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We Ask a Derm: What Is a Thread Lift and Why Are People Getting Them?

If you’ve ever been distracted by your own face during a Zoom meeting and wondered, “Have I aged 10 years in the last 12 months?” you’re not alone. In fact, the increased virtual face time has led to an uptick in dermatology treatments and procedures throughout the U.S. 

So much so that American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, which is the world’s largest association of facial plastic surgeons, have named this effect the “Zoom Boom.”

One such procedure that’s gained popularity recently: Thread lifts.

Um, what is a thread lift?

“A thread lift is a non-surgical alternative to a traditional face lift that involves the placement of barbed absorbable suture material called polydiaxonone (PDO) under the skin to lift and tighten loose, sagging skin along the jawline, cheeks and forehead, explains Ope Ofodile, a cosmetic and medical dermatologist at the Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta.

“Instead of removing facial skin, we are able to reposition and suspend surrounding tissue with the subcutaneous placement of a ‘thread’ to create a lifting effect,” adds Ava Shamban, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Ava MD Dermatology in Los Angeles.

Speaking of threads, “There are many different types that vary in their physical characteristics and composition,” says Shamban. “PDO is a type of polyester, while other commonly used materials are PLA (polyactic) and PCA (polycaprolactone). All of these threads break down in the tissue and dissolve over time,” she assures.

An additional benefit of the threads is that they can be used to “stimulate the production of collagen in the areas of treatment, compensating for the losses we experience as we age,” says Shamban.

Why are thread lifts becoming so popular lately?

“Put quite simply, they work!” says Ofodile. “Thread lifts offer a non-surgical option that addresses excess skin laxity and stimulates new collagen growth with a short recovery and little downtime for the majority of patients. They’ve been used in parts of Asia and Europe for several years now but have just started to gain traction in the U.S. over the last five years due to their efficacy and lack of other non-surgical tightening options.” 

Shamban agrees, adding that: “While there are new types of threads that are available, the procedure itself is not new.” Rather, it’s our approach to aging that’s changed in recent years. 

“Today, we see more patients who are opting for lesser, non-invasive treatments and being strategic about spacing them out over time to support collagen building, tissue tightening and remodeling at every age. Patients are no longer waiting for everything to drastically change before coming in. The smaller ‘tweak-ments’ approach to aging and ‘pre-juvenation’ as I call it, helps to change the trajectory of how we age.”

What are the main benefits of getting a thread lift over other procedures?

“Thread lifts have been referred to as ‘the luncheon lift’ because they can be done in a relatively short amount of time as an in-office procedure,” says Shamban. “They’re generally undetectable, minimally invasive and can work on range of areas. Plus, they avoid a lot of the potential complications that often come with surgery like risk of infection, scarring or asymmetry. That said, thread lifts are also a great option for patients who don’t qualify for surgery for various health reasons.”

Who is an ideal candidate for a thread lift and who shouldn't get a thread lift?

“An ideal candidate is someone with mild to moderate loose skin on the lower face and jawline. Thread lifts can also address crepe-y skin along the neck, knees, upper arms and abdomen,” explains Ofodile. “In general, non-smokers with healthy, well-maintained skin are the best candidates for any procedure, including thread lifts,” adds Shamban.

Thread lifts are not advised for people who have “severe volume loss” or “heavier faces.” In those scenarios, the threads alone may not be substantial enough to lift the excess skin and you will get better results with a traditional face lift.

What can you expect from a thread lift?

“Most patients will see noticeable lifting of the treated area immediately after insertion of threads, but you can expect the effect to improve over the next six weeks, after which point you may need an additional treatment if more tightening is desired,” says Ofodile.

According to Shamban, “A patient can usually expect 2 to 4 mm of lift in any areas that were treated. These areas often include the brow, the nasal labial folds or the smile line. There may be some visible swelling, bruising, or some soreness to the area initially, but it is usually mild.”

How do thread lifts compare to fillers and traditional face lifts?  

“Dermal fillers are primarily used to fill in lines and wrinkles, replace mild volume loss or to contour the face. While they do provide some lifting effect to the face depending on where and how they are injected, they do fall short in terms of actual repositioning of the tissue, which is where threads excel,” explains Shamban. “Hyaluronic acid fillers do not stimulate new collagen production and do not tighten loose sagging skin,” adds Ofodile.

“Younger patients with early signs of laxity can achieve great results with thread lift procedures, whereas patients with more severe laxity or excess skin may require a traditional face lift to remove the skin, reposition tissue and tighten the muscles,” says Shamban.

Both doctors also shared that they often use a multi-pronged approach when treating patients. As Ofodile explains, “Thread lifts are another component in our toolbox and have a specific role. I use them in combination with lasers, fillers and neuromodulators to get the best results.”

How much, on average, do thread lifts cost and how long do results last?  

“The total cost depends on how many threads are used, as well as the type of threads that are used in any given area. In the neck, lower face or mid face area, threads start at about one thousand dollars and up. As for how long they last, we generally tell our patients that the lifted results can last up to a year, but we like to repeat the treatment at about nine months to get maximum results,” says Shamban.

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