However, there is a remedy – it only demands a measure of nerve and loads of confidence in the skills of an expert cosmetic doctor.
Yep, I know: Almost three years ago I said on this very same blog that a thread lift is a procedure I would never consider. But then I didn’t need it and the procedure was still in its infancy. Well, that is my story and I am sticking to it.
Wrinkles and problem skin were never an issue for me – my issue is sagging, loss of volume and structure. So, structure is what the Silhouette Soft Technique offers. When I was invited to experience the procedure in order to pull up and tighten the loose skin under my chin with the help of resorbable Poli-Lactic Acid (PLA) sutures with L-Lactic Acid suspension cones, administered by Dr Gerhard van Niekerk, it didn’t take very long to convince myself that it was worth a try. Dr Van Niekerk is the head trainer for Silhouette Soft in South Africa and internationally.
In all honesty, I have always been apprehensive and skeptical about this procedure, because I am wary of invasive treatments and I felt that this technique crossed the line into cosmetic surgery territory. I was tempted, a few times beforehand, to cancel my appointment and run away. But, vanity is a relentless mistress…
PLA is the main component of Silhouettte Soft. It is a polymer that has long been in use in the medical field and particularly for surgery. It is fully absorbable and bio-compatible with human tissue. When the sutures are implanted in the subcutaneous tissue, it activates fibroblasts, which stimulates collagen production. This helps to add volume and restores the shape and contours of the face in a natural way. Over a period of two years the sutures and cones are fully absorbed, but the benefit of newly produced collagen will be long lasting.
Each suture has two series of bi-directional cones. They come in three lengths, with 8, 12, or 16 cones respectively – the placement position of the threads determines which length should be used. The threads look like micro-thin fishing line and the minuscule cones hook into and embed itself in the fatty layer of the skin.
The result is an immediate, noticeable lifting action and with time, skin regeneration thanks to collagen production.
The procedure is aimed at lifting the skin and adding volume where needed. The threads are inserted in the subcutaneous skin layer below the dermis while the patient is under local anaesthetic. Injections at the entry and exit points of the sutures ensure a painless procedure. It takes less than an hour to perform the procedure. The benefit is an immediate facelift-like result, without the knife, operating theater and anesthesia – at a fraction of the cost and with no downtime.
Dr Van Niekerk examined my face thoroughly before deciding on three threads: One just above the jawline and two more like a hammock under my chin, anchored behind my ears. He marked out the exact positioning of the threads, very much like one would trace a pattern on cloth before making a dress.
While he discussed exactly what he was going to do, I learned something new: That enviable Angelina Jolie-like chiseled, sculpted Hollywood jaw and neckline depends on a 90-degree angle which is anatomically formed by the root of the tongue, esophagus and vocal cords. It is a matter of genetics and it is known as the mento-cervical angle. Some people, like Marilyn Monroe and Renee Zelwegger, have an angle of 45 degrees and that is why one would seldom see a picture in full profile pose of them, because it is less flattering. There is no way someone with a 45-degree chin/neck mento-cervical ratio can ever achieve a 90-degree look with either thread lifts or a surgical neck lift – it can damage the vocal cords and make swallowing difficult. Clearly, I am a 45-degree girl, and I will never have a neck and jawline like Audrey Hepburn.
The anaesthetic injections were the only painful part of the procedure, but thanks to my high pain threshold, I would rate it a 2 on a scale of 2-5.
I avoided watching what was happening – I am way too squeamish. I was covered in sterile cloths anyway. An absolutely sterile environment is key to avoid any bacterial contamination. My hair was tied away in a theatre cap and my skin was repeatedly swabbed with sterilizer.
I didn’t feel the threads entering the central entry point and being pulled across to the exit points, at all. But I could hear it! It was like a soft tearing sound, much like ripping a piece of fabric. Admittedly, I do have a very active imagination. Dr Gerhard did tell me beforehand that it was going to happen, so it wasn’t unexpected. For the rest, there was no drama, bar the movie that played inside my head, and I started to tremble a bit with anxiety. Fortunately, the doctor’s calm and controlled demeanor helped me to settle down. But I would take some Rescue Remedy beforehand should I ever repeat the experience!
Doctor in action: The procedure.
Dr Gerhard inserted the threads first into the left side of my neck and jaw. The three threads were implanted in a flash and gently pulled sideways and upwards to slightly lift the skin. I then sat upright to compare the two sides of my face. The difference was obvious, yet subtle: The nasolabial lines from my nose to my mouth appeared shallower, as did the marionette lines below my mouth corners.
Right side done.
After the right side of my face was done and the doctor was satisfied that he achieved the desired effect, the ends of the threads were snipped off and the entry points were sterilized again. The little holes close up within 24 hours and only needed some Bactroban antibiotic ointment for the first few days.
I left with some ice packs and aftercare instructions.
Unfortunately, I am prone to hectic bruising, so by the next day it looked like I had an encounter with the Boston strangler. Two days later the swelling and bruising at my throat were still very noticeable.
The Silhouette Soft treatment can be successfully combined with other aesthetic procedures, but one has to check with the doctor exactly how long before or after the procedure various treatments (such as botox, fillers, laser etc) may be done. I am scheduled for some BTL radio frequency sessions in October and according to Dr Van Niekerk it will definitely complement and enhance the Silhouette Soft treatment results.
It is a good thing that I cleared my diary before the procedure, because 48 hours later I really looked like I’ve been through the wringer, literally. The left side of my neck was very bruised and swollen and I became best friends with my scarves collection. However, looking at my face straight on, a much cleaner and firmer jawline is clearly visible and the side profile angle from chin to neck definitely sharper. I am very curious to compare the final results with the before photographs in a few weeks’ time.
Aesthetic physicians countrywide are currently being trained in the procedure, and quite a number are already certified to perform the procedure. Training is rigorous and not every doctor passes the tests, says Dr Van Niekerk.
Do your homework and have a proper consultation with a certified doctor beforehand. Ask to see pictures of his or her work – you definitely do not want to be a guinea pig.
That depends on the number of threads needed and the areas of the face where it will be placed. Prices can vary from R12 000-R20 000.
Karen 082 775 7442