Is the "Thread Lift" the New Face-Lift? We Asked Plastic Surgeons
A couple of years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow made headlines for endorsing a somewhat controversial facial cosmetic procedure: the "thread lift."
Surgeons across the country deemed the treatment questionable for its scary side effects (i.e. scarring, spitting sutures, etc.), but now, years later, and with new technological advances behind it, the thread lift might actually be a viable option for those looking to tighten up loose, crepey skin. Looks like the Goop guru was actually on to something. (Sorry for ever doubting you, Gwynnie.)
The thread lift is a "minimally invasive procedure for the face, neck, or jowls in which threads, which have small cones/graspers on them, are passed under the skin via a large needle," Norman Rowe, a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City, tells Allure. "The cones then grab hold of the skin from the undersurface and pull to re-suspend the skin in a lifted, more youthful position." (Imagine: A puppeteer pulling the strings of a puppet from its head.)
What sets this recent version of the treatment apart from the European-loved procedure endorsed by Paltrow is that the original threads were made of permanent suture materials — meaning, once the sutures were sewn under the skin, they were there to stay. Now, the newest threads are dissolvable, which, according to New York City-based plastic surgeon Darren Smith, lowers the risk of infection. "With dissolvable products, bacteria doesn't have a permanent foreign material to live on," explains Smith. "As the thread dissolves, the bacteria have nowhere to hide from the body's defense mechanisms (the immune system). A permanent suture essentially provides a hideout for bacteria from the immune system."
The procedure is done under local anesthesia (which, yes, means patients are awake as large needles are virtually sewn under their skin — eek!), and typically requires little downtime of about two to three days due to post-operative swelling, bruising, and "bunching," says Melissa Doft of New York City's Doft Plastic Surgery. Because of the dissolvable threads, the treatment can last up to six months.
Unlike a traditional surgical face-lift, the thread lift doesn't involve incisions or "deep-tissue manipulation," says Smith. "This means that, one: It is a much easier process for the patient (like getting fillers as opposed to getting a facelift), but, two: It can't achieve a result of the same magnitude or longevity of a traditional face-lift."
Doft agrees — nothing, especially not a procedure like the thread lift, will replace the OG face-lift. "It's the gold standard of facial rejuvenation — nothing is able to redefine the jawline or correct an aging neck like a face-lift," she says. But, for those who might not be able to afford the time-honored treatment, the thread lift is a viable, FDA–cleared second choice. "It can be a good option for someone looking for an easy, less costly option for facial rejuvenation but can accept a result that is less dramatic than a face-lift and isn't as long-lasting," Smith says.
That might explain why the treatment has started to pick up steam — among both women and men showing early signs of aging (fine lines, wrinkles, sagginess, etc.) — in the U.S. over the last year or so, but, again, not so much as to replace the face-lift. "Many patients still would prefer to have surgery or fillers," says Doft. But because the procedure can range from anywhere from $1,500 to $4,500, while surgical face-lifts are an estimated $10,000, from a financial perspective, surgery might be the most cost-effective option of the two treatments. "A face-lift is a permanent solution that, when done properly, will pay for itself over time," says Doft.
In other words, start saving your pennies.