Dermal fillers are a group of non-toxic substances that are injected under the skin at various depths to smooth out fine lines, deep wrinkles, nasolabial folds, and acne scars, volumize and define lips, contour the chin and nose, or plump up sunken cheeks or temples for a full, lifted appearance.
Sculptra (Valeant Aesthetics) is a volumizing filler that is injected deep in the dermal layer to reinforce your skin’s structure and spur the production of new collagen. It is used primarily to restore fullness to medium to deep facial wrinkles, such as smile lines, marionette lines (the lines from the corners of your mouth down toward your jawline), nasolabial folds (the lines from your nose to the corners of your mouth), and chin wrinkles, and other sunken areas, such as your cheeks and temples. “Sculptra is one of my most popular volumizing fillers. I inject it laterally across an area of the face, as opposed to spot-filling a fold, because it will proportionately raise and lift everything together as the new collagen is formed, maintaining your natural face shape,” says Dr. Debra Wattenberg, who specializes in cosmetic dermatology in her New York City boutique clinic, SkincareRX, and is an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Sculptra is made from poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA), a synthetic gel comprised of the same lactic acid that occurs naturally in the body. “It’s a very similar material to dissolvable stitches,” says Dr. Wattenberg, who’s been using Sculptra for eight years in her private practice. Once injected, PLAA gradually induces collagen production that is significant enough to fill out facial contours, grooves, and hollows, and add a lifted effect to cheeks. There are two main points of difference between Sculptra and the other popular volumizing dermal fillers, Juvederm Voluma XC and Radiesse. First, Sculptra is irreversible. (Juvederm Voluma XC can quickly be dissolved within 24 hours via an enzyme injection, hyaluronidase.) But don’t be scared that Sculptra is a permanent filler. Just like dissolvable stitches, your body will gradually and naturally absorb it over a period of about six months. Second, the results of Sculptra do not appear immediately, but the effects are the longest lasting. Sculptra is administered over multiple injections and takes several weeks before you see the volumizing effects of new collagen filling and lifting targeted areas.
Sculptra is safe and effective for all skin types and skin colors and is ideal for smoothing out medium to deep facial wrinkles, folds, and sunken areas. “Sculptra gives the most pan-facial volume, meaning it’s great for when you want a little volume all over, as opposed to just one spot,” explains Dr. Wattenberg.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use dermal fillers. Anyone who has recently used blood thinners or has a bleeding disorder should also avoid dermal fillers. You should be cautious if you’ve had previous bad allergic reactions that have required in-hospital treatment.
Sculptra treatments are fast and relatively painless. Typically, a local or topical anesthetic is first applied to eliminate any discomfort. Your cosmetic doctor will determine an injection grid for each facial problem area, then inject Sculptra accordingly in multiple small amounts using a fine needle. After injection, the treated area will be massaged to distribute the product evenly.
15 to 40 minutes
$500 to $2,500 depending on how many injections you need.
The most common side effects after a Sculptra treatment include temporary redness, tenderness, swelling, itching, mild discoloration, and bruising at the injection site. These symptoms can be alleviated with ice packs and should completely resolve within 2 weeks, or as little as a few days. In rare cases, small bumps may appear under the skin at the injection site, which can be treated by your doctor with special massage techniques; otherwise, they will disappear naturally within 6 months to 1 year.
There is some swelling that occurs after the treatment because the PLLA is mixed with a water-based solution that immediately plumps up your skin, making it look as if your wrinkles and folds have been immediately fixed. But the swelling dissipates in 1 to 2 days, causing the reemergence of your initial issues, such as deep nasolabial folds or a sunken cheek area. Don’t despair. “It’s important for patients to realize that the filler seems to completely disappear and you don’t even feel it in your face, but the micro particles of PLLA start working immediately deep within the dermis to reinforce your skin’s structure, spur collagen production, and restore volume. In 6 to 8 weeks you’ll start to see some changes, but it takes 3 to 6 months before full results are realized,” explains Dr. Wattenberg.
The initial series of Sculptra treatments may consist of 3 to 6 sessions administered every 4 to 6 weeks. Because this treatment results in delayed collagen stimulation, longer intervals may be necessary to achieve best results and prevent overcorrection. Results can last for up to 2 years, at which point you can get a touch-up treatment.
You should only visit an actively board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Dermatologists should be certified by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD). Plastic Surgeons should be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Both of those boards are part of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a non-profit organization that is considered the gold standard of physician certification. Consult the Charlotte’s Book Premier Provider directory to find a doctor who meets these standards and specializes in this treatment. For more information about how we choose our providers, please read Credentials We Abide By.
It sounds a little scary that Sculptra is irreversible, but when used in the right hands, it’s very safe and can produce amazing results that last longer than the other volumizing fillers. Massage is an important part of getting optimum results. Daily massage at the injection site will allow for more even distribution of PLLA. Be sure to follow your cosmetic doctor’s protocol to the T. Because Sculptra gradually corrects lines and lifts your skin over time, this is one of the sneakier treatments that friends and family won’t really detect right away. After a few months, you’ll just get a lot of “Wow. You look great. Did you get a new haircut or lose some weight?”