Sculptra®, one of the newest and longest-lasting dermal fillers on the market, is made from poly-L-lactic acid, a synthetic but biocompatible (not harmful to the body) material that has a decades-long history of being used safely for a variety of medical purposes, including threads for surgical stitches.
In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration approved Sculptra for cosmetic purposes, although the filler had been approved earlier (2004) to add volume to the cheeks of H.I.V.-positive patients with facial fat loss (lipoatrophy). The filler has been used cosmetically in Europe since 1999, where it’s called New-Fill.
What Does Sculptra Treat?
Sculptra helps correct wrinkles and folds, particularly the deep, dynamic ones that run from the nose to the lip (nasolabial lines), the lip to the chin (“marionette” lines), and vertically and horizontally across the forehead. The filler is also used to plump up skin depressions caused by scars, thus minimizing their appearance.
Sculptra is not recommended for lip enhancement (although it can help “lift” the corners of the mouth) or for use near the eyes. People with active skin infections or who scar easily should also not use it.
How Does It Work?
Sculptra stimulates the production of collagen, a protein that contributes to your skin’s volume and structure. Age and repeated exposure to the sun cause collagen to break down — a major factor in the formation of wrinkles and folds. Sculptra restores that collagen, thus giving your skin a more youthful-looking fullness and firmness.
Some people get the rejuvenating results they want with only one Sculptra treatment, but most skin issues respond best to two to three treatments, spaced four to six weeks apart.
What is the Treatment Like?
Sculptra comes in powdered form. It’s mixed with sterile water and then injected deep into skin folds, sunken cheeks, or other areas of the face that need smoothing and recontouring. You’ll be given a topical anesthetic before the injections, which are done with ultra-thin needles. The entire procedure usually takes less than an hour.
Depending on the amount of fat loss in the facial skin, a patient may need between 3 and 6 treatments to be satisfied with the results. Consult with your doctor to discuss how many treatments will be right for you.
Possible Side Effects
After the treatment, you may experience some redness, swelling, itching, and bruising at the injection site. You’ll be advised to massage the treated area regularly for up to a week to diminish the risk of developing small nodules, or lumps, under the skin. Some research suggests that almost 9 percent of people treated with Sculptra develop these lumps, which can take months to dissolve and disappear. Injecting the lumps with a drug called hyaluronidase can sometimes help speed up their dissolution, so be sure to call your doctor if any lumps develop as a result of treatment. It is not intended for use in the lips and not recommended for use in periorbital area.
How Much Does Sculptra Cost?
To determine the average cost of a Sculptra treatment and to see how that cost compares with that of other dermal filler treatments, see Costs and Pricing.
How Long do Treatments Last?
You’ll notice immediately after the treatment that your skin has more volume. This effect, however, will be temporary, for it’s a direct result of the water in the Sculptra solution. The real changes begin after the water is absorbed and the active ingredient in Sculptra (the poly-L-lactic acid) starts to stimulate the new growth of collagen. This process takes weeks. You’ll need to be patient.
Once Sculptra’s effects take hold, however, they’ll last a long time — up to two years, according to some studies. Eventually, however, your body will absorb the poly-L-lactic acid in Sculptra. A second, touch-up treatment will then be needed to maintain the filler’s effects.
Because Sculptra’s effects are so long-lasting, it’s essential that the procedure be done correctly. Be sure to seek treatment from a physician who is thoroughly trained and experienced in using this particular dermal filler.