A thread lift is a minimally invasive cosmetic enhancement technique that lifts sagging skin on the face and neck using surgical suture threads. A thread lift is not a substitute for a facelift. It provides modest and subtle changes rather than dramatic results, and also helps people buy time before a face and neck lift may be needed.
- A thread lift requires specialist training, a thorough understanding of the muscles and tissue composition under the skin, and experience with the techniques that will deliver the best results.
- All thread lifts are performed with surgical sutures.
- The procedure takes around an hour to complete.
- There will be some level of discomfort, swelling and bruising around the area after the procedure. This will gradually subside.
- After the lift, threads take a few weeks to settle into place and integrate properly with the skin.
The biggest advantage of a thread lift is the absence of visible scars and the very short downtime from routine activities.
There are two main types – anchoring and non-anchoring threads. For a more information about those differences, read our article on the differences between anchoring and PDO thread.
This article focuses on anchoring threads.
It is common to combine a thread lift with other non-invasive procedures such as anti-wrinkle injections, laser treatments and facial peels that help improve skin texture. Liposuction can be performed at the same time, to improve the contours of the face.
Reasons for choosing to have a thread lift
People opt to have a thread lift to reduce signs of premature ageing, especially sagging skin on the face and neck.
You are a good candidate for the procedure if:
- You are in your 30s or 40s. People of 50 and over can be candidates as long as their skin has not become too lax.
- You want to improve your looks by enhancing and highlighting features lost to premature ageing, improving sagging or loose skin on your face and neck.
- The changes that have occurred in your face and neck are not serious enough to warrant a face or neck lift.
- You are not expecting dramatic changes, but subtle ones.
- You do not have the time or the need to undergo a facelift at this time, but can afford to spend a few days recovering from procedure.
Things to consider once you’ve decided to have a thread lift
Choosing a practitioner
A thread lift requires specialist training, a thorough understanding of the muscles and tissue composition under the skin, and experience with the techniques that will deliver the best results. Select a practitioner with experience and special training in thread lift techniques.
Some complications associated with having a thread lift include threads being visible under the skin or skin irritation from the placement of the barbs. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is of paramount importance that you choose an experienced practitioner to perform the procedure.
What type of thread lift?
All thread lifts are performed with surgical sutures. Thread lifts were previously performed with permanent sutures. They are now mostly done with dissolvable sutures that disappear over a few months.
What to expect
A thread lift is classified as a non-invasive procedure and is usually performed on an outpatient basis under local anaesthesia. Light sedation is sometimes given on request. The procedure takes around an hour to complete.
The thread lift procedure involves making small incisions in key locations, most often in the hairline, and inserting a threaded needle under the skin to anchor both ends to lift and suspend the skin. Several variations of the threading technique exist, as a preference of the surgeon or to meet specific patient needs. Once the individual situation has been assessed, generally between 2 and 20 threads will be used.
Thread lifting is a relatively new procedure. Although early thread lifts were performed using permanent threads, surgeons today use dissolvable barbed threads. The barbs are embedded in the skin to promote fibrosis, the formation of new collagen bundles. The newly formed collagen acts as a type of scaffolding to hold up the skin, making it firm in the process. Skin tends to lose firmness and elasticity and sags with age because the volume of elastin and collagen fibre in the skin diminishes over time. According to Dr. Cirro Accardo, an Italian plastic surgeon who developed the barbed dissolvable thread now marketed under the brand Promoitalia; “Cells produce hyaluronic acid in response to the fibrosis, which attracts and builds moisture in the area to make the skin firm and full. When the micro vessels in the skin become traumatised by the thread insertion, they open up, and new blood with oxygen and nutrients flow to heal them, which also results in younger looking skin.”
There will be some level of discomfort, swelling and bruising around the area after the procedure. This will gradually subside. Critics of the technique say that the effects of thread lifting are temporary because the visible enhancement immediately following the procedure is mostly due to inflammation and the resulting pooling of body fluids (edema) around the threaded area.
You can expect to go home within several hours of the procedure. You can also expect to be back to normal activities 2 to 3 days later.
Before and after the procedure
You will be told not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your thread lift. You may also be given an antibiotic before the procedure and asked to stop taking certain types of medications, such as aspirin, which can disrupt the healing process.
After the procedure
After the lift, threads take a few weeks to settle into place and integrate properly with the skin. Your surgeon will provide postoperative instructions that you must follow to the letter to reduce the risk of complications during your period of recovery.
These may include:
- Getting someone to drive you home and help you with daily activities for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
- Limiting speaking for the first 24 hours following the procedure, allowing the skin to heal faster.
- Avoid chewing anything during the first 24 hours. You should stick to soft foods and liquids for as much as seven days.
- You will be given oral pain medications that will not disturb the healing process.
- Keep your head elevated during the first day to reduce swelling.
- It will be safe to resume light activities within a couple of days. You can get back to all normal activities within a week.
- Try to avoid social situations in the first week. It is best if you can stay away from weddings, reunions and other intense occasions for about three weeks.
- Avoid facial massages for about three weeks.
Possible risks and complications
As with any procedure, there are risks and complications that may arise following a thread lift.
- Outcome not up to expectations – This is a common complaint, which is why most surgeons caution their patients ahead of time about the limited or subtle enhancements they can expect from thread lifts. Because thread lifting is a relatively new procedure, techniques and materials are still being developed. Results can vary greatly from patient to patient.
- Bruising and swelling may occur immediately after the procedure – This is natural, and you can expect it to resolve on its own. Severe swelling should be reported to your surgeon immediately as this could be due to an infection.
- Infections – If you have an infection in the treated area, your surgeon will prescribe antibiotics. If excessive levels of fluid accumulate, you may need surgical drainage.
- Visible threads – In patients with thin skin, the threads may become visible underneath the skin soon after the procedure. This could be because of poor technique by the surgeon or because you are not a suitable candidate for a thread lift. Either way, you can reduce the risk of this complication by selecting an experienced and certified surgeon.
- Numbness or lack of sensitivity – These sensations will usually disappear within weeks but contact your surgeon if they persist.
- Threads migrating or breaking – On rare occasions, surgeons have observed sutures shifting from where they were placed. This can cause an unbalanced appearance in the face. A broken thread can cause imbalance and dimpling. The simplest solution is to insert a new thread.
The experience and skill of your surgeon will contribute significantly to the successful outcome of your thread lift. You can avert risk significantly by selecting a surgeon who has received special training in thread lift procedures.
- Check out the credentials of the surgeon, as well as his or her education, training and Board certification status.
- How many times has the surgeon performed thread lifts?
- Most surgeons will show you a gallery of before and after photos of previous patients to help you fully appreciate expectations about the procedure.
- Bring a photo of yourself from a few years ago showing the result you would like. Your surgeon will tell you if that outcome is possible and reasonable.
- Find out details about the type of equipment used for the procedure, where the procedure will take place, and details of the treatment plan. Also find out about the exact technique that is recommended and the brand of threads to be used.
- Ask to see the preoperative and postoperative instructions your surgeon provides to all patients.
Rough costs involved
Treatment cost depends on a number of factors, including the extent of anticipated enhancement, the number of threads used, the surgeon’s fees and the fees of the facility.
On average expect your thread lift to cost between $4,000 (AUD) to $5,000 (AUD).
You should expect the costs to be higher if you are having combined procedures at the same time.
This information is correct as of 2019.