Cosmetic Procedure Promises to Tighten Up Loose, Sagging Skin

A cosmetic procedure promising to tighten up loose, sagging skin is like a face-lift at a fraction of the cost, without the knife and with little to no downtime, though the results are not permanent.

Thread lifts have been available in Europe for more than 20 years, but only in the past five years did the procedure get Food and Drug Administration approval.

“People don't want to kind of look different; they want to have that natural look and that's what we do. We make them look like themselves, just better,” said Dr. Lily Talakoub, a board-certified dermatologist at McLean Dermatology in McLean, Virginia.

Tiny, barbed needles are injected right into the part of the body that needs a lift. A topical numbing cream is applied beforehand.

“When it goes under the skin, it stimulates collagen to grow,” Talakoub said. “When you put that in the face, and the barbs pull on the skin, it can actually have a lifting effect on the skin.”

While the threads are in place, the body's natural healing response kicks in producing collagen to "heal" the sutured areas.

“We do thread lifts for every area,” Talakoub said. “We do thread lifts on the eyebrows, we do thread lifts on the cheek just to tighten the cheek. The most common area is the jaw and the neck. We put threads in the arms if you have loose arm skin. If you have loose knee skin, we can put it in the knees. If you have loose belly skin after a pregnancy and you don't want to get any surgical treatments.”

Talakoub said there's no risk if the threads break, and they dissolve over time.

“They're the same stitches that go into a scar where we stitch the belly up after a C-section, so there's no risk,” she said. “If the thread snaps, it still is under the skin.”

The price ranges from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on how many threads are used and where. It's a more affordable alternative to a traditional face-lift, which can cost about $10,000 to $15,000.

Thread lifts last about 12 to 18 months. The risks are minimal, with patients experiencing some redness, bruising or swelling for a few days. Others return to work and normal activities right after the procedure.

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