12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Sculptra
- Last updated: 3 months ago
There is no shortage of wrinkle treatments, each designed to give you a refreshed, younger look. Some are very similar, and others work in specific areas. Sculptra is unique among them because it works with your body to produce natural results.
Determining which treatment is right for you can be confusing. We tapped into the expertise of RealSelf doctors and relied on the experience of RealSelf members to identify key factors that may help you decide if Sculptra is right for you.
1. What is Sculptra for?
Sculptra is an FDA-approved injectable that is designed to fill wrinkles and reduce hollow, sunken cheeks. The treatment increases your body’s natural production of collagen, which is key for tightening skin. The effect of Sculptra will increase over time, according to Dr. David Shafer, a New York plastic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A.
“Most of us have some level of asymmetry in our facial features: One cheek may be wider, one jowl area lower or heavier, one or both temples depressed or pinched,” said Dr. Rebecca Fitzgerald, a Los Angeles dermatologic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A. “Sculptra can be used to bring the face into a more harmonious balance so you just 'look better.’ ”
2. How do I choose a provider?
Like with any cosmetic procedure, experience and skill matter when picking a Sculptra provider. A more experienced provider may produce better results. One key to picking a provider is actually knowing who will do the injections. You may go to the office of an experienced board-certified doctor, but that won’t matter much if an inexperienced nurse does the injection.
In a RealSelf Q&A, Arizona dermatologic surgeon Dr. Susan Van Dyke said the results of Sculptra will depend on the experience of the injector, the method of reconstituting the product, the concentration of the product, the depth of injection, the placement of the injection, and the amount of product injected.
Find a provider with a proven history of good results.
3. What to expect in the consultation.
Finding an experienced and skilled provider is important. It’s also important that you are comfortable and trust them. A good way to find the perfect fit is to go to multiple consultations until you find a provider you like.
Asking questions, looking at before and after photos, and even talking with previous patients are good ways to narrow your selection.
4. What is it like to get the treatment?
Getting a Sculptra treatment is relatively simple, and not unlike any other injectable treatment.
Dr. Lisa Airan, a New York dermatologic surgeon, shows how it works in this RealSelf video. She begins by marking the areas being treated, then injects some anesthetic to eliminate pain. This can also be done with creams. Dr. Airan next injects Sculptra in the marked areas. After the injections, Dr. Airan massages the area, something patients will need to do in the first few days after the treatment.
Beyond some bruising, patients typically return to normal life as soon as they walk out of the provider’s office.
5. Pain, swelling, and bruising are possible.
Many providers use a local anesthetic prior to the injections to help limit or eliminate pain and discomfort. You’re likely to experience some bruising from the injection. It should fade quickly.
“Having a Sculptra treatment should not be painful, but each injector will have their own method of performing the treatment, so be sure to discuss the procedure with your physician,” said Dr. Michael Echavez, a San Francisco facial plastic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A. “There are a variety of methods to help with alleviating any discomfort during the procedure. If the treating physician does not use anything to help with discomfort, then the procedure could be painful.”
6. How to reduce recovery time.
There shouldn’t be much recovery time from Sculptra. If you experience swelling or bruising, there are things you can do to assist in the recovery process.
“The bigger culprit in bruising is the patient's innocent use of over the counter supplements like Vitamin E, Fish Oil, St. John's Wort, aspirin, ibuprofen, all which are heart healthy, but make bruising far more likely to occur,” said Dr. Rebecca Fitzgerald, Los Angeles dermatologic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A.
Dr. Fitzgerald said you should check with your provider for a comprehensive list of things to avoid. You should also discuss any prescription medication you’re taking prior to the procedure.
7. Is there required downtime?
You’ll be able to continue on with your regular day-to-day activities right after the procedure. You might want to adjust your schedule to allow some time for the swelling and bruising to go down.
“I had no downtime with my procedure,” member Florida9571 said in a RealSelf review. “I scheduled all three treatments on Thursday afternoons and then worked from home on Friday. By Monday morning, swelling was gone with very little bruising left.”
8. What are the side effects and risks?
The most common side effect associated with Sculptra is the formation of lumps. In some cases the lumps are small and can be detected by feel, but are not visible. In other cases, the lumps can be noticeable.
In a RealSelf Q&A, Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Glenn Vallecillos said there are three main causes of lumps from Sculptra treatment. Lumps can happen when Sculptra isn’t reconstituted long enough before injection, when the product isn’t reconstituted with enough volume, and when the product is injected too superficially.
The treatment process has changed over time, helping reduce potential complications. In a RealSelf Q&A, San Diego dermatologist Dr. Douglas Wu said the formation of lumps from Sculptra “has become extremely rare” since the formation of new use guidelines.
9. How to avoid lumps.
The process for avoiding lumps starts before you receive treatment. The skill and experience of your provider can have a major impact on the final result. Finding a provider who follows modern guidelines and has a history of producing great results is your best way to avoid lumps.
“This risk has been greatly reduced as we have learned more about what causes them,” said Dr. Regina Rodman, Houston facial plastic surgeon, said in a RealSelf Q&A. “Now the solution is mixed several days ahead of time, and diluting the product with more water."
Massaging the area after your treatment is also advised. Many providers recommend the 5-5-5 massage rule. Massage the area at least five times a day for five minutes each time for the first five days after treatment.
10. How to get rid of lumps.
If lumps develop shortly after your procedure, frequent massages might help disperse the product. If massaging doesn’t work, having the lumps surgically removed is an option.
There is also the solution of time. Sculptra is a long-lasting treatment, but it isn’t permanent. Eventually the treatment will run its course and any impact should resolve itself.
11. When will I see results?
The impact of Sculptra is a gradual process. The results should continue to improve over time as the treatment helps your body produce natural collagen. It will likely take a few weeks, and even a few months, for the impact to be seen.
“It takes your body usually eight to 12 weeks to make collagen to a point that is visible in your face,” said Dr. Mike Majmundar, Atlanta facial plastic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A. "Be patient and wait until the eight to 12 week mark to start seeing results. I have seen some patients take four to six months before the results start to show."
12. Was Sculptra worth it?
RealSelf members give Sculptra a Worth It Rating of 90% based on more than 150 reviews. In the hands of an experienced provider, Sculptra tends to produce results.
It is a commitment. For the best results, you might need to undergo multiple treatments. You will also need to keep up with follow-up treatments. You may love the results, but even in a best-case scenario, they will probably only last for two to three years. At that point additional treatments will be required to maintain your look. For some, a face lift might be a better option. For others, Sculptra is just the treatment they need and the commitment to maintain the results over time isn’t an issue.
Whether it is worth it for you depends on your desires and expectations. Going over your goals and the benefits of the treatment with your provider before you receive any treatment is a great way to align your expectations and end up with a result that you feel is worth it.
Disclaimer: This content is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare professional. Your reliance on any information or content provided in the guide is solely at your own risk. You should always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare professional for any questions you have about your own medical condition. RealSelf does not endorse or recommend any specific content, procedure, product, opinion, healthcare professional, or any other material or information in this guide or anywhere on this website.