Sculptra: The Liquid Facelift

Woman getting injection in facePhoto Credit: Shutterstock

For much of his career, Dr. Georges Kaado has spent years studying and practicing in the fields of Aesthetic Medicine and Dermatology with the pioneers in the field of plastic surgery, dermatology, and anti-aging medicine. Haute Beauty chats with Dr. Kaado about Sculptra which has gained the nickname “the liquid facelift” because of its results.

HB: How does Sculptra work?

Sculptra is an injectable poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) that works gradually, over time, to help stimulate the body’s own natural collagen production. Collagen is a protein that is found in the deep dermis, it anchors skin cells together, helps with replacing dead skin cells, and forms a scaffold to provide strength and structure to the skin.

As we age collagen production slows down. Environmental factors like smoking, stress, and UV light exposure can also cause a decline in collagen production, this is how some wrinkles form. Loss of collagen is one of the reasons signs of aging appear on the face.

The microscopic Sculptra crystals induce a mild inflammatory reaction under the skin where the product is injected, this will trigger the formation of new collagen. Collagen production will gradually increase, making the volume enhancing results of the Sculptra treatment visible in about 4-6 weeks.

Poly-L-lactic acid is one of the most well-researched polymers used for applications both in cosmetics and medical device applications. A synthetic compound, it is derived from renewable plant sources, such as sugar cane, cassava root and corn starch and is one of the components of dissolvable stitches. These natural sources are why, although it is considered a “plastic,” it is also bioactive (capable of having an effect or interaction with living tissue) and biodegradable (capable of being broken down or decomposed by living things, such as microorganisms).

Sculptra is used to reduce the appearance of facial lines and wrinkles, to restore facial contours and volume loss. Sculptra is also used for buttocks augmentation, skin rejuvenation, and for the improvement of loose skin on the knees, elbows, and chest. Sculptra treatment has become known as the “liquid facelift” due to its dramatic and impressive results.

HB: How does it differ from dermal fillers?

Sculptra, like other dermal fillers, increases facial volume for a younger, healthier look.

– Sculptra, unlike hyaluronic acid fillers, does not immediately “fill” or lift deep grooves, the effects are not immediate, the results can take weeks to months to become fully visible.

Sculptra will correct shallow to deep nasolabial folds, contour deficiencies, and wrinkles by stimulating collagen production. The results are visible over time, compared to hyaluronic acid fillers where the results are more immediate.

  • Sculptra lasts 2-3 years which is longer than most hyaluronic acid fillers. Sculptra’s best results are 4-6 months post treatment.
  • Hyaluronic acid fillers can be dissolved by injecting them with a medication, Sculptra results cannot be undone, you will have to wait for the product to dissolve over time.
  • Most Hyaluronic acid fillers need 1 treatment compared to 2-3 treatments with Sculptra.
  • Sculptra is supplied as a powder of microcrystals that are mixed with sterile water and numbing agent prior to injections, unlike other fillers that are supplied in gel form.
  • Sculptra is not placed in a “spot” injection, it is used in pattern to evenly fill out the area to be treated. The treated area is later massaged to evenly distribute the product.

HB: Who’s a good candidate for Sculptra?

Sculptra had been in use around the world since 1999. It is a biologically inert substance, so there are no risks of patients developing an allergic reaction to the treatment.  Sculptra is safe for people over the age of 18, whose immune system is healthy. However, as with any “foreign” substance being introduced into the body, there are conditions that contraindicate its use.


  • Pregnancy, lactation and/or breastfeeding.
  • A history of keloid formation, hypertrophic scarring, or any other condition that might promote severe scarring.
  • Any active skin condition, such as an infection, hives, rashes, cysts, sores, etc. at any proposed injection site.
  • Allergies to any of the ingredients in Sculptra or a tendency to severe allergies.

Woman with arrows on facePhoto Credit: Shutterstock

HB: How long does it take to see results?

Immediately after the treatment temporary swelling and plumping of the area is seen. Sculptra comes in powder form, the Sculptra microparticles are mixed with sterile water and a numbing agent like lidocaine to help alleviate the discomfort. The injected area will appear to be filled out, due to the sterile water used to dissolve the Sculptra microcrystals. This temporary fullness will recede in a few days.

It will take a minimum of 4-6 weeks, for the results to become apparent. The maximum longer-lasting results from the increase in collagen production will be visible 4-6 months after the treatment.

HB: What does recovery look like?

Sculptra treatment involves minimal downtime. Patients are able to resume their normal daily activities almost immediately after the treatment. Swelling, bruising and redness might be present at the injection site. The most common side effects after the initial treatment include injection site swelling, tenderness, redness, pain, bruising, bleeding, itching, lumpiness. It is recommended to massage the treated area for 5 minutes, 5 times a day for 5 days, to prevent the formation of lumps.