The blue hue of skin overlying injected hyaluronic acid (HA) fillers in certain cases has been hypothesized in the literature as related to the Tyndall effect. This investigation aims to understand the relevant optical concepts and to discuss the plausibility of this assertion.
Theoretic and physical aspects of relevant optical theories including the Tyndall effect, the Raleigh criterion and the Mie Solution are discussed, with simple examples. The physical properties of the system (both HA and subcutaneous tissue) are explored. Alternate concepts of dermal hue generation are discussed.
The Tyndall effect (and Rayleigh criterion) describe optical phenomenon that occur as light passes through colloidal solutions containing uniform spherical particles of sizes less than the length of a wavelength of visible light. HA fillers are complex, large, non-spherical, cross-linked hydrogels, and thus are not well characterized by these theories.Skin is a complex optical surface in which shorter wavelengths of light are selectively filtered at superficial depths. Light passing through to subdermal HA would have low blue light amplitude, minimizing what light could be preferentially scattered. Further, should blue hues be 'generated' subdermally, the same skin filters work in reverse, making the blue light poorly detectable by an external observer.
The Tyndall effect is unlikely to cause dermal hue changes in HA filler instillation. Optical and perceptual processes explaining superficial vein coloration may better describe subdermal HA hue changes. Vein coloration is thought to be related to three processes: the reflective properties of the skin, the absorptive properties of blood and the perceptive properties of an observer's eyes. Subdermal HA may simulate these phenomena by a number of undetermined, yet plausible mechanisms.
Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014 Sep 4