Well Sculpted

by Amanda Bedgood

A new weapon in the arsenal against aging may be worth the wait.

The world is against us as we age. Sunspots appear - evidence that those pleasurable days basking in its warmth were an attack in earnest. Lines like that of marionettes mock too many days of laughing and punishing frown lines remind us of too many days spent in

The images above are before (first frame) and after photos of Dr. Jeffrey Joseph's patients who have been injected with Sculptra, which stimulates production of the body's natural collagen.

concentration. It's as though our bodies are rebelling, disciplining us for doing nothing more than living. And it's not in your imagination.

"As we get older we develop more of the enzymes that kill collagen," says Dr. Jeffrey Joseph, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and otolaryngologist at Acadian ENT and Facial Plastic Surgery Center.

That's right. The foundation of the face - the good stuff that gives that full youthful look that seems impossible to fake - is being destroyed. It's called volume loss. And most recently, doctors have found another weapon in their anti-aging arsenal to combat it: Sculptra.

"It's really impressive," Joseph says. "Everyone that's done it loves it."

The key, however, is that results are not overnight, and it's not for every patient. Joseph knows his patients and their wants well before using Sculptra. And it's often used in conjunction with other tools. It's the approach also used by Dr. Christopher Hubbell, a board-certified dermatologist/dermasurgeon and founder and medical director of A Jeuné and Acadiana Dermatology.

"It's very much like an artist's palette," Hubbell says. "All that we have available - we pick and choose with an artist's eye what would be the best approach to restore volume and youthfulness in a very natural way."

Looking better, younger and more naturally so is the ultimate goal. And while a myriad of procedures (both invasive and non) can make great strides to peel away the years, there is often that certain something missing. That truth we all know when we see it. The eyebrows in the middle of the forehead. The lips too puffed. The facelift that certainly lifted, but left the woman looking not much younger but quite different.

"This does a wonderful job of taking someone who is older maybe had a facelift and they look not just different but better," Joseph says.

While lasers can give the complexion a new look, facelifts pull skin taut, and fillers fill what's flat or wrinkled or creased, Sculptra is that extra something that can create a more youthful appearance in earnest by stimulating the body's own fountain of youth.

"If you just stretch the skin and muscle you look thin and like you had a facelift. How do you take them from looking like they had a facelift versus actually looking younger? People say, I look like I really used to look 10 or 12 years ago.' It's not for everyone. You want to look different in a week for a class reunion? This is the last thing I'd tell them to do," Joseph says.

But for the many patients who want to look better but fear they'll look like they had something done he says it can be a great approach.

And it's one that may take longer to work, but also lasts longer than some other options like certain fillers that last about six months or so.

"I like the idea of a hybrid using fillers for immediate effect and let Sculptra volumize deeper in the background," Hubbell says.

While our body may be working to kill precious collagen and the machine that creates it may be running on fumes, Sculptra actually refuels the machine rather than replacing it. The injectable is classified as a bio-stimulator doing just what the name implies.

"It harnesses our body's collagen making machinery," Hubbell says.

And it battles areas that age us but are often not on the top list of our complaints - the temples and the diminishing volume around our eye sockets.

"As we get older we lose bone the eye sockets get bigger and change orientation," Hubbell says.

Treatments are different based on the needs of the patient. Joseph says many of his patients are injected once a month for three months in a row before going to a yearly regimen to maintain the look. It can run about $4,000 for the first year depending on the number of treatments and needs of the patient. Not a cheap option, but one that both doctors say is the best option for some patients.

"It's a nice investment," Joseph says.

The downtime is but one day with patients feeling like they left the dentist afterward, and it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

And while it takes time for the results to show, both doctors says that subtlety is just what makes their patient look more than "different."

"We're creating highlights where you have shadows," Joseph says simply. "You should look great without seeing a before' picture."

Fill 'er up

Sculptra is certainly not the only injectable that can combat signs of aging. A variety of options are available depending on just what ails your aging face. But Sculptra is in a class by itself when compared to others because it stimulates your body's own collagen building machine. Here's how they break down:

Hyaluronic acid (Think Juvederm and Restylane.) A gel that's injected to create an inflated cushion to support what's sagging. The product supports facial structures and tissues that have lost volume or elasticity from normal aging.

Calcium hydroxylapatite (Think Radiesse and Radiance.) The heaviest of facial fillers battles deep creases like those marionette and frown lines. The fillers create a kind of scaffold that your own collagen will grow on. The product is slowly dissolved into the body.

Polylactic acid (Think Sculptra.) A synthetic material that stimulates the body to produce collagen. Unlike other fillers, it does not create instant results but works over time to plump the face.

Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons