This minimally invasive procedure is on the rise.
Tight. Lifted. Snatched. These are the words cosmetic treatment patients use to describe what they're looking to achieve. They're looking to celebrities, such as Bella Hadid, who have an almost cat-like tightness to their faces as inspiration. As such, people are opting for treatments such as facial liposuction, buccal fat removal, eyebrow transplants, and threads.
It's the latter that has recently seen a spike in consumer interest. A 2022 Dotdash Meredith study found that maintaining a youthful appearance and actively using methods to slow down aging remain important to people who get cosmetic treatments. But of those, it was found that now they're looking for the most effective and immediate results more than they were two years ago. Furthermore, a 2022 report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) confirmed that nonsurgical skin tightening procedures were amongst the top five most popular minimally invasive treatments — thread lifts are just that.
To better understand what they are, how they work, the pros and cons, and more, we tapped four experts to share everything there is to know about thread lifts. Their answers, below.
What are thread lifts?
"Thread lifts are a cosmetic procedure that uses specially designed threads to lift and contour sagging skin on the face, neck, and body," explains Michelle Henry, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan. Furthermore, TJ Tsay, MD, a California-based aesthetics doctor and medical director at Ageless MD, adds that thread lifts can provide a more snatched jawline, a defined contoured nose to make it appear slimmer, and can provide a brow lift to open up the eyes and giving a more awake look.
"The threads are inserted into the skin with a fine needle and are designed to stimulate collagen production to improve the skin's overall appearance," adds Dr. Henry.
How do thread lifts work?
As people age, bone structure shrinks, fat pads migrate, and collagen decreases. Marisol Saavedra, MD, a London-based aesthetic doctor, says that FDA-approved threads are used to reposition fat pads to give patients the tightening and lifting effect they're looking for.
"Thread lifts work by inserting tiny threads under the skin to lift and support sagging skin. These threads are typically made of polydioxanone (PDO) or polylactic acid (PLA) — both dissolve over time," describes Dr. Henry. "As the threads are inserted and anchored in place, they create a lifting effect on the skin, helping to reposition sagging tissue and youthful contour. They can also stimulate collagen production to reduce skin laxity."
Ok, but how are they anchored into place? Jennifer Levine, MD, a New York-based double-board certified plastic surgeon, explains that threads have barbs or little hooks that latch onto the skin (from the inside) and subcutaneous tissue. "They are placed and then they are pulled to tighten and lift the tissue," she furthers.
What are the benefits of getting thread lifts vs. other similar procedures?
Dr. Saavedra says that they provide natural-looking results without the need for surgery. And because it's a minimally invasive procedure, there's little downtime. "Plus, we don't achieve the same tightness with machine-base treatments as we do with threads," she adds.
Dr. Tsay agrees. "The lifts and the type of results that I can get from these types of procedures are beyond what I can do with your traditional Botox and fillers," he says.
He adds that they're very popular amongst younger demographics who don't have extensive sagging and just want to tighten and lift their complexion. "They're a good option for individuals who want to address mild to moderate sagging but are not yet ready for a surgical facelift," confirms Dr. Henry.
What are the potential side effects of getting thread lifts?
"The potential side effects of thread lifts can include bruising, swelling, and mild discomfort," shares Dr. Henry. "In rare cases, there may be skin irregularities." Dr. Saavedra adds that patients may feel mild pain for about two weeks post-procedure.
What is the process like when getting a thread lift?
First, there's a consultation to see if the patient is a good candidate for threads. Dr. Saavedra and Dr. Henry agree that the best candidates are those in good health who have mild to moderate sagging in the face and neck — typically those under 55-years-old. "There are more suitable treatments (such as face lifts) for older patients with more severe skin laxity," offers Dr. Saavedra.
"On the day of the procedure, the provider will cleanse the treatment area and apply a local anesthetic to minimize discomfort. They will then insert the threads under the skin using a small needle. Once the threads are in place, the provider will gently manipulate them to achieve the desired lifting effect," explains Dr. Henry. During the treatment, Dr. Tsay says that he likes to do one side of the face first so he can do what he calls a "halftime show" to show the patient the immediate effects. "They are always impressed," he explains.
Post-treatment, Dr. Henry says people may experience some swelling and bruising. For the best results, Dr. Saavedra says to avoid facial massages and exercise for two weeks, to sleep upright for a week, and to take antibiotics for five days. Lastly, Dr. Henry also suggests avoiding exaggerated facial expressions for about a week as the movement may disrupt the threads.
How long do the effects of thread lifts last?
The answer differs depending on who you ask — anywhere between six months to four years. "Results vary from person to person, and further treatments may be necessary if desired results aren’t achieved through one treatment alone," explains Dr. Henry. Dr. Levine adds that the type of thread used and how many are used will also influence how long they last.
How much does it cost to get thread lifts?
As with any cosmetic procedure, the cost will depend on the where the practice is located, the experience level of the doctor, how many threads are needed, and where they're placed. Dr. Henry says the price can range anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. Dr. Saavedra, who practices in Mexico City and in London, says that in Mexico they typically range between $1,500 to $4,000, but that in London she's seen price-tags waver between $5,000 and $25,000.
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