I Tried the “No-Volume” Filler Sculptra to Look Less Tired – and It Worked

Hannah Cassidy

I have tried many a skin treatment in the name of journalism (and vanity, let’s be real) and in that process I’ve found that two truths can coexist: aging is a beautiful, privileged process and aesthetic treatments have the ability to restore confidence.

Now that I’m squarely in my late 30s, I’ve noticed I’m less interested in targeted plumping and snatching and more interested in addressing the “I look tired” feeling that won’t shake. Enter: regenerative skin care. Whether it’s exosome-packed products or in-office treatments like microneedling, regenerative approaches to skin care work with your body to rebuild its own elasticity and volume on the cellular level. So when Sculptra, a regenerative type of dermal filler became the biggest buzzword in my feed for everything from smile lines to hip dips, I immediately hit up the experts I know for the scoop.

According to celebrity injector Vanessa Lee, RN, regenerative treatments like Sculptra are trending for good reason. “Being on a few advisory boards for cosmetic pharmaceuticals, I know for a fact that they are the future of what is to come,” Lee tells PS. “Generally people prefer the idea of regenerating their own tissue instead of completely relying on a gel implant.”

I needed to find out for myself, so keep reading to get the full download on what a Sculptra treatment entails from prep to post.

Experts Featured in This Article

Vanessa Lee, RN, is a celebrity injector, skin educator, and CEO of The Things We Do in Los Angeles.

But First, What is Sculptra?

Unlike traditional fillers like Juvederm or Voluma that use hyaluronic acid to shape delicate areas of the face, Sculptra uses poly-L-lactic acid as a “collagen inducer” to restore the natural volume loss that occurs with time – with results that last two to three years. A huge plus in my book. “Sculptra is commonly referred to as a biostimulator, acting as a substance that gently alerts our skin tissues to regenerate new collagen where it is placed,” Lee says. “Sculptra cannot give you a more sculpted chin. It is more like a ‘fertilizer’ for your collagen and should be used for larger surface areas.”

However, the injectable has come with an industry learning curve of complications and a recent FDA clearance for how Sculptra is prepared, which is why many providers (like Lee) held off on including it in their practices until recently. “Sculptra now comes to our clinics in powder form and we then mix it with a specific amount of sterile water for it to be used within the next few hours. This new FDA-approved concentration allows for a higher reconstitution volume and the addition of lidocaine which allows for a more subtle look, less chance of complications, and a more comfortable delivery of product to the patient.”

My Sculptra Experience

During my Sculptra Appointment

Once I was in the office for the treatment, I worked with Lee to assess what I was hoping to address – that gaunt, “tired” look of volume loss that was creeping in – and we determined that I would be a great candidate for Sculptra. Each treatment uses two complete vials throughout the face with additional appointments (if needed) scheduled six to eight weeks out from one another. “Each consecutive treatment typically involves [fewer] sessions and volume when starting in your 30s, and more may be required when starting in your 60s if you take into consideration the ability to build new collagen at different decades in life,” Lee says.

I put my hair back with a headband, washed my face to remove the residual sunscreen from my morning routine, and sat down to get started. Lee then sketched a map onto my face of the areas she would be injecting and, once we began, used gentle verbal cues to let me know where she would inject next. She quickly worked from one side of the face to the other, always ensuring that I was comfortable and offered breaks if I needed them.

Because the new Sculptra reconstitution contains a lidocaine numbing agent, each poke became progressively tolerable. Some areas were spicier while others were virtually painless, but overall it was an easy, 20-minute process. I should note, however, that I can sit through just about any treatment with a straight face. I suppose my skin care (and tattoo) endeavors have led to a higher-than-normal pain tolerance.

My Sculptra Aftercare

Immediately after the injections, Lee gently massaged my face to ensure a smooth distribution of Sculptra. I was given the usual post-filler aftercare instructions to stay hydrated and avoid exercise or makeup for 24 hours – with the optional addition to gently massage my face while cleaning.

“Massage is important to ensure that there are no lumps or bumps forming and if they are, they get massaged out while the Sculptra is freshly introduced into the facial tissues,” Lee says, noting that this was more common with the old Sculptra reconstitution and “is now much less commonly seen with the new reconstitution.”

I was also told that I might experience a little post-treatment puffiness (which I did), but not to worry as it would subside after 24ish hours (it did).

Sculptra Before and After Results

The thing with biostimulating treatments like Sculptra is that you’re not going to have the instant gratification of freshly plumped lips or a new chin. It takes time for your body to build all that new collagen but the results, while subtle and slow, are so worth it.

I’m now about four weeks out of my in-office Sculptra treatment and while results can take a full eight weeks to set in, I’m already noticing a youthful “glow” return. Despite a chaotic month of travel, stress, and sleepless nights, I don’t exactly look like it. Instead, what I see in the mirror looks normal, refreshed, and rested – which to me, is priceless.

Hannah Cassidy is a PS contributor.

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