Traditionally, the only way to fix skin laxity in areas such as the jowls and drooping cheeks is facelift surgery. While laser resurfacing treatment can help to restore firmness to a certain degree, once loose skin is present, only a scalpel can truly remove it. However, not everyone is able or willing to go under the knife. The thread lift is a middle ground between non-invasive facial rejuvenation and facelift surgery.
What is Thread Lift?
A thread lift is considered a minimally-invasive treatment, it does not involve cutting or stitching, however, it does involve injecting the thread underneath your skin to “lift” it up, creating the effect of pulling the skin back slightly and therefore tightening the face.
In addition to lifting sagging skin, threads help to combat aging by stimulating large surges of collagen to the treated areas. Collagen acts as growth factor that greatly influences the condition of our skin. In addition to being used for wound healing, collagen helps to keep our skin strong, voluminous and supple. As we get older, our bodies gradually produce less collagen, the loss of volume and strength will cause skin laxity and wrinkle. Besides, gravity will pull the skin downwards, resulting in a haggard look. Introducing fresh collagen to the skin while the signs of laxity are still mild can help to reduce looseness and prevent it from getting worse.
Patients who have undergone thread lift will notice a gradual improvement in their skin tone and firmness. While the threads are in place, the body’s collagen production will be constantly active because the body will try to “heal” the sutured areas. The body is biologically conditioned to react this way when it senses any foreign object present within the dermis (skin). Fortunately for the patient, the threads placed under the skin are so thin that they will not be able to feel the sutures.
Types of Thread Lift
There are a few types of thread lifts, the main difference is longevity, stiffness and tensile strength:
- PDO (Polydioxanone) dissolves after 6 – 9 months
- PLLA (Poly L Lactic Acid) dissolves after 12 – 18 months
- PCL (Polycaprolactone) dissolves after 24 – 36 months
Why do people seek Thread Lift?
Thread lifts are ideal for those in their late 30s to 50s, those who are older will benefit more from facelift surgery. Additionally, those who have medical conditions and are unable to have surgery will find thread lifts are a great alternative.
Patients can drive themselves home immediately after the procedure (unlike in facelift surgery which requires some assistance, as they may be under general anaesthesia). Great for those who have children at home or those who have busy and demanding careers as it is not a time-consuming procedure and doesn’t have a long recovery time.
Most patients can return to their normal routine after the procedure, while some may experience soreness, redness or swelling, it generally takes a day for it to calm down.
There’s no need to take strong pain medication.
For those who are looking for an affordable option, thread lifts are ideal as they are easier to perform, they are much more affordable than say a facelift surgery. The process of thread lift can also be reversed should there be complications.
Although thread lifts are advantageous, patients must maintain a realistic expectation for this procedure. While thread lifts can certainly produce visible changes, they will only be able to lift the face by a few millimeters, as such they create a more subtle and natural look than facelift surgery. Thread lifts are more suitable for mild to moderate cases of skin laxity. Once thread lifts are no longer feasible, patients may have to consider facelift surgery.
The patient needs to understand that no lifting technique is permanent, that being said a facelift surgery will produce longer-lasting results than a thread lift. Facelift surgery can last up to a decade whereas a thread lift generally lasts between one to three years.
What’s the procedure like?
Firstly, a numbing cream will be applied to the area that is meant to be treated. It takes up to 20 – 30 minutes for the numbing cream to take effect. The doctor will then mark out the positions of the threads to achieve the best possible results.
The doctor will begin by inserting a thick hollow needle into the facial skin, targeting under the fat layer. One end of the thread is carefully tied to firmer underlying internal structures while the other end goes underneath the skin.
As the surgeon withdraws the needle, the filaments on the sutures are deposited into the sagging parts of the face. The doctor then tugs on the threads to elevate droopy skin and sets it to a more youthful-looking position. The procedure is relatively simple and can be done in just an hour or less.
After the treatment, you should minimize the movement of your face for at least a day. You will need to make sure not to rub your face vigorously while cleansing it or applying moisturizer for at least a week after having threads placed. You should also prop your head up slightly so that you don’t roll over directly onto your face while sleeping. You will also need to avoid smoking and drinking for at least 24 hours.
To get the most out of the treatment, patients can combine thread lift with Exilis, Thermage or Ultherapy. These lasers use heat to stimulate collagen production. By combining these procedures with thread lift you can maximize the overall effect of skin firming and create even more lifting to the neck as well as the face.
While thread lifts can tighten skin, they aren’t designed to address the blemishes of the skin’s surface. As such signs of aging such as age spots, areas of uneven pigmentation and fine lines will require a different technique known as skin resurfacing. During skin resurfacing the top layer of the dermis is removed, stripping away the blemishes. A new more youthful-looking layer of the skin then grows in its place. You can do this through other lasers or fillers. It would be best to consult with the doctor on what works best for your condition.
Possible Side Effects / Risks
Thread lifts are considered a low-risk procedure thanks to how non-invasive they are. There is virtually no risk of scarring, severe bruising, bleeding or other complications after having a thread lift.
In very rare cases, patients may experience irritation, infection or their sutures becoming visible under their skin. If this occurs, however, the sutures can be removed and the patients face will return to its prior state.