A thread lift is a noninvasive procedure that helps smooth and tighten facial skin. While it’s a relatively safe procedure, it carries a risk of complications and can produce undesired results in rare situations.

A thread lift is a noninvasive cosmetic procedure designed to tighten loose skin on the face and stimulate collagen production. It involves stitching the skin back with temporary sutures that dissolve into the skin.

While a thread lift is a less invasive alternative to getting a facelift, it has risks.

Here’s what to know about this treatment and its potential complications.

A thread lift typically involves:

  1. Anesthetic: The surgeon will typically use a local anesthetic to numb the treatment area to ease pain or discomfort.
  2. Incision: They’ll lightly puncture your skin with needles to prep it for the threads.
  3. Threading: The surgeon will weave the threads through the skin and tighten them until the skin appears smooth and taut. They can use various types of threads. Some manufacturers make the threads from polylactic acid and polycaprolactone or polydioxanone. Due to the anesthetic, you shouldn’t feel anything but some gentle pressure. This step generally takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Healing: You’ll experience some swelling and bruising as your skin heals. After the procedure, you can go home the same day and resume your activities as usual. You can drive yourself if needed.

Experts generally consider a thread lift a low risk procedure with a short recovery time. But as with any procedure, there’s a risk of experiencing complications.

Following the procedure, you’ll likely experience some side effects, such as:

  • bruising
  • swelling
  • bleeding
  • pain or discomfort
  • difficulty opening your jaw or mouth
  • sensitivity to sunlight

These side effects are usually short-lived and not a cause for concern. Mild bruising and swelling may last 1 to 2 weeks as the skin heals.

Potential complications of a thread lift procedure include:

  • dimpling where the surgeon pulled the threads through
  • allergic reactions, especially to the threading material
  • blood pooling behind the threaded area
  • migration of the threads, causing the skin to appear lumpy
  • more intense, persisting pain due to the thread placement
  • infection at the incision site

People more than 50 years old may have a higher risk of dimpling and infection, though anyone can experience these following a thread lift.

Contact your surgeon right away if you experience the following:

  • discharge at the treatment site (may be black, brown, red, or greenish)
  • intense swelling that persists for more than 48 hours
  • headaches that recur
  • fever

There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of complications from a thread lift:

  • Tell your surgeon about any over-the-counter or prescription medications or supplements you take.
  • Stop taking blood thinning medications and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen at least a week before the procedure.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol the night before your procedure and smoking for at least 1 to 2 weeks beforehand.
  • Limit your consumption of any known inflammatory triggers for you, such as caffeine or sugar, in the days leading up to the procedure.

Your surgeon will also provide specific guidance on what to do (or avoid) before the procedure to ensure the safest, most effective outcome.

Working with a qualified surgeon is also key to reducing your risk of complications. Be sure the surgeon you choose has the following:

  • a license and board certification
  • experience, specifically with thread lifts
  • examples of previous work
  • an accredited and clean, hygienic facility

In addition to the risks involved, there are a few other potential disadvantages to consider:

  • The results are temporary: The pulled, taut effect will wear off in a couple of years due to gravity.
  • The results aren’t as dramatic as a facelift or other procedures: The results of a thread lift are a lot more subtle than with other procedures, such as a facelift. This may be a benefit if you’re looking for more natural results. But if you want to address severe skin loosening, it may not provide the results you want. Generally, thread lifts can only shift the facial skin by a few millimeters.
  • It’s expensive: Thread lifts are fairly expensive for a temporary procedure. The average cost is about $2,050 in the United States.
  • The procedure can’t correct the skin’s surface: A thread lift can’t address surface-level concerns like blemishes, scars, sunspots, or fine lines and wrinkles. If you have any of these concerns, you may want to consider another treatment, like laser resurfacing.

If you need help determining whether a thread lift is the best option for you, talk with a surgeon about your desired results and any safety concerns. Reach out to multiple surgeons to get various perspectives.

A thread lift is a minimally invasive procedure but has its potential risks and side effects. The procedure involves inserting barbed sutures into the face to pull the skin taut.

While many people who opt for a thread lift are satisfied with the results, it can cause some undesired results in rare cases. Be sure to work with a qualified, experienced surgeon for the best results.