Since the 1980s, dermal fillers have reigned as the go to treatment for filling in lines and wrinkles. In 2007 alone, 1,448,716 people received hyaluronic acid (HA) injections by plastic surgeons, according to the American Academy of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, making it a widely popular procedure. Once injected, skins volume could be increased within 24 hours - unfortunately the effects only last between 4 and 12 months depending on the product you’re using.

But scientists at John Hopkins believe that they have found a better alternative with longer lasting results.

This new procedure harnesses the power of light to create a better overall effect. Scientists inject the liquid into the patient, mold it into place, hold it there, then use a two-minute treatment of green LED treatment. The major benefit is that scientist can now lock the liquid into place thanks to the light treatment.

Jennifer H. Elisseeff, a biomedical engineer notes “We have a project with the military for facial reconstruction for soldiers in the Army. This also can be used for surgical trauma, to remove tumors and cosmetic applications used in the same places as Juvederm and Restalyne for wrinkles, chin implants or cheek implants.”

Popular fillers on the market such as Juvederm and Restylane use hyaluronic acid. This new liquid continues to use hyaluronic but also adds a FDA-approved synthetic substance called polyethylene glycol, or PEG.

The study thus far seems to be holding up. When it was tried on lab rats a year ago, the implants maintained their size and shape. In a trial study on humans, tummy tuck patients were given the treatment. After 12 weeks, when compared to Juvederm and Restalyne, the implants treated with LED light held their shape and height. In that same period, the Juvederm and Restalyne implants faded away. More research has to be done to determine just how long this new treatment lasts.

“Metal implants can repair the bony part of your cheek or chin, but there’s really nothing for helping to replace the soft tissues” says Elisseeff.

Currently the researchers at John Hopkins are seeking partners to provide funding so that more clinical trials can be conducted. If this happens in the near future, the procedure may be available to the public within 12 to 18 months. The researchers are also exploring using the treatment to aid in breast reconstruction and congenial defects such as cleft lip.

While some may feel iffy about injecting themselves with hyaluronan, it is a naturally occurring linear polysaccharide that can be found in skin. There is even a study that claims that it may be able to promote the production of collagen, which is good news in the long term. PEG, on the other hand, is not found in skin and allergic reactions may occur. Only time will tell if this new procedure will take off and how effective it will ultimately be.