Threadlift Falling Out of Favor With Consumers

Eva S on 9 Sep 2008 at 5:23pm

Threadlift was wildly popular a few years back as a technique for non-surgical facelift, which claimed to have no down time. Both Oprah and the Today Show both touted the "lunchtime" non-surgical face lift as the miracle of the day. 

Threadlift is basically a set of barbed sutures embedded beneath the skin of the face and pulled tight, then anchored in the hairline. In theory, it's a great idea. On a national scale, the failure rate was probably much higher than we can measure.In 2005, the Today Show featured Dr. Stephen Mulholland performing a Threadlift live on the air, while Katie Couric interviewed the patient during her procedure. These days, not much is said in the media about Threadlift.

Consumers aren't aware of the process for doctors to learn a fringe procedure that isn't taught in medical school. Often the doctor will go to a one or two day training and come back "certified," and then begin to practice on their staff and friends.

A few years ago, I received a phone call from a doctor whose name I can't recall. He asked me if I knew how he could undergo "Third World" training for threadlift. I didn't know what he meant until he explained that he wanted to go to Mexico and practice threadlift on real people, since the cadaver heads weren't good enough and he didn't want to experiment on his wife. Another doctor I know joked that at her training she kept dropping her cadaver head on the floor.

A Seattle resident who asked us that we keep her identity confidential had the Threadlift procedure several years ago at a clinic in the area. She has two threads on each side of her face and in her neck, and the puckering has pulled her skin in the wrong direction, causing even more wrinkling, scar tissue, and a lot of anguish and pain. She says most people have three threads on each side of their face, which may explain why two are failing to support her face. The doctor who put the threads in ignores her calls, and the reputable doctors she has consulted with don't want to touch it for fear of making it worse.

Contour Threads, one of the companies that manufactured and marketed the threads, is no longer in business. A new version of the threads is now available, but the threads are blue and have been rumored to show through the skin for some patients. When the new suture came on the market, the local rep near me said he couldn't sell it to "just anybody," but had to sell it to doctors who really knew what they were doing.

Some facial plastic surgeons still provide variations of the technique, like Manhattan facial plastic surgeon Oleh Slupchinskyj. Dr. Slupchinskyj recently put out a press release to promote his breakthrough face lift technique and coined his technique the "SLUPlift." According to his press release, Dr. Slupchinskyj's procedure is superior to threadlift because it works to grasp muscle instead of fat and has no risk of thread migration, a negative effect that is commonly associated with thread lift procedures.

In the hands of a highly qualified facial plastic surgeon, the sutures can work miracles. But patients must be cautioned that no "lunchtime" procedure, for the face or the body, is a catch-all for turning back the clock.

Many of the most popular cosmetic treatments, including some surgeries like laser lipolysis, don't require formal training at all. If a doctor has never done liposuction before, and purchases a device to do laser liposuction, there is no requirement for surgical training to operate the machine. With your own safety in mind, research your physician's credentials and ask how many procedures he or she has performed, and if they have before and after photos.

Most importantly, remember what your mom always said. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."