Can a Gel Save My Craggy, Wrinkly Face Skin?
I tried it for you
I’m in a space, age wise, where I’m too old to ever be (or have ever been) called a wunderkind, but young enough that, alongside corporate overreach, unbridled executive power, a crypto-fascist cabinet and the decaying power of the objective press, acne is one of the first things I worry about when I wake up. I know this is gross, and you’re highlighting and screenshotting the above sentence and sending it to your group text being all, “Man Repeller is so fuckin’ dumb. Particularly that Claire girl. I can’t pronounce her last name.”
To that I say: I know! It’s bad! I’m vapid! But also, my last name is pronounced phonetically!
In this liminal space between young and old, between being petty and being irreverent, a new worry pops up: mortality. I worry about losing my memory to Alzheimer’s, dementia or a stroke while my body continues to have a heartbeat, to grow hair and fingernails, and my imaginary grandchildren squabble over who gets to pull the plug first because they want to inherit my highly valued collections of gel pens and face oils. I fear my one forehead wrinkle. I fear my purple-ish undereyes.
I’ve resigned my brain to the process of growing older. As a result, my face must now become the moneymaker. I’m not yet desperate enough to get hyaluronic fillers like Juvederm or Restylane –– I don’t have the downtime, nor the “money” to afford them, “so to speak” –– but I am interested in having a head so firm and full that those who suffer from globophobia fear me when I walk down Fifth Avenue. I want a head that is entirely cheekbone.
Enter Fillerina, a patented topical gel comprised of six different hyaluronic molecules that purportedly penetrate the skin’s top layers to fill in and plump fine lines and wrinkles. The makers of Fillerina also suggest applying it to the lips, cheekbones and “oval contour” for a firming “boost.” Fillerina, incidentally, is also the name of my beautiful future granddaughter who will eventually inherit my glossy glossy valuables.
Hyaluronic acid is one of the hottest phrases of the year, following closely behind “alternative facts” and “eat shit!!!” For the three or four of you that read the alt-beauty internet and have somehow landed on this page and yet are still unsure of what it is, it’s an acid that binds to water molecules already in the skin and holds many times its own weight in water, creating an effective moisture barrier. Until the late 1970s, researchers literally just called this “goo.” Now, some refer to it it as the fountain of youth, though there’s no real proof that hyaluronic acid stops the aging process. Fillerina, however, claims it holds patents on six different itty-bitty hyaluronics that do indeed penetrate the skin barrier and plump it up.
Fillerina comes in three grades for different levels of aging, and I chose Grade 1. Applications of all Fillerina grades are a two-step process involving a vial and a syringe. This is essentially a gimmick, a wink to the pseudo-scientific world of women and men who undergo elaborate procedures not to age. The syringe is simply for extracting each bit of goo from its container. There is no pricking or piercing in the Fillerina game.
The syringe actually helped in the process of applying Phase 1, the Replenishing Gel hyaluronic treatment meant to de-crag my rumpled parchment-paper skin. I could accurately dispense goo exactly where I wanted it. But it hindered the application of Phase 2, the extremely thick Nourishing Film fortified with vitamin E and various seed oils to leave the skin soft. I could barely extract the product from the vial without grunting or breaking a capillary. I was warned, however. Instructions do explicitly state that, “The Nourishing Film is thicker than the Replenishing Gel, and requires patience during extraction.” By the end of my two weeks on Fillerina, I ended up just tapping the bottle upside down, Heinz 57-style, into my palm and then lightly applying it with my fingertips.
I found Phase 1, a clear gel, to be goopier than is effective. It dripped down from my undereyes into the pool of goo I had applied to my cheekbones, then traveled inward towards my thin half-British lips, which I’d absolutely buried in Fillerina in the hopes of becoming a sultrier me. Phase 1 burned a little, but I liked it. I knew that meant it was probably doing something. Or that I was allergic to it. Either way, excitement! Also, Fillerina suggests you drink two glasses of water before starting this process each day, and that’s one of my favorite hobbies.
I enjoyed Phase 2 less. I applied the milky substance to the “oval of my face” and my neck. It dried to a strange gluey consistency and I never knew if I was supposed to wash it off. I did not and accrued comments daily like, “Is your face molting into little balls?” Maybe this is better as a nighttime activity.
While beauty is surely all about the journey for me, I know you want to know if it worked. I’ll say this much: my lips, the part of my body I adore the least, looked noticeably fuller. My lipline didn’t grow taller, but what limp tissue (lol, gross, sorry) I do have has certainly puffed up. In full disclosure, I was comped this product, but I could see myself buying it and feeling mildly pleased with what went down. Grain of salt, though: If you at all follow my writing on this website, you know that I’ll buy basically anything.
Because science annoys and frightens me, I didn’t do a formal experiment, which I admit I should have. I will allow for some theories: In this stretch of February, I rarely take such good care of my lips. They’re normally shriveled and grey. Perhaps trying even 20% harder without Fillerina could have made them look this good, too. I also worry about my dark-purple undereyes, which lightened a bit with the product. In my last four days of this experiment, however, I got sick and ended up sleeping 16 hours a day, which might also have accounted for my newly instated emoji twinkle eyes. Though my lips got poofier and my eyes seemed a bit thicker-fleshed, I saw no cheek-plumping effects, unfortunately.
Now I’m interested in the Fillerina lip plump pen. It seems far less messy and doesn’t fuck around with the phase 2 Nourishing Film, which was just a big sticky mess that held me down like quicksand as I fight the slow march of time.
Photos by Krista Anna Lewis. GIFs by Claire Carusillo.