One woman's top lip was so swollen that it was touching the tip of her nose.

lip injection
Credit: Strelciuc - Adobe Stock

It may seem like everyone and their mother is getting lip fillers these days, but before you sign up for a pout that could rival Kylie Jenner's, it's important to vet the professional you're trusting with your lips. Just take it from the multiple women in Arizona who were left with severe infections after they got injections out of someone's home.

Local news station Fox 10 Phoenix spoke with seven of the women, many of whom said they been recommended the services by friends. One of the women, Alexandra Garaventa, told another local station, 12 News, that her best friend had been going to the woman's home in Maricopa County since November 2018 for the lip injections. "Every time she went, her lips looked amazing, like flawless," Garaventa said.

The main draw of going to the Maricopa woman, who claimed she was licensed to perform the injections, was that she reportedly did the job for a fraction of the normal price. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the average cost of lip fillers is about $620 per milliliter. The Maricopa woman, however, charged only $80 per milliliter.

The women who ended up with infections all got injections on August 3rd. Garaventa told 12 News that she knew something was wrong right away, "When she was pushing [the filler] in, it almost felt like my lips wanted to reject it, like it was being forced in," she said.

Ashleigh Villaverde, who had gotten injections from the woman before, told Fox 10 that she had a similar experience to Garaventa during her most recent visit. "As soon as I went this time, I knew something was wrong because each time I injected, it hurt so bad," Villaverde said. "That has never happened before."

Both Garaventa and Villaverde said within hours, their lips were extremely swollen and painful. In fact, Garaventa's top lip was so swollen it was touching the tip of her nose, she said. But when Garaventa sent a text message to the Maricopa woman who injected her lips, she was assured that the swelling was normal, since she had never gotten her lips done before.

The women rushed to the emergency room hours after getting the injections. "When I came in, they already knew what was going on," another woman, Nayhely McLaughlin, told Fox 10. "They asked if I went to Maricopa—'we just had, like, eight girls here yesterday.'"

Garaventa said she saw multiple doctors and was given various medications before she was finally admitted to the hospital about a week after she got the injections. "Every single day I would wake up and there would be blood all over my mouth," she told 12 News. "I would have to squeeze pus from all the spots on my face, the infection was getting worse even on the medicine."

She was in the hospital for a week, where she was put on additional medications and underwent two surgeries. “It helped, but it still didn’t all come out, so they also put in a dissolvent in my lips to dissolve the filler, and that also helped a lot, but there’s still stuff in my lips, so I’m going to have to follow up and probably get another dissolvent put in,” she said.

Daniel Maman, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon with 740 Park Plastic Surgery in New York City, tells Health this story isn't uncommon. "It's hard to say where along the supply chain the contamination happened," he says. "First of all, whatever product is being injected is oftentimes non-medical grade. Even if they are acquiring the actual legitimate product, it's often acquired illegally."

Dr. Maman says getting injections in a home setting is a scenario "fraught for problems." The fillers may not have been kept in a temperature-controlled environment or withdrawn from the vile properly; new, sterile needles may not have been used for each patient; and most importantly, the person doing the injections may not have been a trained medical professional.

According to Garaventa, the Maricopa woman has since changed her phone number and deleted her Facebook page, where she advertised the services. She said at some point, the woman gave various reasons for what happened. "She told us that she got a new batch of whatever the filler was, she said that they switched the ingredients," Garaventa said. "But she also said that it was left in the sun too long, so nobody really knows the truth and nobody really knows what’s in our lips."

Now, three weeks after it all began, Garaventa said she's still waiting for her lips to heal, and has been in contact with about 15 others who had similar experiences. The Maricopa Police Department is also aware of what happened and is reportedly investigating the incidents.

The bottom line: If you want to get lip injections, Dr. Maman says be sure to go to a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist, preferably one that has experience doing lip injections and comes with plenty of 5-star reviews. All qualified doctors should do a consultation before the procedure, which is when you can ask for their credentials as well as make sure their aesthetic vision matches yours.