Johannesburg – If you find yourself looking in the mirror and pulling back the skin of your jawline, fantasising about the effect a facelift might have, you probably have the bothersome beginnings of jowls or sagging skin just under your chin.
Jowls are a natural process of ageing, but the marvel about living in the modern age is that non-surgical remedies are ever improving, and the latest one to hit our shores is a jaw-lifting treatment using collagen induction threads, called a 4D thread lift.
It’s a process that involves threads being injected with long thin needles through the skin of the neck or around the jawline where it needs tightening. These aren’t cotton threads. They are threads made of polylactic acid and polydioxanone (PDO), the same material used in surgical sutures, which are re-absorbed into the tissues after a few weeks.
What happens is the threads cause linear, subcutaneous traumas that induce the production of collagen, the natural protein that connects tissue and keeps skin taut and youthful looking. So the results emerge over weeks as collagen is produced, with the best result appearing at around six weeks. The contour of the jaw is visibly improved, and the skin of the neck is smoothed.
Rita Topliss, in her early sixties, had it done two months ago at Medi-Sculpt Clinic in Ruimsig, and she says she’s pleased with the results. “My jawline is much more refined and the skin on my neck isn’t crepey anymore. It’s much softer and smoother. It’s not as effective as a facelift would have been, but I wanted a less invasive procedure,” she says.
Topliss says the procedure, about 40 minutes long, wasn’t painful at all. “The idea was more uncomfortable than the actual treatment, which is done under a local anaesthetic. When the anaesthetic wore off, my neck felt a bit tender and there was a slight bruise in one spot,” she says. Two weeks later, there was a noticeable improvement, and by now, eight weeks later, the results are optimal. “The sagging jawline skin was improved immediately after the procedure, but my appearance improved gradually over the weeks following,” she says.
She paid about R30 000 for the procedure. “It’s fairly pricey, so I’m hoping it lasts at least two to three years,” says Topliss.
In addition to collagen, stem cells can also be injected along with the PDO threads “to maximise activation of cell culture within the body that increases the effects of lifting and skin rejuvenation”, says Dr Anushka Reddy, the owner of Medi-Sculpt Clinic.
Depending on the patient’s age or requirements, suspension threads can also be used. These threads – ideal when a stronger lift is required – provide a superior grip on surrounding tissues as they have soft barbs or cones on them, which act as trusses to hold up a drooping brow, cheek or jowl.
They gently move sagging tissue upwards and then suspend it, making suspension threads ideal for redefining the oval of the neck, lifting up cheekbones or straightening eyebrow tails. They are also absorbable and will dissolve within 12 months, yet still maintain the revitalising effects for several years afterwards.
As always, the surgeon’s hand is critical to achieving a good result. Reddy warns that no cosmetic procedure requiring needles – even injecting Botox to smooth out lines – should be done by anyone but a qualified doctor.
“Most doctors know where to insert the needles, but there is a risk that the insertion is too superficial, so the threads are visible under the skin,” she says. If this happens, the threads can be removed.
Also, because excess skin is not removed, only tightened, there might be a slight puckering or bunching of the skin. Again, the threads can be removed if this is the case. Minor facial asymmetry is possible too, but this shouldn’t be the case in the hands of an experienced cosmetic doctor, and can be corrected with the tightening of threads to restore the desired contour.
There’s also a small risk of infection, which will produce tenderness, redness or swelling, and this is dealt with by antibiotics. The most common complications are bruising and swelling, and perhaps a small bleed if a vein was pierced, but these problems are soon resolved.
“I just put on some cover make-up where there was a bruise and went back to work,” says Topliss.
Aside from lifting a sagging jowl, collagen induction threads are also used to rejuvenate areas like eyes, cheeks, breasts, décolleté, batwings and the mouth, improving the look and feel of the skin and smoothing out wrinkles. So where dermal fillers might be used to produce volume, collagen threads are a good alternative.
Most patients use collagen induction threads as a complement, however, to dermal fillers and Botox, to produce optimal results.
* Costs: At the Medi-Sculpt Clinic, a neck procedure using about 50 to 60 PDO collagen induction threads costs a minimum of R15 000. The barbed PDO threads (for suspension) costs more, about R600 per thread, though only a few of these are used. At the Melrose Aesthetic Clinic, a pair of collagen induction threads, Silhouette Soft, costs R6 000. The neck area typically requires one or two pairs.
* Medi-Sculpt Clinic: www.medisculpt.co.za or 086 100 3007
* Melrose Aesthetic Centre: www.melroseskin.co.za or 08613726869