Sculptra, one of the lesser known injectables in a doctor’s arsenal, has found a new home: when injected into the buttocks, Sculptra can help add volume, smooth out cellulite dimples, and improve the skin’s overall texture.
While fat transfer and implants remain the go-to methods for achieving a shapelier bottom, the off-label use of Sculptra paired with body contouring treatments like CoolSculpting is becoming increasingly popular as a non-surgical option for buttocks enhancement.
We asked the experts to tell us more about this intriguing — and highly effective — new procedure.
What is Sculptra?
Sculptra is a poly-L-lactic acid injectable filler that’s typically used in the face to smooth out deep creases and wrinkles. Unlike hyaluronic acid fillers such as Juvéderm and Restylane, which provide immediate results by physically lifting the skin, Sculptra works more gradually by stimulating collagen production over the course of several months.
An immediate plumping effect can be noticed after the poly-L-lactic acid injections have been performed, but that’s only because they also contain water. The skin returns to its normal state a few days later. It’s only then that the magic actually starts to work, as the microparticles are absorbed into the skin and the body is coaxed into reproducing lost collagen.
For butt enhancement, patients typically undergo two or three sessions over a period of a few months to give the area more full, youthful appearance. The total cost is of about $8,000 to $12,000.
The buttocks isn’t the only area where Sculptra can be injected. Off-label uses also include volumizing treatments for hands and hollowed temples.
Who is the “liquid” butt lift for?
New York City plastic surgeon Dr. Lara Devgan says that Sculptra buttocks augmentation procedures have become a big part of her practice over the last three years.
“It’s a bit of a modernization of beauty standards,”says Devgan. “Five to ten years ago people wanted to be skinny, with the smallest possible buttocks. That has changed.”
According to Devgan, the Sculptra butt lift can help pretty much anyone looking for a moderate increase in size and projection. For those who aspire to bigger changes, the Brazilian Butt Lift –removing fat from plush areas like the stomach or thighs by liposuction and injecting it into the buttocks– is still the gold standard.
“You have to have the right expectations going in,” says Devgan. “The Brazilian Butt Lift is like putting a pillow under a sheet. Sculptra, on the other hand, is like putting a comforter on top of the sheet.”
New York City dermatologist Dr. Neil Sadick also uses Sculptra to lift bottoms that have experienced some aged-related slide.
“This is for women with what’s called a depressed buttock. They’ve lost their ligament support that holds up the buttock in a younger person,” said Sadick. “We address this by injecting Sculptra into the fatty layer right above the muscle.”
Essentially, Sculptra helps the skin build its own collagen. This can plump up the thin and sagging skin caused by aging. Sculptra can also help in cases where the patient doesn’t want a bigger buttock area, but has a lot of dimpling.
Cellulite is caused by fat, tethered by fibrous cords, which create dimples. Specialists use a needle to loosen these cords, and then inject Sculptra in the area to make it plump up over time.
What is the procedure like?
The procedure begins with the doctor getting a clear understanding of what type of change the patient wants. Some patients want round, C-shaped buttocks. Others want a more laterally full buttocks, or a combination of both.
The patient then stands up so that the doctor can mark the buttocks. “I do that according to various anatomical landmarks in order to determine the part of the buttocks where the patient needs the most volume,” says Devgan.
Next, the patient lies down on a table and the doctor performs the injections. “It’s important that the process remain sterile, since it’s taking place near the genitalia,” says Devgan.
This is one of the reasons why it is of the utmost importance to deal with a licensed medical practitioner: illegal butt injections are unfortunately still quite common, despite the extensive media coverage this trend has received in recent years.
In some cases patients have been treated with industrial-grade silicone and other dangerous products, causing irreversible damage and even death. In short, avoid anyone who offers to perform your injections at home or in a non-medical setting, and remember that an offer that sounds too good to be true probably is.
Is there any downtime?
After the injections there may be some soreness for a couple days, similar to a tough workout.
To encourage the Sculptra to spread out among the tissue, doctors recommend that patients massage their bottoms for five minutes, five times a day for a few days. Other than that little aftercare is required, and patients can return to their regular activities right away.
“This is in contrast to a Brazilian Butt Lift, where the fat that’s transferred into the area is very fragile,” says Devgan. “After a Brazilian Butt Lift, you can’t sit on your buttocks for six to eight weeks.”
How can body contouring help?
Non-invasive body contouring procedures such as CoolSculpting — which literally freezes fat away — are often done in conjunction with Sculptra injections because slimming areas that surround the buttocks can make them look rounder or fuller.
Depending on the size of the area, CoolSculpting can cost between $650 and $1,000.
“You can’t treat the buttocks directly with CoolSculpting, says Jessica Plotnick, a physician assistant based in New York City. “But you can treat the lower flanks —the lowest part of the back that hangs over pants. By decreasing that tissue you accentuate the buttocks.”
Plotnick also uses CoolSculpting to contour the area below the buttocks and make it appear fuller, but warns that when improperly done, this can lead to an indentation in the buttocks.
“Patients have to be careful and go to someone discerning,” she says. “Some practitioners will just treat everything. But in this area, it’s about 50-50, whether or not I can treat it. If the fat below the buttock isn’t a distinct area — if it is too much a part of the lower buttock — I can’t treat it.”
How long does a Sculptra butt lift last?
Experts generally agree that results last between two and three years, although some have reported that Sculptra can continue to enhance collagen production for as long as five years, or even longer. However, you will most likely find that touch-up injections are required after two years to prolong the effects of your treatment.
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