Silicone is used in many beauty aids. While most people equate silicone with breast implants, there is much more to how silicone is used. From contact lenses to shampoo (dimethicone) silicone is around us every day. Silicone drainage tubes can be life saving after brain injuries to prevent fluid on the brain and death. Silicone implants are used throughout the body to improve both form and function. Most silicone implants are solid. Injection of free silicone is different than using silicone implants. Free silicone injections are liquid, and unlike with breast implants, the liquid is not contained.
Q: Is Silicone a Liquid or a Solid? A: Yes
Silicone is extremely flexible in its use. At body temperature, silicone can be made with a wide range viscosities: liquid like water, cohesive like honey, soft solid like Jello, more firm like rubber or hard like a rock. The fact that silicone is extremely well tolerated by the human body, makes it an excellent substance for implantation; however, only silicone meant for medical use should be used, and only by a qualified professional should be consulted.
How is Silicone Used
As a Board Certified San Francisco Bay Area Plastic Surgeon, I use silicone implants every day in my Walnut Creek Plastic Surgery practice. In California, silicone implants are used to augment the breast, cheeks, chin, nose and many other areas.
Silicone Facial Implants – Chin Implants, Cheek Implants, Nasal Implants
Silicone Facial implants are made of a soft solid silicone. Since they are solid, they cannot leak. They are used routinely for Cheek Augmentation, Chin Augmentation and Nose Augmentation. Since silicone facial implants are used to augment boney prominences, the fact that they are firm is an advantage. They can be molded into specialized shapes and sizes, depending on the amount and location of augmentation desired. The smooth surface does not adhere to normal tissue, so it needs to be meticulously placed. The smooth surface also allows for easy removal, should removal ever become necessary. Solid silicone facial implants are firm but flexible. For larger augmentations, silicone facial implants may not be firm enough.
An example: for small to moderate chin augmentation, silicone chin implants work great. For larger chin augmentations, I prefer Medpore®, which is made from porous high-density polyethylene. It is much firmer, and since it is porous, it allows in-growth. In-growth can help stabilize the Medpore® chin implant, and further decrease the already small risk of infection. These are decisions best made during your presonal consultation with a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. This allows an open, honest discussion of the pros and cons of each option with a trained expert who has the experience to back-up your specific surgery.
Silicone Breast Implants
All breast implants have a silicone shell, even saline filled breast implants. When we say silicone breast implants we are talking about what is inside. Silicone breast implants have a solid outer shell, and a center filled with a cohesive silicone gel. Some older silicone breast implants were filled with a thin liquid, which would migrate if the shell ever broke. Currently, the cohesiveness varies from a very thick gel that likes to stay together (Allergan Natrelle® and Mentor Memory Gel® breast implants – currently available) to a solid with the consistency of Jello® (Gummy bear, Allergan Natrelle 410’s and Mentor Cohesive III Implants – Not yet FDA approved). These gummy bear implants can be made with various asymmetrical shapes, because they are thick enough to retain their shape.
Free Silicone Injections – Buyer Beware
The San Francisco Bay Area is a great place to be a plastic surgeon. We have an educated population that is interested and aware of many of the latest options in plastic surgery. Unfortunately, new doesn’t mean better, and sometimes new isn’t even new. Silicone injections are a great example. Even San Francisco plastic surgeons are still looking for the perfect injectable to fill wrinkles and augment the face without surgery. A well tolerated, stable substance, free from allergy, that will last a hundred years and remain soft remains elusive. There was a time when silicone was felt to be that substance.
Silicone is well tolerated, and can be made thick enough to prevent migration. The augmentation obtained is better than Restylane®, Juvederm®, Perlane®, Radiesse® or any other available dermal filler. It can remain soft for many years. Unfortunately, the body will form scar around free silicone, and this scar can continue to develop over years into a hard disfiguring mass.
Free Silicone in the Lips
Silicone has been used for lips. Initial results are great; however, the long term results are not predictable. Lisa Rinna, famous for her silicone augmented lips, recently had to have surgery to excise the silicone from her lips.
Free Silicone in the Buttocks
Silicone has been used for buttock augmentation. At first it looks great, but with time, it becomes hard and can cause visual disfigurement. Since medical grade silicone is not available in the United Stated, reports surface every year of an unqualified injector offering cheap buttock enhancement using silicone purchased at the local hardware store.
Free Silicone for Breast Augmentation
Free silicone was used for breast augmentation, as was fat injection, until they were replaced by a much more effective and safer alternative – breast implants. Breast implants use a solid silicone shell to contain the silicone inside. A thicker, more cohesive gel is used inside to help prevent migration, but even this should be removed if the implant breaks. Since the center is highly cohesive, it acts as a unit rather than a liquid, so it can be hard to tell if a silicone filled breast implant has leaked. This is why the FDA recommends women who have silicone gel breast implants obtain an MRI at three years and then every two years after having breast augmentation surgery.
“New” Silicone Injections
Research is on-going to find the perfect formulation for silicone injections. The latest attempts are looking into silicone with increased viscosity to help prevent migration and reduce the scar reaction. Since it often takes years for the scar around free silicone to develop into a noticeable mass, the results are still pending. One problem is that the thicker gel is much more difficult to inject without resorting to something like a caulking gun. Until the known problems are solved, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the FDA do not approve of the use of silicone injections outside of clinical trials.