Warning: This post contains minor references to anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve had dark under-eyes, particularly beneath my left eye. For years, I thought this was merely due to lack of sleep or allergies (which I have in spades — I frequently missed school due to hives). As I’d get older, people would make comments on my dark circles, “Hey, did you get some sleep last night? You’re looking dark under the eyes.”
In my late teens and all of my early twenties, I went through a period of trauma and as such, extreme depression and anxiety. I had panic attacks regularly and would cry and shake for hours. In the aftermath, I’d rinse the tears off of my face and look at myself in the mirror. Staring back at me was a face that looked tired, sad, and almost sunken.
As I started to receive treatment for my illnesses (which I am by no means “cured” from, but am doing much better with), the face that I saw every time I sat down to do my makeup or apply my moisturizer was one that looked tired. It was one that reminded me of the trauma, the tears, the pain, and the suicidal ideation that I had suffered for years. Worse, I couldn’t cover this little reminder on my face by just heaping on enough concealer.
I had mentioned this to friends and family and gotten the usual, “You can barely notice! It’s fine.” And it is fine — there is absolutely nothing wrong with dark circles — but for me, they were a reminder of a traumatic period of my life that I have worked extremely hard to heal from.
Later I would realize that what I have are not simply “dark circles,” but a deepened tear trough that is lacking volume beneath it. I don’t have many photos of this on myself, as I tend to angle my head when taking photos to hide it as best I can.
In short, the area around the orbital bone is hollowed and lacks volume, which casts a shadow from overhead light (which is most light), giving the look of dark circles.
This is when I started to consider getting fillers to fix the issue.
Previously, I had felt pretty negatively about fillers like Botox, as I am sure many people do. In our media, we put a lot of stock on being genuine or “real,” and tear people (mostly women) down for pretty much anything. Wearing makeup? God, they looks so fake. Not wearing makeup? Ugh, why are they so ugly. Fillers or cosmetic surgery? Why would they do that to their face!? No fillers or cosmetic surgery? Their nose is so hawkish and that face looks like a horse.
And this is being kind — the Internet is full of strangers who are somehow meaner than even what I can do or say to myself.
There’s pretty much no winning, and whether or not you subscribe to tearing people down for their bodies, it is an ever-present pressure on our social psyche, perverting our own opinions one way or another. Even as I told my friends that I was considering getting fillers, the responses were mixed. It actually gave me genuine stomach-knotting anxiety after awhile to reveal this to people I knew and trusted.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the positive support I’ve gotten has been from other women, curious but afraid to ask or go in themselves.
So this is me — coming out in support of women and men everywhere who are too afraid to ask about a minor cosmetic procedure whose effects don’t even typically last over a year.
The next portion of this post is my experience going in for dermal fillers. Buckle up.
I made my appointment at Facile Skin in Pasadena over email a couple weeks back. I inquired about fillers, and asked them how the process worked. Brooke from Facile responded to me, cheerily explaining that when you come in, you are given a consultation where the doctor looks over the areas that bother you and then gives you recommendations based upon that. The cost of the consultation would be $125, but this was waived if you decided to go forward with the procedure that same day.
She asked for my credit card to secure the appointment (a common practice in California for just about anything — I have to give my credit card to hold hair cuts, eyebrow waxings, and even optometrist appointments). Brooke was quick to respond to all of my emails as we went back and forth with my information and my appointment was set for May 7 at 12PM.
I nervously anticipated my appointment for the next few weeks, poking at my face and wondering if I would regret it.
When I walked into Facile Skin, I signed in at the front and on an iPad, which prompted my medical history, medications, and warned about bruising with fillers if you take any prescriptions or supplements that thin the blood. The nurse warned me about this once again as she took me back — omega-3 fish oils, anti-inflammatories like NSAIDs, and some prescription medication can all thin the blood and heighten the likelihood of bruising. Once in the room, she took photos of me from all angles — front, sides, and three-quarter.
Then the nurse that would be doing the injections, Josie, came in. She was lovely, bubbly, and put me at ease instantly. She handed me a mirror and asked me to show her what I didn’t like. I mentioned my undereye area and she asked to touch my face before probing at my undereye area.
She informed me that I didn’t have virtually any volume loss (thanks genetics and sunscreen usage), had deep-set eyes, and that traditional fillers would not do much. She mentioned that I had a lot of darkness due to the vascularity (is that a word? It is now!) of the area as well as thin skin.
We chatted a bit about eye creams and eye gels (she recommended eye gels due to creams usually causing milia in the undereye area), and she recommended using a gel that would thicken the skin (she said she would email me a recommendation — I will update this post with that information once I receive it!). She also recommended what is called a “microinfusion.”
This is a fairly new concept to even me, so bear with me if my knowledge on it is a bit shallow. From what I understand, it is a mixture of botox, fillers, and vitamins that are pressed into the skin at a more “shallow” depth than traditional fillers, allowing them to go where traditional fillers cannot, such as the immediate undereye area. This kind-of thickens and “plumps” the skin, reducing wrinkles, undereye darkness, and according to some websites, even rosacean flushing.
I agreed to it (for science, right?) and off we went.
Josie left the room and came back with a small, stamp-like glass tube with small gold needles on one side. I took off my makeup and sunscreen with a wipe and she began to press the formula into my skin, starting at my chin.
It felt like shallow pin pricks all over. She paid special attention to the areas of the face that tend to wrinkle the most: the nasolabial area, the forehead, the 11s (the creases between the eyes), and then my undereyes. She delicately pressed it up under my eyes, all through the area, and then started on the other side of my face the same way. She did two passes over my face this way.
Some places were more uncomfortable than others, particularly forehead and undereyes, but not worse than getting my eyebrows threaded.
Once she was done, that was… basically it! My skin was flushed and my undereye area stung a bit on some places. She advised me not to wear sunscreen or makeup for the rest of the day and only do bland, basic skincare (gurl, I got bland down to a science).
I came home, washed my face very gently, and slathered it in Vaseline. It began to feel normal almost immediately.
The next day (today!) I woke up to a plump glow. I just look well-rested, and my undereye area even looks like a normal hue. While unintentional, the wrinkles around my forehead, between my eyes, and even around my mouth look smoothed and plumped. I still have the socket-bone indentions under my eyes, but I could swear that even they look lessened than they were yesterday.
I tried to capture all of this with my pitiful front-cam on my phone, but it just lacks the ability to take photos as good as you’d need to notice skin texture, and until I teach my boyfriend how to focus my DSLR, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.
Was it worth what I paid? I don’t know, really. It was certainly not a cheap experience, but I am glad I did it. It pushed me past a barrier I may have otherwise never overcame, fulfilled a curiosity brewing in my mind, and made me feel less afraid of the boogey-man that are dermal fillers. At the end of the experience, I realized it really is just my skin and my choice. I know that seems obvious, and even asinine, but it has been a really long journey for me to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin — something that has taken me so long that I feel like I’m really just at the beginning.