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Many people are using a pen to inject hyaluronic acid for a DIY lip plump, and before-and-after photos like this are common on social medial, but experts warn the viral product is not safe to use. Photo: Instagram

The hyaluron pen, a TikTok fave, gives you fuller lips at home – but experts warn it’s not safe

  • The hashtag hyaluronpen has over 69 million views on TikTok, and refers to a needle-less alternative to lip fillers that injects hyaluronic acid into a user’s lips
  • Despite the product’s popularity on social media, experts say the device is not safe to use – and its sale is banned in many countries

Many young people are attempting to give themselves fuller lips at home, trying everything from plumping glosses to enhancement tools. However, experts are warning against the use of one new product trending on social media.

The hyaluronic acid pen, also called the hyaluron pen, has been marketed as an affordable, needle-less and painless alternative to lip fillers. It involves using the force from pressurised air to create microscopic holes and push hyaluronic acid filler into the skin.

Some users on short-video social media platform TikTok have praised the pen for its quick and inexpensive results, but despite its popularity (#hyaluronpen has over 69 million views on TikTok), medical and cosmetic experts warn that the device can not only create a botched appearance, but can endanger a user’s health. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement condemning the product last year.

“The hyaluronic acid pen is a way for somebody that is not trained in fillers to use this device at home to get that filler appearance,” says Rachel Yussim, a cosmetic nurse and provider with Persimmon – which offers in-home aesthetic treatments in the US. “But with that being said … you’re not supposed to use it at all. Nobody should.”

Instagram is filled with ads and before-and-after photos of the effects of the trendy hyaluron pen. Photo: Instagram

How does the hyaluron pen work?

The hyaluron pen doesn’t involve needles, nor do users inject themselves. It’s a small, handheld device originally intended for diabetic patients to painlessly treat themselves with insulin throughout the day.

According to Uy Dam, a board-certified nurse practitioner in Boston in the US, the device is easy to use. “You crank it up, then it builds a pressure inside the pen, so that when you add the hyaluronic acid into the cartridge and press a button, the entire pressure goes through a tiny hole and pierces through anything that’s soft, like your lips,” he says.

An internet advertisement for a hyaluron pen.
Yussim says hyaluronic acid is the component used by professionals in injectable dermal fillers. Because it is hydrophilic, or attracted to water, it helps retain moisture and water in the area it’s used on to give a temporary, yet instantaneous swollen look.

However, because the device isn’t FDA-approved or regulated, the quality and legitimacy of the hyaluronic acid it purportedly contains are not assured, according to Emily Sespaniak, an aesthetic nurse practitioner at San Francisco Plastic Surgery in California.

“We don’t know exactly what’s in there or what’s being injected into the skin,” she says. “Maybe you’re getting hyaluronic acid, maybe you’re not. So you can imagine what kind of risks that can pose … especially for people that are immunocompromised or have other health conditions.”

Why you should not use it

Though the hyaluron pen may seem like a tempting alternative to pricey lip fillers, the viral product is unsafe to use, experts say, and is banned in Canada and Europe.

Yussim says a hyaluronic acid pen will not offer the desired look of a naturally full lip or a precise cupid’s bow. Because the filler is only going into the upper layers of the skin, rather than deep into the dermis as with needles, it will create a “swollen and uneven appearance that will create lumpiness and bumpiness throughout”, she says.

Rachel Yussim is a cosmetic nurse and provider with Persimmon. Photo: Persimmon

More importantly from a medical perspective, it can pose numerous health risks, such as inflammation, bacterial or fungal infection and even necrosis, or the death of tissues and cells.

One of Dam’s biggest concerns as a practitioner is that, while you can control the volume of filler in the pen, you can’t control the pressure it exerts or how deeply it penetrates the lips.

“It’s dangerous because when you can’t control how deep it goes into the lips, you can’t control how much or precisely where the filler goes. And if it gets into a blood vessel, it can actually block it and lead to vascular occlusion … where the blood in that area will be cut off and the piece of skin can die off,” Dam says.

Though the hyaluron pen may seem like a tempting alternative to pricey lip fillers, it is unsafe to use. Photo: Instagram

For those looking to enhance their lips, Sespaniak says the best option is to seek the advice of a medical professional.

“If you go to a medical office, they will have all the proper protocols to control any adverse reactions,” Sespaniak says. “But if you do it from home, you may not know what the warning signs are before it’s too late.”