There is a line in the sand for beauty editors, clearly labeled "weird invasive face-changing procedure", and when you start working at the website where you are employed, you are fairly confident you will never cross it. "Oh wow, I'm into beauty, but I'm not that into beauty," you think, like a fool. "I love microdermabrasion, but I'd never do anything wild, like get fillers." Fast forward a year and a half, and you've got a needle one half millimeter deep into your skin, dispensing sweet hyaluronic acid to your thirsty cheeks. It is insane to think that on March 5th, I did not have cheekbones, and then on March 6th, I did, but I love them like my own adopted facial features. They give me a fun, gaunt cheek hollow, and they are always the most expensive thing I am wearing.
By the way, I did not intend to get cheek fillers. Despite the very real fact that I once made a vision board of Angelina Jolie portraits, protrusive cheekbones have never been on my plastic surgery wishlist. I originally went uptown to see Dr. Melissa Doft to get undereye fillers—hyaluronic acid injections are probably the only procedure that takes care of dark circles once and for all—for a story I was writing. But did you know that some people have gone blind while getting undereye fillers? I didn't until I uncovered that information online, and then, every 30 seconds for a full week, I imagined the Page Six headline that would accompany my loss of sight: Beauty Editor Goes Blind In Freak Filler Accident. It would get picked up by New York and the Huffington Post, and cited in a "price of beauty" thinkpiece on Racked, all of which would be read aloud to me by my mother who has moved into my apartment to take care of me indefinitely.
Dr. Doft, bless her heart, could not legally tell me I would not go blind. She could tell me that statistically everything will probably be fine, but yes, there have been cases of blindness, because undereye injection is an off-label use for hyaluronic. I understand that doctors must be honest, but I would prefer, occasionally, they lie for my convenience. This was not the case with Dr. Doft, who is extremely ethical—my best friend and my greatest nemesis.
Reader, I chickened out of the undereye fillers. But we had scheduled the appointment a month in advance, and I had come all the way to 72nd street, which, I don't need to tell you, takes as much time to get to from my apartment as it does to drive from Cleveland to Akron. Can you imagine driving from Cleveland to Akron to sit in a doctor's office for 10 minutes, making polite small talk about summer travel? (Dr. Doft is going to Italy. I am going home after this appointment.)
So I asked, "Is there anything else we can do?"
The doctor suggested earlobe filler, a boutique treatment popular among women whose Dolce and Gabbanna costume jewelry has caused their delicate lobes to sag. I was not a good candidate because my earlobes are perfect, which is when she suggested cheek fillers—a little strategically placed hyaluronic acid that, when injected along the cheekbone, has a subtle contouring effect. Artificial cheekbones for a slightly more angular you. I thought this would be fun, in the way that some people think going to a museum upstate or taking a pottery class will be fun, and I furthermore figured it was the kind of thing intrepid beauty editors did all the time. In five years, when everybody is getting on-demand fillers on their lunch breaks from the comfort of their flying Teslas, it will be passé.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, soft tissue fillers have enjoyed a 298% increase in popularity since 2000. Last year, almost 60,000 dudes received hyaluronic acid injections. But the filler conversation is changing. The objective of hyaluronic injections has long been volume—bigger is better for lips in particular—but doctors like Doft are trying to combat that. "For me, it's about shaping," she told me. "Shaping the lip, shaping the cheek, not necessarily adding volume." In that way, good fillers are like getting a tattoo: Instead of drunkenly wandering in and ordering the butterfly, you should work with the professional, hashing out exactly what you want over a period of time.
While my face was only subtly different, and none of my rude former friends noticed the change, it is disorienting to alter your appearence, even slightly. This is something the thoughtful, kind, Gucci-clad plastic surgeon will omit from her pitch. And it's not a positive or negative thing—just an unsettling feeling. It will pass, but not after you muse critically about it for hours. You eventually get over the alien experience of possessing a new facial feature you didn't have 15 minutes before—it feels a little bit like Jacques Lacan's Mirror Stage. "Filled" skin is slightly squishy, but firm. I cannot stop massaging my cheeks, even though by now, my fillers have all but deteriorated. They had a good run, and now it's time to return to regular, uncontoured Brennan. He's got a round face and a great sense of humor, and he can name every US state and capital, if you're interested.
But would I eventually go back? Absolutely. Strap me down and stick a needle in me.
Photographed by the author.
For the needle averse, there's another way to get similar hyaluronic results–read here for more.