Although silicone has been around for many years, there is some controversy over whether silicone injections are safe to use in the body. Silicone is FDA-approved when used in an implant shell for breast and butt augmentation but the same cannot be said for silicone in its liquid form. However, some doctors believe that liquid silicone can be safely injected into the face for cosmetic purposes, such as plumping up the lips and as dermal filler. In fact, liquid silicone was used for soft-tissue augmentation for more than 50 years despite the fact that it is now considered illegal and is generally not approved by the FDA for cosmetic uses. So, what is all the controversy about???
The Rise of Silicone Injections
Silicone injections gained recognition in the 1950s when it was used to enhance the size and shape of the breasts. However, large doses of liquid silicone caused infections, bumps and deformities throughout the body. Between the years of 1978 to 1988, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) performed an FDA-approved and monitored clinical investigation of liquid silicone. The investigation was performed on patients with severe facial deformities when verified alternative treatments were not yet available.
Some of the patients were suffering from hemifacial atrophy and hemifacial microsomia which are conditions where half of the face is unusually small due to development or disorders that caused shrinking. Other patients suffered from lipodystrophy which is a disorder that impacts the fat metabolism and severely affects the skin and bones of the face.
In a majority of the patients, the liquid silicone provided significant improvement in the deformities without any complications. However, other patients suffered complications which raised the issue as to whether the complications were due to the silicone, the patient having poor tissue quality, if the large volume of silicone needed to correct the deformity was excessive or any combination of these issues. The benefits of liquid silicone lead some physicians to the illegal usage of impure, industrial grade silicone as an injection for dermal fillers and significant complications began to arise.
The Ban on Silicone Injections
Starting in February 1992, the ASAPS prohibited the use of silicone injections for cosmetic purposes due to the fact that silicone has many harmful side effects. Their official position warned against using these injections until they were approved by the FDA.
Some of the side effects can include:
- Abnormal nodules or bumps under the skin
- Allergic reactions
- Severe joint pain
- Wide-spread infections
- Tissue death
In addition, liquid silicone has a high risk of migrating to other areas of the body and can cause:
- Blood clots which can lead to artery blockage
- Loss of a limb
- Pulmonary embolism
- Kidney failure
- Nerve damage
- Chest pains
- Breathing issues
- Patient death
These symptoms and complications can affect a person immediately or even up to 20 years later.
Liquid Silicone Makes a Comeback
Despite the complications and warnings, liquid silicone injections were still being used both legally and illegally. In 1994 and 1997, two highly purified silicone oils were FDA-approved for the treatment of retinal detachment via intraocular injection. Although silicone should never be injected in large doses, FDA-approved silicone is said to be safe and effective when used as micro-droplet injections for filling acne scars, AIDS induced lipoatrophy and non-surgical rhinoplasty. Silicone is also permitted as a lubricant for hypodermic needles. Consequently, tiny amounts of liquid silicone are being introduced into the body each time someone receives an injection of any kind. Many people hear the word “approved” and are misled into believing that medical and non-medical grade silicone is safe to use. Certain doctors believe the benefits of liquid silicone outweigh the risks if it is used properly. Some women are looking for an affordable way to augment their body but do not realize the physician could be using an illegal injectable. Black market injectables include industrial grade silicone which isn’t purified, baby oil, tire sealant and cement. All of these injectables are dangerous to use in the human body.
What Do The Experts Say?
With all of the controversy over silicone injections, there are a few things the experts can agree on. Liquid silicone should never be used in large doses in areas such as the breast, calves and buttocks. Using large does in these areas is extremely dangerous and can lead to disfigurement and overall health risks. All cosmetic injections should only be done by an experienced and licensed doctor using only FDA-approved materials.