Sculptra® Aesthetic is an injectable poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) that helps to achieve the look of a subtle, but non-invasive face lift. It is made by Galderma, the company that also makes Dysport. It was originally used to help HIV patients with facial lipoatrophy (facial fat loss). In 2013, the branded product was approved for cosmetic use in the United States, by the FDA. Prior to that, its generic substance had been approved in 2006 for cosmetic use in Canada.
The most important thing to know about Sculptra® (and all dermal fillers), is that their effectiveness is determined, in large part, by the technique, talent and precision of the injector. That is – the doctor who is performing the treatment. They must be trained specifically for using this injectable facial filler, since it is not meant to be used in the same way as its industry counterparts. Also, since Sculptra® is not easily reversible, and lasts for years in the skin, carefulness in selecting the right practitioner is even more pertinent for those who choose this anti-aging solution.
At our skincare and cosmetic clinic in Surrey, only licensed physicians perform cosmetic injectable treatments. Dr. Shah received training by Sculptra® representatives directly, and is approved to perform this type of ‘liquid facelift.’ He is also qualified to train others on the procedure.
What is there to love about this injectable facial filler?
Sculptra® Aesthetic uses poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA), which is considered a “biocompatible, biodegradable, synthetic material.” In essence, that means your body can absorb, and remove it on its own, easily. So, with the exception of those who are allergic to it, it is a safe product. It has been used in the medical industry for years, in dissolvable stitching material. Now, it’s used to treat wrinkles and deep folds in the face.
Unlike dermal fillers that focus on adding lost substances to the skin to raise wrinkles, the PLLA in Sculptra® works by triggering your body’s own mechanisms for producing collagen deep within your dermal layers. This, in turn, makes it a ‘stimulating’ volumizer of sorts, which gives a gradual, anti-aging effect.
This injectable cosmetic product lasts a long time – at least 18 months (after a series of 3 treatments scheduled roughly one month apart). Actually, its makers claim at least 2 years. However, people respond differently to it, and some say it lasts longer, even up to 3 years. This can depend on how far along your condition was when starting treatment, plus your own genetics. Nonetheless, the facial filler is known to be a long-term investment, saving the hassle and cost of shorter-term solutions, like creams, Botox® or hyaluronic acid injections.
That said, Sculptra® can also be used with other fillers, for an even more enhanced, youthful look.
While the thought of a needle injection can make you shudder at the idea of pain, Sculptra® provides some comfort in that its formula includes lidocaine. This will help to numb the local area, so that you feel very little after the first one or two insertions.
What areas can Sculptra® dermal filler be used on?
Sculptra® can help to lift lost volume in the face (usually from fat loss, called facial lipoatrophy). Examples of what it can help to fix include:
- Deep nasolabial folds (smile lines between the nose and mouth)
- Marionette lines around the mouth (the ‘smiley face’ curves, or laugh lines, around the corners of your mouth)
- Chin folds or wrinkles
- Hollowed temples
- Sunken, depressed cheeks (for a cheek lift, or heightened cheekbones)
- Jawline contour
- Wrinkles at the top of breasts
- Buttocks shape
In essence, Sculptra® is a filler for volume loss, more-so than for wrinkle smoothing. It is a great way to ‘perk up’ your face due to aging, medication side effects or otherwise. It can help to contour the face in areas that have lost their shape, too.
The first step in finding out if Sculptra® can treat your case, is to come in for a consultation at our skincare clinic. Depending on the severity of your condition, we may make recommendations for other products, or a mix of solutions. Remember, Sculptra® offers subtle but ‘worth it’ results, when the treatment is fitting. It is also much slower acting than other dermal fillers. So, it’s important to speak with a doctor about what you want to address on your face. Sculptra® is only one of many treatment options.
Sculptra® is not a solution for the lips. If you’d like lip plumping, we’d be happy to recommend other solutions! We do offer this service at our Surrey clinic.
How does Sculptra® work as a liquid facelift procedure?
Sculptra® works in a specific way to target fibroblast cells in your skin with poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) microparticles. This then encourages your own body’s collagen production, without adding collagen directly.
Fibroblasts play an important part of your skin’s cellular structure. They are like your little collagen ‘factories.’ However, starting in our 20s, these cells begin to slow down collagen production, in conjunction with other aging processes. This loss of collagen causes our skin to age, wrinkle, lose elasticity and ‘sink.’ Environmental factors, such as medication, sickness or smoking can exacerbate the look of aging skin.
When you lose collagen bands, you end up with is less substance forming the foundation of your skin. Your skin has less to ‘hang on to,’ in a sense. So, it sags and wrinkles, much like a bathing suit would if it were not being worn snuggly on your body.
That’s where Sculptra® comes in. The role of the PLLA microparticles in this product are for carefully ‘injuring’ the fibroblasts in your dermal layers (but in a good way!). This happens when the injected Sculptra® formula starts to break down. The fibroblasts then kick in your body’s natural healing response, which is to produce collagen. The same thing happens when a scar heals – the body starts producing more tissue (i.e. new skin), which requires more collagen from those fibroblasts.
Instead of scarring your skin overtly (which has obvious downsides), Sculptra® allows your body to heal from ‘intentional injury’ at a microscopic level, deep within your skin’s surface.
When we say ‘injury,’ we don’t mean the kind of injury that you feel pain from, such as if you had cut your finger. Instead, PLLA ‘injuries’ happen very subtly, in a very small way. Plus, the healing time is very gradual, taking months.
Since Sculptra® is designed to work so gradually, it is not a quick, ‘fix it’ solution for wrinkles. This would be the case with say, Botox®, or even with hyaluronic acid fillers. That’s because those types of treatments work by adding something to your body that wasn’t there before. But the flip side is that these ‘additions’ also go away sooner. Sculptra® does the opposite – it aims to let your body do what it wants to do on its own – and nature can be slow!
During a treatment session, a thin needle about 1 inch long will be injected deeply into your skin. This process will repeat as many times as necessary to fill the target area. While it can hurt, the Sculptra® formula contains lidocaine, which will help to freeze the area locally. You’ll also get ice packs to help with pain! The whole process takes about 45 – 60 minutes per sitting.
How many treatments does Sculptra® require to see results?
Sculptra® must be injected in a series of 3 treatments, about 1 month apart. A doctor may inject more than one vial in each treatment session, depending on what your desired outcomes are. After the 3 series of injections, the effects work for about 12 to 18 months.
Shortly after a Sculptra® treatment, you may notice that your wrinkles, folds or hollows go back to the way they were. This is normal, and a part of the process that kick-starts collagen production. The initial injection will be more of a ‘water fill.’ When the water subsides, the formula starts to work slowly over time. It may be weeks, or months, before you see noticeable differences. In fact, they may be so subtle, and gradual, that sometimes, only a before-and-after picture can help people see the effects of this treatment.
Is there downtime with Sculptra® injections? What about side effects?
Downtime with Sculptra® is minimal. Most people experience bruising, swelling and redness at the injection site. These conditions normally heal themselves after about a week, or per your body’s normal healing response time for things of this nature. You may massage and ice the area after treatment, if you experience pain or swelling.
You should be able to resume your normal activities immediately after a treatment session. Though we’d advise staying out of the sun, and avoiding UV rays until you are healed. If facial redness or bruising bothers you, you can wear mineral makeup to cover those areas.
To avoid bruising as much as possible, we’d recommend not taking any blood thinning medications or supplements before and after your treatment. This includes over-the-counter painkillers, like Advil. It also includes alcohol.
We would not recommend that you undergo a Sculptra® treatment if you have an event coming up, for which you want to look presentable. You should allow yourself some healing time after a treatment like this, especially in case anything unexpected happens.
While more severe side effects of Sculptra® are possible, they are rare. Often, they are also dependent on the procedure, and how it was performed, rather than the product itself (with the exclusion of allergies or pre-existing conditions). That said, a known, but rare, complaint about Sculptra® (especially when it first came out with its original formula, which has now been revised), is that it can cause small lumps over time. These lumps are hard to remove, when they happen. They can also happen with other dermal fillers. However, being a doctor-led clinic, if your body does form these as a result of our treatments on you, we will stick by you, and help you find a resolution to the best of our ability.
The main ingredient in Sculptra® has been used in stitches since 1999. The product brand itself is approved by Health Canada and the FDA in the United States. It has been used on over 150,000 patients. It was also studied for effectiveness over a 25-month period. Many patients reported high levels of satisfaction with the treatment.
During your initial consultation, and before you are injected with Sculptra®, it is important to let us know about your entire medical history. You’ll also be given more information on the possible risks and side effects associated with this dermal filler.
What is the cost of cosmetic treatments with Sculptra® at your skin clinic?
The cost of Sculptra® will depend on what you want to treat, the severity of the case, and how much product is needed to achieve desired results. Also, weeks after each treatment, we’ll need to assess your body’s response to the product, to know if you’ll need more injections. It will be near-impossible to give an estimate without seeing you in-person first, and regularly during your treatment plan.
However, we can say that Sculptra® treatments start at $900 per injection, and go up from there. Though, the ultimate cost-per-treatment can also depend on package pricing you may want to opt for.
Our cost for dermal filler injections include all supplies, service time, expertise and medical follow-up, in case of adverse side-effects.
We strongly recommend you come in for an initial consultation, where we can discuss your concerns and desired outcomes, and to find out if you are a good candidate for Sculptra®. This way, we’ll be able to make recommendations on a treatment plan we think will work for you. This may involve Sculptra® alone, something else, or a mix of treatments. Sculptra® is only one of many tools in our ‘arsenal’ of cosmetic solutions.
While the initial consultation comes with a fee, this cost can be credited towards future treatments at our clinic.