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‘Botched’ dermal filler leaves woman with physical and emotional scars

‘Every Tom, Dick and Harry is injecting people’s faces at the moment. It has to stop’

Five years after having what she calls a “botched” dermal filler procedure in a beauty salon, “Elaine” says she has scars on both sides of her face.

“It looks like a game of Xs and Os on one side,” says the woman, aged in her 30s, who was admitted to hospital some days after she had had the fillers. She had them in a bid to counter what she believed were her “flat” cheeks.

Dermal fillers, which contain injectable hyaluronic acid and can be legally administered in Ireland without a professional qualification, are used to plump up the face, targeting cheekbones, jawline and lips.

In hospital, Elaine (a pseudonym as she did not wish to be identified) says staff tried to convince her that the swellings, which she described as “like two eggs under my skin on each side”, were hard mass. “Eventually they cut open the sides of my face and there was projectile pus all over the room,” she recalls.


Even after being leaving the hospital, where she was given a dose of IV antibiotics, Elaine says she continued to suffer and her face swelled.

When she went to see consultant dermatologist Prof Caitriona Ryan some months after the procedure, she had abscesses on her face. “Prof Ryan could feel that there was still filler in my face.” The dermatologist removed the remaining filler and prescribed antibiotics.

The woman, who has done some modelling in the past, admits that she would still consider having fillers but only from a dermatologist such as Prof Ryan.

“I feel very strongly about this. I don’t think anyone other than doctors and nurses should be allowed to put a needle near anyone’s face.

“You hit the wrong place in the face and it kills a nerve. You can be left with serious long-term damage to your face, your self-esteem, your confidence.”

She says that low self-esteem was a factor in her having the dermal fillers that caused her so much pain. She was going through a hard time after a relationship broke up and she had lost a lot of weight.

“I had lost a lot of volume in my cheeks. I was barely a size 6. I was on antidepressants. My confidence was down.”

The night she had the fillers, she knew she was in trouble. “It got very red and hot and sore.”

After a few days the filler looked like it was “dropping down into my neck below the jawline”.

She couldn’t go to work as she was so self-conscious about her face. She knows now that she had too much filler injected.

“A lot of clinics do packages to draw you in with a set price for a large amount of filler. I had 5-6ml of filler in one sitting. Looking back, that was not a good idea.”

She has had Botox since and says she finds it hard to countenance “growing old gracefully” even though she is still under 40.

“I have always taken care of my appearance. I did quite a bit of modelling and I keep comparing myself to younger girls in their photos.”

But she says the lack of control when it comes to who can inject fillers is dangerous.

“It is getting out of control. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is injecting people’s faces at the moment. It has to stop.”

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland