This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
A Canadian TikToker recently shared a video of her severely swollen lips, in a warning to others who might have lip filler and are travelling somewhere hot.
The TikTok user (@prettygirlbianca2), who goes by Bianca on the app, said in the Thursday video the situation happened on a trip to Italy.
"I guess the sun is like insanely strong here," Bianca spoke into the camera while covering her lips. "Because at home in Canada, this is not f———- happening to me, OK?
"If you have lip fillers, please put SPF on your lips. Or b——-, you're gonna look like this," she warned viewers as she showed her swollen lips.
Can the sun cause a reaction with your lip filler? Here's what you need to know.
Dr. Asif Pirani, an expert plastic surgeon and owner of the Toronto Plastic Surgery Center, told Yahoo Canada there's no way to say what caused the TikToker's lips to swell from the video.
"People make their own diagnoses all the time that are incorrect... I wouldn't jump to assume it was the sun.
"You can have there probably hundreds, if not thousands of reasons why you could swell," Pirani claimed.
But, he said when an area with filler gets sunburnt, it's very possible for the filler to exacerbate swelling from the sunburn.
"The lips, or any mucosal surface, tend to swell more. They're very vascular... they're immunogenic parts of the body," Pirani added.
How could filler worsen sunburn swelling?
Pirani said filler generally doesn't react to heat or sun directly in a way that would cause swelling.
"It'll be very, very unlikely for the filler to have a reaction to the sun — I've never heard of that."
According to the surgeon, the most common filler used in the lips is hyaluronic acid filler — a type of temporary dermal filler. That filler works by binding water from the surrounding tissues.
When those tissues are swollen from a sunburn, Pirani said, the swelling can be exaggerated or magnified.
"So it's not that you're having a reaction to the fillers, but your swelling response to a sunburn is exaggerated because you have filler," he explained.
Swelling below the skin, caused by a buildup of fluid, is also known as angioedema.
Are patients warned of sunburn swelling?
Pirani, who has been a plastic surgeon since 2011, said it's standard practice for injectors to inform patients of "common reactions and severe rare reactions.
"I always tell my patients that there's always a chance of having an allergic reaction to fillers."
One thing surgeons have become more aware of in the past three years with COVID-19, is anytime an immune system is primed, a place where a person has filler could become swollen.
"For example, I now tell patients if you're going to get fillers done to an area, avoid any vaccinations for two weeks before and after."
When that does occur, Pirani said patients are advised to take an over-the-counter antihistamine.
But, specifying the chances of a worsened sunburn isn't common.
"We always tell people to use sunscreen.
"But frankly, anything that causes swelling can make your fillers swell. So in that sense, we tell them about that," Pirani said. "But how do you tell people about every single possible thing that could happen?"
SPF lip balm 'always a good idea'
The doctor said people now know the importance of wearing sunscreen and using SPF on hot summer days.
But some sensitive areas are still "overlooked," he claimed.
People often will forget about protecting their eyes; they'll forget about protecting their ears; forget about protecting their lips.Dr. Asif Pirani
"[People] put sunscreen on their regular areas that they would, like the normal skin surfaces, and forget about the lips.
"Now they think they're protected and they go out. They have a false sense of competence, but they haven't fully protected themselves."
Pirani said there needs to be more awareness about protecting all surfaces of the face, including lips, eyes and ears. SPF lip balm is a must-have, filler or no filler.
"It would help prevent a sunburn and then the swelling that would occur from that," Pirani said.
"It's a lot of 'ifs'... but I think it's always a good idea to wear lip balm with SPF."
What to do if your filler swells on holiday?
According to Pirani, the best thing to do if your filler is swelling while on vacation is seek medical help.
"I can't give medical advice to every person who reads this article, that would an inappropriate," he explained.
"Assuming that's not a life threatening angioedema that's happening, most people get over-the-counter antihistamines."
In the TikToker's case, that's exactly what happened. After a commenter asked her if she was OK under the video, Bianca responded "[Yeah], lucky I took allergy medicine and it went down the next day."
However, Pirani advised when it's unknown what could be causing swelling, an anaphylactic reaction is an emergency. "I think it's very important to seek medical attention," he added.