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In the world of fillers there are a lot of options. You may have heard of products like Juvederm or Restylane. Under experienced use, they are helpful and effective at giving you the aesthetic alterations you desire. There is also product called Sculptra, short for Sculptra Aesthetic.  This is an injectable that is a liquid used to increase the volume and contour of the face. Over time, it is able to build up your own collagen as it disappears gradually. A qualified specialist can add the right amount to achieve the perfect look.

Sculptra aesthetic is also known by its generic name poly-L-lactic acid or PLLA for short. It is a synthetic version of lactic acid. Lactic acid is what your muscles create post-exercise. It creates a polymer that is made up of polylactic acid, or molecules of lactic acid stuck together. PLLA or Sculptra is synthetically made using no human DNA or animal products.

Sculptra aesthetic is most effectively used in the following areas:

• Softening boney cheekbones

• Hollow cheek areas

• Hollow chin areas

• Nasolabial and melolabial folds (nose to mouth- and mouth to chin- lines)

• Defining the jawline

• Hollow temple area

• Full body sites

Discuss your goals with your medical specialist and he or she can tell you what areas may be most effectively contoured with Sculptra. They also may include other treatments to supplement, such as Juvederm and Restylane—depending on the areas you are looking for treatment. A comprehensive plan to maximize your results most likely is what your doctor will create for you.


Sculptra aesthetic was FDA approved in 2009. At that time it was decided that it is safe for cosmetic use in the United States. FDA approval meant that thousands of citizens were privy to its ability to alter facial and body contours. It is more difficult to work with than other fillers, so be sure to thoroughly vet the doctor you choose. Ask about their history and ask for examples of their work.


Sculptra is a very safe tool for facial contouring. There are some general medical conditions that should avoid its usage. If you are allergic to lidocaine, nursing or pregnant then you should not use Sculptra. You also are not a candidate if you have rheumatoid arthritis, Sjorgen’s Syndrome or lupus. Any medical issues you have had or currently have should be discussed with your doctor. He or she can customize the decision to move forward with Sculptra treatments or abstain.

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Sculptra aesthetic is a more expensive filling option, however it also lasts longer than other options. Treatments can cost anywhere from $600 up to $2000 a session, depending on the amount of correction needed and your age. For the initial repair treatment, you likely will see your doctor for 2-3 treatments that are 5-10 weeks apart. Again this depends on factors like age and severity of correction. What balances the higher cost though is the length of time Sculptra is effective. In general, only 1 treatment is required annually to maintain the desired effect.

Remember also that financing options are customized to the office you choose for treatment. Discuss with your doctor’s business office what financing options they offer and how they can help you with the financial aspect of your treatment.


If you are searching for sculpting and aesthetic aids, then you likely have seen a number of them in the market. Juvederm and Restylane are two very popular HAs, or hyaluronic acid. An HA is a substance that naturally occurs in the body. It retains moisture and is very important to staving off the aging process. As people age, their skin loses its ability to retain moisture, thus losing pliancy, suppleness and firmness. HA can enhance and restore this moisture. Post treatment, patients notice that their skin feels smoother, softer and can look plumper.

There are differences between HAs and lactic acids. HAs being Juvederm and Restylane and lactic acid being Sculptra. Because HAs help the skin to remain moisture, they are most effective when used as fillers for specific lines and wrinkles. They can be used as fillers to achieve a “lifting” effect, however they aren’t always hefty enough in volume to fill larger areas. That’s where Sculptra comes in.

Sculptra aesthetic can add the volume needed. If only a small amount of filling is required, then in general an HA is used. On the other hand if more than two or three syringes are required it can be more cost effective to work with Sculptra. With Sculptra usually one treatment annually is needed to maintain the desired look, whereas other HAs can require treatments every 3-4 months.

The other distinct aspect of Sculptra is that it stimulates your own skin cells to produce collagen. This stimulation is why Sculptra can last longer than other options. Of course it depends on the patient and their physiology, but in general it still remains a long-lasting and effective option. HAs don’t promote changes within the skin. They absorb water and retain that moisture, but don’t change the skin.

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When you go for any treatment, remember that your doctor is the expert who will give you direction from start to finish. Be sure that you come up with your own list of things you want to cover. Likely you are doing research prior to your visit, so questions are going to come up. Use a notebook to write them down so you have them ready for your doctor to speak on, one-by-one. Here are some tips to get you started:

•    Ask your doctor for before/after portfolios he or she has with patients who have had the same procedure you plan on having.

•    Ask your doctor how many times he or she has performed your desired procedure on other patients.

•    Ask your doctor if they are Board Certified and if they have a Board Certified Anesthetist on staff during procedures.

•    Ask about your specific risks. Your doctor likely will tell you about the general ones, but you want to know about the ones specific to your physiology.

•    Ask where the procedure will be performed and how long it will take. Likely it will be in the doctor’s office, but be sure that you can look at the area prior to your procedure.

•    Ask if your doctor has privileges at local hospitals and where.

•    Ask for references from former patients, particularly those that had similar procedures done.

•    Ask about your timeline for recovery.

•    Ask about the expected side-effects post treatment and how to manage them.

When you decide on the doctor that you feel most comfortable with, it is important to consider the results he or she has had with similar procedures. It also is important to assess the office and treatment office where you’ll be during the procedure. Ask if the treatment facility has life support systems if needed. Take note also of how well each office handles you as a customer; from the doctor to the girl at the front desk, you want them all to be professional and helpful.

After you choose the right doctor, you will schedule your procedure. Be sure that you consult with the friend who will be driving you to and from your procedure and make sure they are available. Usually your procedure will be done under local anesthesia, if it is need at all. You may see some immediate discomfort, but it should be minimal. The procedure can last anywhere from 15-minutes up to an hour for more intense treatments in multiple areas. Injections are done with lidocaine, a local anesthetic. You also can request a topical numbing cream.

Upon completion, your doctor will reiterate after-care steps, which likely will be minimal. If you do see bruising you can always use ice on/off the area. This should do a lot in taking care of after-effects. If you see anything out of the ordinary, or experience pain be sure to discuss it with your doctor.

You also will be given instructions on massaging the areas on your own when you are at home. Be sure to ask any questions you have to make sure you are managing your after-care properly and effectively. Again- be sure to contact your office with any questions.

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You may be wondering how Sculptra aesthetic works. First of all, as a lactic acid it is a safe way to change the contours of your face, and sometimes your body. Its value is that it is able to create plumpness that may be lost due to aging or tissue damage. The skin, like the rest of the body, ages. As it ages, it becomes less effective at maintaining moisture and resiliency. This is where your skin starts to appear saggy or hollow.

Sculptra aesthetic is able to improve the skin’s look because it not only is a filler, but it also promotes the growth of collagen within the skin. It is able to promote deep underlying structure of your skin. It works deep within your body’s dermis, rather than topically. This is what helps it to be an effective way to restore your skins volume and inner structure. As Sculptra promotes additional collagen growth, it stimulates collagen strands that build the fullness of your face. This is why you see that fullness return, along with the diminishing of folds and wrinkles.


The change promoted by Sculptra aesthetic is not immediate, however that is not to say you won’t see some change after a few minutes. Your face is going to have to heal before you can see the final results. After treatment it is common to expect some bruising and discoloration. Some soreness also is common. In general it should take 7-10 days for this to completely disappear, however it is dependent on your body’s ability to heal.

Remember too that the unique benefit of Sculptra aesthetic is that it encourages collagen growth within your skin and that is done over time. In general people who get Sculptra injections require 3 treatments over the course of about 3-4 months. Results are going to continue to develop over that time.

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Sculptra is injected over a series of appointments throughout the initial 3-4 month period of treatment. In general, its effects last 1 year, but it is common to last up to 2 years. This is dependent on your body’s ability to build its own collagen strands and how quickly Sculptra aesthetic dissolves within the body. It is recommended that treatments after the initial ones occur annually to maintain the facial volume.


With Sculptra aesthetic, or any injectable, there are risks. One is the formation of small bumps under the skin. These usually dissolve on their own and are usually very difficult to see. It is most common to develop these bumps around the eye area, where Sculptra aesthetic isn’t recommended. If the area treated is not massaged properly post injection, the solution is concentrated too much in one area or its used in an area not recommended, then small bumps can occur. It may take months for them to dissolve on their own, or even years.

There is always a risk of slight bruising and tenderness after injections but this is needle-related and not due to Sculptra aesthetic. This should go away relatively quickly and can be treated with ice on/off for about 2 days. If bruising or discoloration are still evident after this time, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

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Here are some common questions and concerns when using Sculptra.

What is Sculptra made of?

Sculptra aesthetic is a synthetic lactic-acid made by Dermik Laboratories. It is a proprietary product that is FDA approved for US use when treating fat loss of the facial area and sometimes the body.

Is Sculptra treatment painful?

Treatment with Sculptra aesthetic is generally painless, other than the needles used for injection. If you are very adverse to any pain, you can request a topical numbing cream is used prior to treatment. Post-treatment Tylenol is usually the only thing needed to manage discomfort.

How is Sculptra different from other injectables?

Other injectables hold moisture; this is what makes them effective. Things like Juvederm and Restylane both are hyaluronic, meaning that they are made of a viscous fluid that naturally occurs in connective tissue of the body. Sculptra on the other hand is a synthetic lactic acid that encourages collagen regeneration in the skin. Its results are long-lasting and effective as used to fill hollows within the skin and re-sculpt the face.

When will I see results?

With Sculptra aesthetic, you will schedule 3 appointments within about 3-4 months’ time. Each time your doctor will inject Sculptra to achieve the desired results.  You will not see results immediately because they are gradual, but when they do show they are long-lasting.

Is there downtime following Sculptra treatment?

In general there is minimal downtime post-treatment with Sculptra aesthetic. This of course depends on your individual body and its ability to heal. It also depends on the amount of swelling, discoloration and bruising that occur. This likely will be minimal so normally it does not create any downtime.

How long will Sculptra results last?

Sculptra aesthetic results in general, last for up to one year, however it is not uncommon for them to last up to two years. This is dependent on the specific patient’s body.

Should I avoid makeup after Sculptra treatments?

You should be able to use makeup immediately after treatment, however some doctors recommend waiting a day or even two days. Some bruising is common, but it usually is minimal and lasts only a few days post-treatment.

Schedule a Consultation Today

Find out how your age related volume loss can be treated to restore to a more natural youthful appearance.  Schedule a consultation and let us create a treatment plan designed for you. Call Dr. Sheffield today at our Santa Barbara location (805) 318-3280.


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