Our skin changes as we age. We lose elastin, the area between the dermis and epidermis flattens, and the epidermis itself thins, leading to loose or wrinkled skin. In addition, the loss of subcutaneous fat and soft tissues just below the skin changes the contours of the face and may result in the formation of a double chin or jowls due to further sagging. Many people who experience this type of wrinkling and sagging become dissatisfied and seek to regain a more youthful countenance. One way to achieve this effect is to undergo a cosmetic procedure known as a polydioxanone (PDO) thread lift.
Many different methods can be employed to improve the overall health and appearance of the face. Less invasive types of treatment include facial exercises, applying mild creams and moisturizers to dry skin, staying hydrated, and regularly using sunscreen. Slightly harsher processes, which produce varying degrees of improvement, may include chemical peels or ultrasound, LED, or laser skin treatments. For those who can’t adjust their appearance to their liking with these methods, more intense processes are available, including injectable facial fillers, Botox injections, and various types of surgical alternatives, including thread lifts, micro lifts, and traditional facelifts.
Thread Lifts vs. Facelifts
A thread lift is a cosmetic procedure that tightens and lifts the face by employing dissolvable sutures that are carefully placed underneath the skin. It is a less invasive procedure than a traditional facelift and is used to correct many of the same issues. Three different types of dissolvable thread are commonly used, poly L-lactic acid (PLA), polycaprolactone (PCA), and of course, polydioxanone (PDO). PDO threads are the oldest of the three and are better at repositioning and revitalizing tissues, whereas PLA and PCA threads are more suited to lifting sagging skin.
A thread lift addresses many of the same concerns as a traditional facelift, including:
- Double chins
- Expression lines
- Furrows around the nose
- Hollow cheeks
- Loose jowls
- Sagging skin
A thread lift is far less invasive than a mini or a traditional facelift. A mini facelift is usually completed in one to two hours, while a traditional one can take two to six hours to execute. Although some mini facelifts are completed under general anesthetic, most use a local anesthetic or light sedation. Traditional facelifts are usually performed under general anesthesia, though a few surgeons prefer local anesthetics. Thread lifts can be completed under local anesthesia while the patient is awake and aware, and is usually accomplished quickly. When performed by a skilled professional, some thread lifts can even be completed in as little as 15 minutes.
Traditional facelifts frequently require several weeks of recovery before the swelling and bruising subside, and mini facelifts take a few days to a few weeks. Individuals who have undergone a thread lift often have little to no bruising and can do about their regular day as soon as the procedure is complete. The chief advantage that facelifts show over thread lifts is longevity. While the results from a thread lift usually only last about 1-3 years, traditional facelifts frequently last a decade or longer.
While the exact details of the procedures can vary from patient to patient, many of the core elements remain the same. The face is numbed with a local anesthetic, and a small incision is made in the skin, usually with a needle. A thin tube called a cannula is placed in the incision, and the surgeon anchors the thread into place. The cannula is then removed, and any excess thread is trimmed.
PDO Thread types
There are three types of PDO threads used for cosmetic purposes. All three types are made of the same base material, a colorless polyester that breaks down in the body after about six months. The difference between them lies in their shape and ability to stimulate collagen production.
Mono threads are also referred to as smooth threads and are particularly beneficial for stimulating collagen production but not as effective at lifting or gathering soft tissues or skin.
Cog threads have tiny barbs that latch onto the skin and the soft tissues and gather them, pulling them tight. This thread style provides lift and support to the face better than smooth mono threads.
Screw threads are comprised of intertwined PDO threads. They work best to restore volume to areas of your face that have become sunken with age.
Very few significant complications have occurred in relation to PDO thread lifts. A handful of cases have presented with open wounds, skin necrosis, and abscesses, but some of these were performed by non-doctors.
Minor complications that are seen more often include:
- Allergic reaction
- Skin dimpling
- Temporary bruising
- Temporary reddening of the skin
- Thread extrusion
- Thread visibility
Patients over the age of 50 were more likely to experience both infections and dimpling than younger patients.
The first step in avoiding potential complications is to ensure that you have a medical professional perform the procedure. Although DIY PDO thread lifts are available, they are unlikely to be approved for use by the FDA. Complications, particularly infections, are much more likely when using a kit purchased online or when having the procedure completed by someone outside of the medical field.
You can also take several actions to help ensure a speedy recovery after the procedure. For the first 24-48 hours, avoid activities that rub the face or could introduce contaminants to the small open wounds. Avoid using makeup, washing your face, or using face moisturizer. Sleeping with your head propped up may help promote healing, and your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory medication to help shorten the recovery time.
PDO thread lifts appear to be a less invasive and effective way to achieve similar results to facelifts, though the effects don’t last quite as long. This is a procedure that can typically be completed in an afternoon and has a minimal healing time. Although there are risks associated with properly performed PDO thread lifts, they are few and typically mild, especially when compared to those associated with a traditional facelift. This is, however, a medical procedure, and it should only be performed by a medical professional.