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THREAD LIFTS – A MINIMALLY INVASIVE ALTERNATIVE TO FACELIFT SURGERY

Dr. Rosmy Barrios 27 Jul 2021
THREAD LIFTS – A MINIMALLY INVASIVE ALTERNATIVE TO FACELIFT SURGERY

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As we age, the skin loses its volume and elasticity. That is perfectly normal. It happens because of a natural drop in collagen and elastin production. As a result, the arrangement of dermal tissue changes, and skin laxity appears. 

Genetics are a crucial factor in skin aging. However, many environmental factors play a part too. Exposure to UV light as well as poor lifestyle and dietary choices can cause premature aging. Luckily, most early signs of aging can improve with the help of non-invasive aesthetic treatments like laser skin resurfacing and injectables (dermal fillers, Botox, and so on).

However, when the skin becomes too saggy, plastic surgery was usually the only option. Until recently, that is. Nowadays, non-invasive facelift procedures, such as thread lifts, are becoming increasingly popular among those looking for scalpel-free and affordable facelift options.

Overview

Some skin laxity issues, such as jowls, droopy cheeks or eyelids, loose neck skin, and deep wrinkles, cannot improve significantly with the help of most non-invasive aesthetic procedures. We could say, however, that dermal fillers or Botox can effectively postpone plastic surgery. But, when a significant excess of skin appears, plastic surgery is the only solution. 

The advantage of thread lifts is they are somewhere in between these two options. It is a minimally invasive procedure with highly satisfying (but temporary) skin-tightening results. Also, it is a quality alternative for anyone looking to avoid surgery and save money on a facelift.

How do thread lifts work?

Thread lifts do not remove the skin. There are no incisions, scars, or downtime. The skin is pulled back using special sutures (threads) and stitched into a new position facilitating a lift and enabling a tightening effect.  The tiny sutures are inserted inside the dermis and pulled gently to create a facelift effect. The resulting microtrauma boosts the healing response inside the skin. With a surge of collagen, the skin repairs itself and adds volume, maximizing the treatment effects in the process.

Collagen plays a central part in the wound healing process. It also makes the skin firmer, voluminous, and elastic. Unfortunately, collagen production drops significantly with age. 

Less collagen equals weaker skin. As a result, there is less support for the underlying tissues. The skin stretches and gets pulled downwards by gravity.

Thread lifts spark the healing response inside the skin. They provoke constant collagen production because the body perceives the sutures as foreign bodies and tries to expel them and heal the trauma. The whole process rejuvenates the skin, giving it more volume, firmness, and elasticity.

Patients usually do not experience any discomfort due to the small size of sutures. Post-procedure recovery is fast, and there is no need for a hospital stay.

Thread Lifts vs. Surgical Facelift

As a minimally invasive procedure, thread lifts naturally have certain advantages over surgical facelifts. However, there are some disadvantages too. We can take a look at how the two techniques compare in four essential categories:

Recovery

Recovery time is incomparably shorter with thread lifts. Surgical procedures usually require heavy sedation, absence from work (up to two weeks), and assistance during recovery. With thread lifts, patients can take care of themselves immediately after the procedure. Some short-lasting soreness, swelling, or discomfort may be present. But, these are usually mild and do not require special treatment. 

Effectiveness

While both techniques can produce highly satisfying results, thread lifts have more limitations than surgical facelifts. The effects last shorter, up to three years at best. Also, facelift surgery is much more effective in older patients (55+).

Risk of complications

Every type of surgery carries a risk of various complications. Facelift surgery is no exception. Due to their invasive nature, surgical procedures increase the risk of bruising, scarring, bleeding, severe pain, and infections. Such complications are rare with minimally invasive procedures.

Cost

Because of their simplicity, the cost of thread lifts is significantly lower.

Who is a good candidate?

With thread lifts, it is essential to manage the expectations of the procedure in the best possible way. The aesthetic changes this treatment provides are ultra-fine but noticeable. However, threads cannot improve severe skin laxity issues. 

The best candidates for thread lifts are in their thirties to early fifties. They have mild to moderate skin laxity problems and prefer a natural-looking facelift. 

Both women and men can benefit from a minimally invasive facelift. It is a great low-risk option for particular skin laxity issues, such as jowls, and deeper wrinkles. The effects are temporary, however. They last from one to three years. But, the lower cost, simplicity of the procedure, and short recovery time may compensate for that.

Types of Thread Lifts

Three types of thread lifts that are currently in use are:

  • PDO (polydioxanone)
  • PLA (polylactic acid)
  • PCA (polycaprolactone) 

PDO threads are biodegradable. It takes six months for the body to absorb them. There are three subtypes of PDO threads: 

  • Mono threads. – Smooth and provide minimal lift.
  • Cog threads. – Barbed to give more lift.
  • Screw threads. – Intertwined threads for better volume restoration.

PLA threads are lactic acid-derived. They are resorbable and provoke a longer-lasting healing response in the skin (collagen production).

PCA threads are synthetic but bio-absorbable. They boost collagen production longer than PDO and PLA threads. 

Potential Complications

Serious complications with this minimally invasive procedure are rare. Some common post-treatment problems include:

  • Bruising
  • Redness
  • Soreness
  • Swelling
  • Mild discomfort

These are normal unless they last longer than 3 to 7 days. 

Pain, allergic reactions, and infections are possible but rare complications. Other problems, such as threads migration, extrusion, and protrusion, may occur due to weak barbs or poor selection of the insertion site.

Most complications concern the aesthetically unappealing result of the treatment. These include dimpling, facial asymmetry, and other irregularities (sunken cheek, etc.). However, such complications are also rare.

The Bottom Line

Thread lifts are an innovative and minimally invasive alternative to surgical facelifts. 

They have a positive effect on collagen production and the skin's self-rejuvenating ability. 

The main advantages include short recovery time, low risk of complications, and low cost. However, the effects are temporary and limited to moderate skin laxity problems.

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About the Author:
Dr. Rosmy Barrios is an aesthetic medicine specialist with international work experience. She earned her physician diploma at the Universidad Del Norte’s School of Medicine in Barranquilla, Colombia, and her specialty at John F. Kennedy University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Dr. Barrios is a member of Pan-American Aesthetic Medicine Association (PASAM) and the Union Internationale de Medecine Esthetique (UIME). She is an expert health writer with keen interests in aesthetic medicine, regenerative aesthetics, anti-aging, fitness, and nutrition. Currently, Dr. Barrios heads the Regenerative Aesthetics department at a renowned Internal Medicine clinic based in Belgrade, Serbia.

Sources

  • Kalra R. Use of barbed threads in facial rejuvenation. Indian J Plast Surg. 2008 Oct;41(Suppl):S93-S100. PMID: 20174549; PMCID: PMC2825122.
  • Rohrich RJ, Sinno S, Vaca EE. Getting Better Results in Facelifting. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2019 Jun 27;7(6):e2270. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000002270. PMID: 31624678; PMCID: PMC6635200.
  • Wu WTL. Commentary on: Effectiveness, Longevity, and Complications of Facelift by Barbed Suture Insertion. Aesthet Surg J. 2019 Feb 15;39(3):248-253. doi: 10.1093/asj/sjy340. PMID: 30768143; PMCID: PMC6376340.
  • Savoia A, Accardo C, Vannini F, Di Pasquale B, Baldi A. Outcomes in thread lift for facial rejuvenation: a study performed with happy lift™ revitalizing. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2014 Jun;4(1):103-14. doi: 10.1007/s13555-014-0041-6. Epub 2014 Jan 17. PMID: 24436079; PMCID: PMC4065274.
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