If you’ve ever wondered how TF everyone on Instagram seems to have the exact same face (big eyes, plump lips, thin nose, pointy chin—all vaguely reminiscent of a Hadid/Kardashian/Jenner mashup), the answer has, historically, been FaceTune. Or one of the hundred other photo-editing apps that can tuck and blur your face into something kinda, sorta resembling your favorite celebrity.
But apparently, people are now taking their filtering one step further and opting for an in-office procedure called “thread lifts” to pinch and pull their IRL faces into the cat eyes of the Instagram world. Basically, a chiller version of the '90s plastic surgery craze that gave everyone Britney's nose and Madonna's face. And I've got...some questions.
WTF are thread lifts tho?
Thread lifts, for the uninformed, are basically a non-surgical brow lift that involves inserting a tiny dissolvable thread into the face and pulling up the skin, allowing a plastic surgeon or cosmetic dermatologist to “lift” different parts of your face and body, depending on where they insert them. Basically, the real-life version of FaceTune.
“The dissolvable threads are covered in microscopic barbs that anchor into the tissue, pull it up, and tack it in place,” says Shereene Idriss, MD, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC. Though you can technically insert them anywhere, Dr. Idriss says she’s seen an increase in patients requesting the temple and eyebrow area in recent years in an attempt to get that pulled-back, smizing look.
K but why now?
Though thread lifts aren’t exactly new (the treatment has been quietly talked about in the beauty community for years), they’ve only recently gained some mainstream popularity, thanks to their (alleged) ability to give mere ~mortals~ the cat-eye look of celebrities like Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, etc.
In fact, Celeb Face (the very popular, very ruthless Instagram account dedicated to calling out questionable celebrity photos) recently posted a series of images and info dedicated to thread lifts, showing the before-and-after results of real patients who underwent the procedure—getting them one step closer to the Instagram aesthetic that’s basically dominating our culture right now.
The comments, for what it’s worth, are mixed, with some people absolutely despising the look, others claiming that thread lifts are actually dangerous, and some earnestly asking if the results are accurate. Which brings us to…
Those photos are a bit misleading.
“These pics look like they were taken immediately before and after the threads were inserted, which is a little unfair, because that pulled-back effect is actually only temporary,” says Dr. Idriss. “You’re only going to see a nice ‘lift’ for the first 2-3 weeks, and then your body starts to absorb the threads and the lift goes down.” So if your ultimate dream is to look like an Instagram model (why! You’re perfect! Stop!), thread lifts will only give you the effects for a few weeks, max.
But—BUT!—thread lifts do, on some level, have some lasting impact on your face structure. “As your body absorbs the thread, it creates new collagen around the area, helping to slightly maintain the lifting effect over time,” says Dr. Idriss. The only (major) catch? You need to continually get them done to build a noticeable collagen response. And that repeat doctor’s appointment is exactly what Dr. Idriss is afraid of for patients chasing the Instagram aesthetic.
“Because the effect fades so quickly, patients might be compelled to head back to their derm every other month, but that’s a very dangerous road,” she says. “I would never recommend more than two times a year, max.” And it’s not necessarily because thread lifts are dangerous (they’re not, if done by a skilled, board-certified physician), but because of where they're being inserted and why.
“The temple and eyebrow is such a small area that condensing multiple threads in a tight vector will cause a ton of scar tissue and trauma,” says Dr. Idriss, adding that it can also increase the risk of foreign body rejection—where your immune system literally tries to destroy and push out the threads (read: painful, risky, and bad). “If you’re going for this aesthetic permanently, your options are really only surgical, like a brow lift and/or eyelid surgery.”
Should you try eyebrow thread lifts?
If you’re doing it for the sole purpose of looking like an A-list celebrity with really excellent DNA (…and on-call dermatologists, makeup artists, trainers, etc.), then I’m in the big ol’ NOPE camp, as is Dr. Idriss. “The way I see it is as a long-term road, and I wouldn’t want your face to lose its proportions as time goes by and this trend eventually fades,” she says.
And the Instagram face will fade, just as all trends in the history of the world have faded before it (RIP skinny brows). So even though I know self-love is incredibly hard, recovering from medical complications inspired by a fleeting Instagram trend is definitely harder.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.