A thread lift was a much sought after alternative to full facelift surgery a few years back when I first wrote this article. Things have changed a lot since then and in 2011 very few board certified plastic surgeons now recommend the procedure to their patients.
Also called a ‘featherlift’ or ‘gentlelift’ – sometimes advertised as the lunch hour facelift – it was originally widely advertised as a non invasive quick procedure. Something that was seen as less expensive and much less invasive than face lift surgery.
What is a thread lift
A thread lift is so called because thin needles are used to insert clear polypropilane threads with tiny barbs just under the skin.
The threads are then pulled tight to lift sagging skin and tissue on the face and neck.
Unlike a conventional face lift – no skin is removed – so the procedure relies on the skin tightening effect of the threads to create a younger looking face.
If you are considering plastic surgery – it sounds like it could be a good idea. Less invasive procedures are increasingly sought and are especially attractive to women who want a subtle lifting effect and little downtime.
Problems with thread lift
As a “non invasive” procedure thread lift problems became apparent early on – the reality did not appear to match the hype.
Looking at comments from many forums and online sites – there is widespread dissatisfaction amongst those that paid an average of around $3900 for a procedure which either caused long lasting problems or simply failed to have any lasting lifting effect at all.
“The Threadlift was a novel idea but just didn’t work in reality to justify what was a significant expense. At their best, they might have had a subtle benefit for a year but usually much less than that. For that reason, I am not aware of any real plastic surgeons who can offer proper surgeries and other treatments who still offer a Threadlift in their practices.” Richard P Rand MD Seattle Plastic Surgeon
Many of the problems reported come back to the thread used in the procedure which – according to the experts – had been used internally for years in surgery and was totally compatible with body tissues so unlikely to be rejected.
Unfortunately the experiences of patients did not support this claim – many people went back to their doctors – or to other surgeons – for corrective treatments because of problems with the threads that had been inserted.
Common issues were the thread showing through thinner skin or causing headaches or pricking sensations under the skin.
Eventually the only FDA approved thread (Contour) for the procedure was withdrawn from the market and thread lift treatments are now done with dissolvable sutures.
Is a thread lift really non-invasive?
While traditional full face lift surgery involves a general anaesthetic followed by an overnight stay in hospital and several weeks recovery time, a thread lift can be done in under an hour with ‘down time’ just 72 hours. No bandages are needed and after care is claimed to be minimal.
Nonetheless I still can’t see how this can be sold as a pain free or non invasive procedure. Pulling up your skin and underlying facial tissue even with a local anaesthetic is bound to hurt.
You are almost certainly going to be sore and possibly bruised and hurting for some time afterwards.
All well and good if you are prepared for that and even better if the results are just what you want – but if you are dissapointed then it’s tough that you went through the pain and discomfort for nothing.
Plastic surgeons express negative views of thread lift
“The thread lift fails after 3 to 6 months. I put in many when they first came out and I subsequently refunded many patients and gave free facelifts to many others. It was a horrible disappointment for all.” Nasimul Huq, MD Niagara Falls Plastic Surgeon
The negative reactions from plastic surgeons to the results of thread lifts seem to have arisen from the many problems that they were seeing in their own offices from their patients or other doctor’s patients who didn’t like what had happened to them.
“Comments from patients cover the gamut, from it didn’t work, it didn’t work long enough, facial distortion, extruding hooks, chronic pain, palpable lumps….” Brent Moelleken MD Beverley Hills Plastic Surgeon
Of all the facial treatments I’ve looked at – there do seem to be more problems and disappointments around thread lifts than any other. Only 24% of those expressing an opinion about thread lifts on the RealSelf review website thought the procedure was worth it and many had sorry tales to tell.
You may find the procedure still offered by doctors in your area but this is only likely to be among some dermatologists rather than board certified plastic surgeons who generally have given it a definite thumbs down.
The recommendation from cosmetic surgeons for an alternative to a thread lift seems to be to look at non surgical options like dermal fillers, LED light therapy or laser skin tightening and to consider a mini lift for a surgical alternative if you want to go that route.