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The “Thread Lift”: A Non-Invasive Alternative or Too Good to Be True?

Facelift surgeries using varying techniques have been performed since the early 1900s

Though the facelift has been refined a great deal since this time, the purpose has remained the same: to lift and tighten aged and lined skin, resulting in a smoother, more youthful facial appearance. As we age, there is a natural loss of facial skin thickness and muscle mass in addition to a breakdown of collagen and elastin proteins. These proteins work in conjunction with one another to provide structure, elasticity, and flexibility to the skin. This loss of elasticity can result in a looser appearance of skin, fine to deep-set lines and wrinkles, and decreased definition in the neck and chin area. This can be corrected with injectable filler to a certain extent, but once the skin becomes too loose, no amount of filler will help restore the prior definition.

Facelift Addresses Fine Lines and Deep Wrinkles

Less invasive facelift alternative

Facelift have traditionally been performed on people 50 years of age and older, but in recent years they have become increasingly popular with individuals as young as 35 years of age! The advantage of having a facelift surgery performed at a younger age is that the results will be less obvious. For various personal reasons, many individuals wish to keep their surgeries private. Family, friends, and peers will be less likely to notice or tell that an individual has had a facelift if it is performed at a younger age, because the change will be less dramatic. The results of a facelift are considered permanent, but the natural aging process will still occur following this procedure. The skin will continue to undergo its natural loss of volume and elasticity, and another facelift may be needed in 8 to 15 years’ time.

The “thread lift” has recently been touted as a non-surgical, less invasive facelift alternative. This procedure is typically performed under local anesthetic and has been advertised as a “lunchtime” procedure. This trend has been growing in popularity as of late, due to media coverage and endorsements by celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow. The original thread lift, using permanent thread, became popular in the 1990s and was commonly performed up until the early 2000s. This procedure came with many risks such as visible knots, drifting of stitches, skin puckering, and skin dimpling. Infection was very common.

Tighten and Restructure the Contour of the Face

During a thread lift procedure

These procedures are still performed by some doctors in many different countries. However, thread lifts using dissolvable stitches have recently risen in popularity. These lifts are safer than the previous non-dissolvable stitches but result in a decreased time frame for which results can be observed, from 2 to 3 years with the non-dissolvable stitches to only about 6 months with dissolvable stitches.

During a thread lift, small, barbed threads are inserted beneath the surface of the skin on the outer sections of the face, anchoring the skin from within and pulling the skin tighter, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It is performed under local anesthesia. The recovery time is like that of a standard facelift: patients are required to be careful with their movements and eat only soft foods for 2 to 3 weeks. Compared to a face lift, a similar recovery time is experienced (2 to 4 weeks) but with permanent results.

Although the thread lift procedure may sound appealing due to its less invasive nature, there are several drawbacks as compared to a traditional facelift. The biggest caveat is that the results of this procedure are only apparent for around 6 months when performed using dissolvable stitches, which is even less time than most hyaluronic acid fillers will last! After that, the stitches dissolve, and the skin returns to its previous appearance. The aging process is not halted during that time, and the natural loss of the skin’s elasticity continues in addition to the stretching of the skin when it is pulled back by the thread. It is possible that the skin is left looking even worse than it had prior to the procedure. In contrast, a facelift offers "permanent" results. The aging process continues, and the skin loses elasticity naturally, but the surgical tightening would not be reversed at any point, with results lasting 8 to 15 years.

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ideal for use in the mid face area

Another point of concern of the thread lift is its efficacy in different areas

The thread lift is ideal for use in the mid face area and is not quite as effective in the forehead, lower face, or neck area. These are some of the major areas of concern for facelift patients. “Mini” lifts are frequently performed that target just the lower face and neck area! The sutures used in a thread lift can easily break or migrate in the face, and once they are placed, it is not possible to move or remove them without making an incision. If the sutures do have to be moved or removed, most patients end up having to undergo a standard facelift anyway, rendering the thread lift virtually useless.

Facelift or Thread Lift?

While the thread lift may seem appealing for people wishing to avoid undergoing surgery, a facelift surgery will provide longer-lasting, higher-quality results. As a facial plastic surgeon, Dr. Torgerson is an expert at the facelift procedure. He efficiently and intelligently performs many of these surgeries each year. During a complimentary in-depth consultation with Dr. Torgerson, he can determine whether a potential patient is a candidate for a facelift surgery and devise a treatment plan.

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