injection method cuts down on swelling and bruising, there’s minimal downtime post-procedure.
  5. Precision – With blunt tip cannulas, fillers can be injected more accurately, reducing the amount of filler needed to achieve the desired results. Areas where the use of the blunt tip cannula are most effective include the jaw line, nasal folds, cheeks, lips, marionette lines, and beneath the eyes.
  6. Greater Flexibility – A much larger surface area can be treated with just a single injection site when using the cannula method, making it possible to get more done with fewer injection points.

When are Sharp Needles Still the Right Choice for Dermal Fillers?

Although the cannula method of injecting dermal fillers offers many benefits, there are still cases when sharp needles can be the right choice. When a very small amount of filler is needed for touchups or fillers are injected in small places like the cupid’s bow of the upper lip or in the temples, a needle is still the best option. Cannulas may not be ideal for filling acne scars or injecting extremely fine lines located on the skin’s superficial surface.

While there is a place for both injection methods, patients enjoy many benefits when the cannula method is used to inject dermal fillers. Fewer risks, reduced downtime, and less pain make this method an excellent choice, particularly when patients want to have dermal fillers injected in multiple areas at one time for complete facial rejuvenation.