By Sarah Burchett, PA-C
What is Sculptra® and how is it different from fillers like Restylane®?
Sculptra® is a unique filler that stimulates your skin to produce its own collagen. It is made of tiny filaments of poly-L-lactic acid, which is also used to make dissolvable sutures. It was originally developed to treat AIDs patients who experienced lipodystrophy, or fat wasting, and appeared gaunt and emaciated in the face.
Sculptra® is not hyaluronic acid. Therefore, it does not plump immediately. Sculptra® is done in a series of three treatments spaced 4-6 weeks apart. Since it is stimulating your body to form its own collagen, the change is going to be slow and gradual. Most patients say that their best results are actually seen six months after their injection series ends! Therefore, Sculptra® is not a good choice if you are wanting an immediate effect for an event happening in a month.
When will I be able to see the results?
One of the hardest things for patients to do is be patient to see their results. After the first treatment, it’s unlikely you will be able to see any change. The maximum result won’t be seen until six months from your last treatment. I encourage patients to think of Sculptra® not as a quick fix, but as a long-term investment. We will take photos to track your progress since the change is gradual.
Who is a good candidate for Sculptra®?
My ideal candidate for Sculptra® is lean, needs multiple syringes of filler to restore lost volume to the face, and does not have excessive skin laxity. This is a great filler for 40-something runners who have low body fat. Since the ultimate results rely on how well your body forms collagen in response to the Sculptra®, it is important to eat a healthy diet with plenty of protein and Vitamin C, exercise to encourage good circulation to the skin, and avoid smoking. Patients who are in their forties or fifties will usually form more collagen than patients in their sixties and seventies. Patients with autoimmune diseases who are on anti-inflammatory medications and immunomodulators are also not ideal candidates because the inflammatory response that initiates collagen formation will be suppressed.
Do the results look natural? I don’t want to look overdone.
Yes, Sculptra® results are very natural-looking since you are growing your own collagen, which is one of its great benefits!
Does it hurt, and is there downtime?
We use a topical numbing cream for 20 minutes prior to the injection, and also add lidocaine to the Sculptra® mixture itself. However, there is pressure and some degree of pain with any injectable. Injections are not designed to be enjoyable, but they are tolerable. Most patients do not have heavy bruising and they are able to cover bruising with makeup. Occasionally, patients may get a deep bruise that takes 1-2 weeks to completely fade away. Take 24 hours off of strenuous exercise and plan your injections 2 weeks away from important events like reunions, weddings, and presentations.
Are there any side effects?
There is a chance for significant bruising that may take up to 2 weeks to fade. Infections and allergic reactions are very rare. Never have injections done if you are ill or taking antibiotics or steroids for an infection. One of the more common potential side effects is the formation of a firm nodule, or lump. This is more likely to happen if Sculptra® is injected too superficially, or if too high a concentration accumulates in one spot. To prevent this, we dilute the mixture according to the latest recommendations so there is an even spread of product, and massage immediately after injection. After that, the patient will massage 5 times daily for 5 minutes at a time, for the next 5 days.
How long does it last?
In the original research Sculptra®’s effects lasted two years, and then the study was ended and participants were no longer followed. It is possibly that the effects could last even longer! However, remember that nothing can halt the aging process. Maintaining the health of your skin is just like exercising or whitening your teeth…you can’t just do it once and have the benefit for the rest of your life. For this reason, I suggest having a single annual “touch up” treatment after your initial series to maintain results.