Collagen Injections vs. Fillers: What You Need to Know
The conversation around injectable anti-aging treatments is confusing for first-time patients, to say the least. One of the biggest hangups concerns the difference between collagen injections and injectable dermal fillers. Because they’re both minimally invasive and produce similar results, they’re often discussed interchangeably despite important differences in their action, indications, risk profile, and how long they remain effective.
We’ve done our best to break down those differences here. Let’s begin with brief definitions of terms, or what we really mean when we talk about “dermal filler injections” and “collagen injections.”
What Is a Collagen Injection?
A collagen injection is a soft tissue injection that either directly delivers collagen under the skin or stimulates the body’s natural collagen production. Both types of collagen injection can temporarily reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in the face.
Direct collagen injections typically use purified bovine (cow) or human collagen to replace natural collagen lost to aging. In the United States, they’re marketed under brand names including:
- CosmoDerm® and CosmoPlast® (human collagen for facial lines, wrinkles, and scars)
- Zyderm® (bovine collagen for fine facial lines)
- Zyplast® (bovine collagen for deeper lines and wrinkles)
Collagen-stimulating injections, also known as biostimulator injections or collagen fillers, are injectable fillers that promote collagen production over a period of months or years.
In the United States, notable collagen filler brands include:
- Radiesse® (calcium hydroxylapatite)
- Sculptra® (poly-L-lactic acid)
- Bellafill® (polymethylmethacrylate)
Collagen-stimulating fillers typically take longer to produce results. Once achieved, these results can last for a long time (particularly in Bellafill’s case).
What Is a Dermal Filler Injection?
“Dermal filler injection” simply describes any injectable type of dermal filler that adds volume around the injection site (usually specific areas of the face).
Some dermal fillers, such as calcium hydroxylapatite and poly-L-lactic acid, indirectly stimulate collagen production. Others, such as hyaluronic acid-based dermal fillers (with brand names like Juvederm® and Restylane®), add natural-looking volume without increasing collagen mass.
Collagen Injections vs. Fillers: Key Differences
The most important differences between “true” collagen injections and dermal filler injections include:
- Potential for Allergic Reaction: True collagen fillers are more likely to cause allergic reactions in patients. Sometimes, these reactions can be serious, so pretreatment skin testing is required to rule out the risk.
- Other Side Effects: Though both collagen fillers and non-collagen dermal fillers are regarded as safe and effective when proper precautions are taken, other side effects can and do occur. These range from minor (such as temporary itchiness and swelling at the injection site) to potentially severe (such as blood clots caused by injection into blood vessels). Always work with a board-certified provider who has completed a comprehensive dermal filler training course.
- How Long Results Last: True collagen fillers’ results don’t last as long as non-collagen facial fillers. Zyplast and Zyderm results remain visible for about three months, while hyaluronic acid filler results typically last at least six months and other types of fillers’ results last anywhere from one to five years.
How Results Appear: This is the most subjective difference, but many patients (and providers) do insist that true collagen fillers produce more natural-looking results than non-collagen fillers. This is also why many patients choose biostimulator like calcium hydroxylapatite — they produce natural-looking results and last longer than collagen-only fillers.