'Extreme' lip fillers: Blindness, infection and allergic reaction among risks

Andrea Ivanova pictured before (left) and after she underwent a series of extreme lip fillers procedures. [Photo: CEN]
Andrea Ivanova pictured before (left) and after she underwent a series of extreme lip fillers procedures. [Photo: CEN]

A Bulgarian woman has hit headlines for her extreme lip fillers, which garnered comparisons to “Daffy Duck” from social media users.

Andrea Ivanova, a 22-year-old student from Sofia, Bulgaria, has had “over 15” cosmetic procedures, including multiple lip augmentations, in order to increase the plumpness of her lips.

“Since I was little, I loved Barbie and dreamed about looking like her one day,” Ivanova told CEN.

“I did maybe over 15 procedures since then [2018]. I didn’t count them, maybe there are more.”

A lip augmentation is a non-surgical procedure whereby a filler material – most commonly hyaluronic acid, which Ivanova attests to using – is injected into the lip area to change its appearance.

READ MORE: Lip fillers ad banned for telling parents to 'support' daughters

The “fillers” trend has grown exponentially in the UK in recent years. Demand has risen 156% from January 2017 to March 2019, according to data from local services website Bark.com.

Influencers such as Kylie Jenner and contestants on popular reality show ‘Love Island’ have been widely understood to fuel the craze.

Andrea Ivanova posing for a selfie. [Photo: CEN]
Andrea Ivanova posing for a selfie. [Photo: CEN]

But is it is really safe to alter your lips, especially as drastically as Ivanova? We spoke to aesthetic doctor Dr Sophie Shotter to find out.

Are ‘extreme’ lip fillers safe?

“I feel really sad when I see stories like this,” says Dr Shotter. “This is not what aesthetic procedures should be about - we are not trying to make people look like blow up dolls.

“Having this many procedures and such an extreme look can pose both mental and physical risks.”

READ MORE: 6 questions to ask before getting lip fillers

According to Dr Shotter, the physical risks include:

  • Infection – “This happens when bacteria are introduced through the skin into the filler, usually through inadequate skin cleansing before treatment.”

  • Allergic reactions – “Your body can be allergic to anything it comes into contact with, and filler is no different. There is a risk that if [a patient] has had different products injected they may interact with one another and cause a reaction.”

  • Necrosis – When a patch of skin is starved of its blood supply and dies. While there is a small risk with every injection, “extreme” procedures carry an additional risk due to the sheer amount of filler causing compression of blood vessels, Dr Shotter explains.

  • Blindness – “Blindness happens again when filler is injected into an artery and travels to the back of the eye through the circulation. It’s a very small risk, but one that is so serious people should understand it.”

As for the psychological risks, Dr Shotter says patients with “extreme” cosmetic enhancements often suffer from a body image disturbance.

Andrea Ivanova pictured before her extreme transformation. [Photo: CEN]
Andrea Ivanova pictured before her extreme transformation. [Photo: CEN]

“A lot of patients like this already suffer from body image disturbances, and those who continue to inject [fillers] pose a continued risk to the patients’ mental health,” she adds.

READ MORE: Plastic surgery trend to look like Melania and Ivanka Trump

Will fillers cause lasting damage?

While, as we’ve established, there are certain risks associated with fillers in the first place, there’s also the question of what happens in the long-term – particularly if a patient gets a temporary fillers substance like hyaluronic acid injected, which dissolves over time.

Such extreme lip filler patients “will almost certainly still need some filler re-injected to have her lips look aesthetically pleasing and not stretched and deflated,” says Dr. Shotter.

And what if such a patient were to get them dissolved, as Kylie Jenner famously opted to do in 2018?

“There’s a significant risk [their lips] would look empty and deflated.

“If a patient is young, they will be able to produce some collagen and induce some skin tightening. The safest way to be treated would be with serial injections of hyaluronidase over a period of several weeks to gradually achieve a reduction in the lip size.”