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Thread Lifts: A Less Risky Alternative to Face-lifts?

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

It’s common knowledge that undergoing a facial rejuvenation is a significant commitment. The recovery period spans several weeks, and face-lifts rank among the most expensive cosmetic procedures available. They bring about lasting changes to your facial appearance. Needless to say, it is a major surgical procedure that is not suitable for everyone. Fortunately, for those who want to tighten and lift their facial skin without going through surgery, there are several less invasive alternatives available. One such option is known as a thread lift.

What Exactly Is a Thread Lift?

According to Dr. Konstantin Vasyukevich, a double board-certified plastic surgeon at New York Facial Plastic Surgery, a thread lift is a minimally invasive surgical procedure designed to address the sagging of facial skin and soft tissues that often occur with age. The procedure involves using a thin needle to pass a thread with tiny barbs or cones through the skin and catching the soft tissues as it is pulled through. This lifting of the soft tissues is what gives the desired results. Dr. Vasyukevich explains that the effects of a thread lift can last anywhere from two to six months.

Typically, medical professionals use threads made from a polymer called polydioxanone (PDO) for thread lifts. These threads are self-dissolving sutures that gradually dissolve within the body over several months, as explained by Dr. Peter Lee, a board-certified plastic surgeon and the CEO and founder of WAVE Plastic Surgery. The choice of threads used depends on the specific area of the face or neck being treated. Smoother threads are used for some areas, while larger barbed threads may be used for maximal lifting, although they are not suitable for areas with thin skin, like the forehead. Dr. Vasyukevich notes that while thread lifts are commonly used to lift jowls (loose skin under the chin), they are also used for brow, neck, or cheek lifts.

When considering a thread lift, it is important to choose a qualified practitioner who can perform this delicate procedure. The American Med Spa Association recommends that only individuals with at least registered nurse-level training should offer thread lifts since the procedure involves using needles and sutures.

Furthermore, Dr. Lee explains that over time, the application of thread lifts has expanded to more than just tightening the skin. They are now used to enhance the volume of hollow areas and reduce lines. They can even mimic the effects of fillers in the smile line region, resulting in smoother and improved skin texture.

The introduction of a foreign object (the thread) into the body triggers a natural repair response, leading to a temporary lift.

It’s what we refer to as a regulated inflammatory response,” states Dr. Lee. “When the thread disintegrates, it triggers neocollagenesis – wherein the collagen initiates its growth. Consequently, the volume in that particular region increases as the collagen develops.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Thread Lifts?

One of the benefits of thread lifts compared to some of the more invasive cosmetic procedures is that they can be performed under local anesthesia during a brief office visit. Thread lifts can cause bruising or swelling, and it may take a few days — or up to a week with maximum lifting — to achieve the final, most natural, appearance, says Dr. Lee. “Right after the procedure it’s going to look a bit exaggerated and maybe within a week or two everything settles into the natural position,” says Dr. Vasyukevich.

If you’ve seen a thread lift before-and-after post on Instagram and thought that the result looked highly unnatural, it may have been taken immediately following the procedure. That being said, if you want to avoid the downtime involved with a more serious surgery such as a traditional face-lift, the thread lift might suit you. Another advantage is that thread lifts can be reversed. If you don’t like the outcomes, you can ask your provider to remove the thread rather than waiting months for it to dissolve.

Now for the disadvantages. The typical cost of a thread lift ranges from $4,000 to $6,000, according to Dr. Vasyukevich, so they’re not exactly inexpensive, especially if you plan to get them repeatedly. In the absence of complications, thread lifts appear and feel relatively undetectable. In some cases, individuals have reported being able to sense the thread after it’s inserted or noticed unevenness at the surface of their skin, says Dr. Lee.

Realistically though, some results can only be attained with a surgical face-lift. “If someone just has a sag to their skin, then a thread lift can achieve a significant improvement,” says Dr. Lee. But for individuals who are older and have significant sagging at a deeper level, a thread lift won’t have much of a visible outcome, he explains.

This is all to say that there are numerous factors to consider when trying to decide if a thread lift is suitable for you. If you appreciate the idea of a less-invasive alternative to the face-lift, though, a thread lift may be worth exploring. “I think of the thread lift as the middle ground for people who want more results than just with, let’s say, lasers and fillers and Botox, but don’t want surgery,” says Dr. Lee.

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