Sculptra, or poly-L lactic acid, is arguably the first and only treatment of its kind that can diffusely volumize skin that has become deflated or sunken in over time. It performs this minor miracle not through filling in the tissue voids like other products, but by stimulating your own skin to make more volume through increased collagen production. It became FDA approved initially in 2004 for the visually devastating condition know as HIV lipodystrophy, or facial wasting syndrome. In this condition, the facial fat literally vanishes and the skin loses volume in an extreme fashion resulting in an unhealthy “skeleton-like” appearance. Sculptra was developed and worked so well for this condition, enhancing so many lives, that it quickly spilled over into the regular anti-aging market of facial aesthetics. Dr. Mott began using the product in 2005 for HIV lipodystrophy as well as “off label” for cosmetic use.
The saying “volume is youth” couldn’t be more true. As a normal part of the aging process, we all lose facial volume to some degree. Part of the reason is genetics, but other factors come into play as well. Lean body types, known as ectomorphs, often lose facial volume at an earlier age. Athletes and those who do regular endurance exercise also have to chose between “their face or their fanny” in terms of volume.
The result is the same–facial skin that has lost volume deflates and begins to sag. These sunken-in areas, especially in the cheek bone area, cast shadows causing an unhealthy or older appearance. In youth, our faces are naturally convex, inflated with healthy fat. Sculptra helps the skin replenish its volume and restore that youthful appearance. Sculptra finally became FDA approved for cosmetic use in 2009.
How Does Sculptra work?
Sculptra is made out of poly-l lactic acid which is a type of starch that was initially used as early as 1974 to make an absorbable suture known as “vicryl”–a type of suture that is still used in surgery to this very day. It turns out that during the digestion process of poly-l lactic acid, collagenesis is stimulated. The more collagen generated, the more volume results. It is worth noting that the product, itself, is short-lived in the skin. The volume that is seen is your own collagen, and not a persisting product that could cause problems later.
A single Sculptra treatment can stimulate collagen production for months. For the best results, a series of three to six treatments done at monthly intervals provides the best results.
How Long Does It Last?
Once optimal facial volume is attained, the effects of Sculptra can last up to a period of two years. Touch-up treatments can be done at any time.
What Are The Risks?
The risks of treatment are largely the same as with an injectable or “needle” procedure, that being bruising, swelling or rare injury to deeper structures. When first used at higher concentrations, there was a small, but significant incidence of small bumps called “papules” that almost always went away by themselves. In the past five years with higher dilutions of the product, even this minor complication is rarely seen.