Updated: Sep 25
For those with lines or folds at sides of the mouth – often referred to as smile lines – or loss of fullness in the mid-cheek or other areas of the face, Sculptra offers a natural-looking and long-lasting solution. As an injectable dermal bio-stimulator, Sculptra can minimize wrinkles, creases, and even deep lines while restoring fullness in the face. Better yet, the results from a minimally-invasive Sculptra treatment can last for years (significantly longer than typical hyaluronic acid fillers).
If you’re considering a Sculptra treatment, read on to learn how it works and what to expect from the procedure. We’ll cover it all, share real-life before and after photos, and some scientific findings of the treatment’s effectiveness. Plus, we’ll explain why Sculptra may be a better long-term natural-looking solution than other dermal fillers.
Terms to know:
Smile lines - Technically called nasolabial folds, these creases run from the bottom of the nose to the corner of the mouth. Smile lines deepen with age and as the cheeks and jaw begin to sag. Dermal filler - When injected beneath the skin by a medical professional, these substances add volume and reduce the look of wrinkles. Sculptra Aesthetic - This form of dermal injectable is made of micro-particles which are prepared for use with water! Once injected, the micro-particles are left behind in the dermis and work to gradually stimulate collagen and elastin to restore skin volume and firmness. Unlike other hyaluronic acid dermal fillers, Sculptra is composed of poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA), a biocompatible synthetic substance that stimulates collagen and elastin production in the deep dermis.
What is Sculptra and how does it work?
Common dermal fillers such as Juvéderm and Restylane are made of a hyaluronic acid gel-like substance and provide the immediate gratification of filling wrinkles, lines and folds. Over a year or so they do wear off as the fillers absorb into the body. Like other dermal fillers, Sculptra is mixed with lidocaine (simultaneously numbs the skin during the procedure) and also with sterile water. The Sculptra is then injected under the skin. But unlike other fillers, Sculptra’s tiny particles stimulate collagen and elastin production for ongoing improvement of the signs of aging. The effects of Sculptra are often described as more natural in appearance and more long-lasting, requiring less maintenance over time.
Poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA), Sculptra’s primary active ingredient, is known to stimulate collagen and elastic fiber production. Collagen and elastin are proteins that are naturally produced in our skin.
The gradual formation of collagen occurs because PLLA creates an inflammatory reaction, initially plumping the treated areas.
The body’s inflammatory response surrounds the PLLA particles then breaks them down into lactic acid, which is then metabolized.
As the PLLA is absorbed into the body, collagen is formed in its place.
PLLA is biocompatible, meaning the substance is not harmful to living tissue.
Approved by the FDA for facial wrinkle and fold treatment in 2014, Sculptra has gained in popularity and has become a premier solution for naturally improving the look of aging skin. The main benefits of Sculptra treatments include:
Improves the look of crepe skin, cheek hollows, temple hollows, nasolabial folds and other fine lines by gradually filling with a subtle, more natural effect over a few months
Reduced risk of allergy or adverse effects
Longer lasting than typical hyaluronic acid dermal fillers
You might see some immediate volumizing of your skin upon receiving the treatment, but the most impactful results will develop over the span of months as collagen is slowly produced. Most people require an optimal treatment plan of 3 sessions spaced 4 weeks apart.
Clinical studies on the effectiveness and safety of PLLA injectables, including Sculptra, show impressive results and minimal side effects. When The American Academy of Dermatology studied the outcomes of PLLA injectables as compared to collagen injections they found greater success with the PLLA group. The most notable difference between the two test groups was the longer duration of positive effects from PLLA. The study authors concluded, “Injectable PLLA provides well-tolerated, effective, and long-lasting (up to 25 months) nasolabial fold wrinkle correction.”
Another (smaller) study published in The National Library of Medicine found statistically significant increases in mid-face volume after the first treatment. Participants predominantly described their outcomes as “much improved” or “excellent”. As explained in the paper’s conclusion, “Subjects reported high levels of satisfaction. No serious adverse events were reported.”
What to Expect When Getting Sculptra
One important thing to know about Sculptra is that optimal treatment of skin tissues will likely require three treatment sessions spaced one apart for optimal results. If you receive Sculptra services at Glosshouz, your nurse will discuss your desired outcomes and work with you to determine how many treatments you’ll need to reach your aesthetic goals. On average, 3-4 sessions over the span of 3 months are sufficient.
To receive a Sculptra Aesthetic treatment, your provider will prepare your face with disinfectant and may map out a plan for placement. The Sculptra formulation mixed with sterile water and lidocaine will then be injected with a tiny needle. Then the nurse will massage the injection areas to help disperse the PLLA. The procedure typically takes about 45 minutes to an hour. There is typically no downtime, however, you may experience minimal swelling or bruising following your treatment, though these side effects tend to resolve within a few days.
After your treatment, notice there are several post-injection recommendations:
Apply a cold pack to the injection area(s) for several minutes at a time as needed
Massage the treated area(s) for five minutes at a time, five times a day, for five days.
Avoid excessive sunlight for at least one week following your treatment.
It’s important to know, while it may seem as if you have immediate volumizing improvement from the treatment on the same day, this is just the sterile water creating volume. It is expected the water that was injected will be absorbed by the body in a few days. Afterward, results are developed gradually. It will be a few weeks before you see the full effects of your Sculptra treatment. You’ll likely need a series of three sessions, and after each one the results are expected to improve and build upon each other. Over time volumizing and wrinkle-minimizing effects can last up to two years and beyond (studies ended at 2 years).
Sculptra: Before and After Photos
We can describe Sculptra results all day, but nothing says it better than before and after photos. You’ll notice enhanced fullness in cheeks and temples, reduced sagging around the mouth, and visible wrinkle reduction (especially smile lines).
Why Choose Sculptra, Restylane, or Juvéderm?
Sculptra clearly offers impressive benefits. The longer-lasting results and natural look of PLLA are appealing to many seeking to combat the signs of aging. However, as with any cosmetic treatment, other effective dermal fillers are available. So, which one should you choose? The answer is different for everyone, but we’ll help you compare.
Sculptra, the “Lasting Lift”
We like to call Sculptra the “Lasting Lift”, because Sculptra Aesthetic offers a variety of benefits which typically last longer than other fillers. By enhancing youthful contours, filling sunken areas, targeting thinning crepe skin and loss of volume in the face and other areas of the body (even the bottom! for example), this treatment delivers visible plumpness and long-lasting results. Thanks to collagen stimulation throughout the deep dermis, wrinkles are minimized, thinning skin is plumped, and volume can be restored. The natural-looking results can last for years and side effects are minimal.