I got a non-surgical face lift! My experience with the Menarini Happy Lift

At 25, I’m still considered “young” by many standards. However, over the past year I’ve begun to notice the beginnings of “signs of aging,” no doubt exacerbated by my sleepless nights and hectic schedule (#millennialhustlelife). Considering my mother is famous for having been asked to show ID in bars all the way into her thirties, looking older than my actual age is admittedly an insecurity of mine, one made worse due to the fact that tons of people do actually assume my age as (much) older. True story: In a recent Facebook Live I did for work, when I asked viewers to guess my age, their average estimate was 33!

These are my no makeup and no filter selfies:

The main culprits of my prematurely “mature” appearance are my softening jawline and the frown lines beginning to deepen around my mouth. The latter are what bother me the most; my paternal grandmother had very prominent ones, and while I’m not averse to having RBF (resting bitch face), I think those lines have the effect of making me look older and more severe as opposed to simply “fierce.”

Since 25 is often considered as the point when skin starts to age, I’ve started trying out various “age-defense” products. Unfortunately my quest has had mixed results. After a disastrous run-in with retinoids (a supposedly milder variation of the anti-aging star ingredient retinol) I’ve come to realize turning back the clock couldn’t just be skin-deep. For real and lasting results, it was clear I’d have to go under.

More needles for my face

More needles for my face

Before going any further, I need to make something clear: I don’t see a problem with having cosmetic procedures. While some people may see getting something done as “desperate” or “fake,” I see no difference between getting Botox or dyeing one’s hair: both are semi-permanent alterations of one’s appearance, designed to make you feel more like yourself. And while there are plenty of stories of people going overboard with surgery and drastically altering their appearance, a few touch-ups here and there don’t hurt. Especially not this one.

Threadlifts are cosmetic procedures that insert specialized threads under the skin and pull them upward to create a subtle “lift” effect. The threads are eventually absorbed by the body, making this a temporary solution versus the more permanent surgical face lift.

The most common form of this procedure is called the PDO Threadlift, which is usually advertised as helping create the “Korean V-face.” While they do offer some mechanical lifting, PDO threads do most of their work by stimulating collagen production, which also results in skin tightening due to the contraction of fatty tissue. The procedure normally involves the use of multiple smooth threads which are absorbed by the body in just six months.

Needles for the Happy Lift treatment

Needles for the Happy Lift treatment

The Happy Lift Threadlift by Menarini is very different. For one, instead of using multiple threads, Happy Lift requires only two. The threads themselves are barbed, locking into place once inserted, which make the mechanical “pulling” effect more dramatic. Happy Lift uses threads that are made of poly-L-lactic acid and caprolactone, instead of the polydioxanone of PDO threads. This change in material ensures the Happy Lift threads take a full eighteen months to be fully absorbed, resulting in longer-lasting effects!

So why don’t more clinics offer Happy Lift instead of PDO? In order to offer this service, potential clinics have to undergo a vigorous vetting and training process by Menarini and RELIFE (their distribution company). One of the select few to qualify for accreditation is the Lift Aesthetic Clinic, the brainchild of Dr. Cyril Agan (medical director) and Jan Conadera (marketing partner). Specializing in anti-aging, contouring, and rejuvenation, this year-old clinic already boasts of an impressive client base, thanks to Dr. Cyril’s expertise at sculpting and shaping the human face.

Dr. Cyril Mitchel Agan, sculptor-in-chief at Lift Aesthetic Clinic

Dr. Cyril Mitchel Agan, sculptor-in-chief at Lift Aesthetic Clinic

While other cosmetic clinics boast the latest machinery, Lift Aesthetic Clinic has purposefully chosen to focus on fillers, toxins (such as Botox), and non-surgical lifting procedures as these require, in Dr. Cyril’s observation, manual dexterity, craftsmanship, and a strong understanding of the human face and its structure. As he assessed my face and explained the procedure, it was clear to me that Dr. Cyril had a sculptor’s mindset, pulling and tugging gently at my face to demonstrate the techniques he felt would create the best results.

Pre-treatment assessment

Pre-treatment assessment

As this was my first invasive cosmetic procedure, I was understandably nervous, but both Dr. Cyril and his business partner Jan were patient and thorough in explaining what to expect. My skin would be treated with both topical anaesthetic and injections of lidocaine, after which a Happy Lift thread would be inserted through each of my cheeks, anchored just in front of my ears. The threads would be “pulled up,” after which I’d be free to go for the day. The entire procedure takes just a little over 45 minutes.

Marking the thread’s entry and exit points

Marking the thread’s entry and exit points

After applying the topical aesthetic and letting it set in, Dr. Cyril and his attendant nurse went straight to work. They first marked my face for where the threads would be inserted, then sterilized both my skin and their hands. I honestly have to give kudos to Dr. Cyril for how thorough his sterilization procedure is! His nurse had a little difficulty putting on one of her gloves, and the outside of the glove had made contact with the bare skin of her arm. Immediately, he asked her to throw out that pair and put on fresh ones: no shortcuts to cleanliness here!

Once everything had been marked and cleansed, Dr. Cyril started injecting the identified entry and exit points with lidocaine. This was honestly the most painful part of the procedure as it feels like a heavy, bruising pressure mixed with a sharp sting but I’ve gotten dental surgery before so it’s not an unfamiliar experience. Still, the discomfort was enough for Dr. Cyril to note his policy of only injecting the entry and exit points; other doctors also inject anaesthetic along the intended path of the threads but Dr. Cyril believes that the discomfort of the threading is preferable to further pain from the anaesthesia.

It’s really not as painful as it looks!

It’s really not as painful as it looks!

After placing a surgical veil over my face, Dr. Cyril created initial puncture wounds in the entry and exit points. As Happy Lift threads are thicker than PDO threads, this is necessary to allow them to pass through easily. I definitely felt the needle go in, but only as a strange, foreign pressure, without any pain. So far so good!

Next, the actual thread was run through under the skin, attached to a slimmer needle than the one used to create the initial “entry holes.” Dr. Cyril gently guided the thread following the paths drawn onto the surface of my skin, and while I could definitely feel something passing through, there was no pain save for a slight, fleeting sting when one thread grazed a nerve.

Finally, the threads were manually lifted into place. I felt them pulling at the inside of my cheeks and at my jaw, making my skin feel stretched taut so that it was hard to talk for a while afterwards. Once Dr. Cyril achieved the desired effect, the threads were cut short and allowed to sink completely under the skin.

Once the crayon marks had been cleaned off my skin and gauze strips were secured over the puncture points, I was allowed to see myself.. .and I was shocked! Dr. Cyril had explained he had to “over-correct” as the threads would settle over time, but that didn’t prepare me for the radically different face in the mirror. As the photos show, my jaw was ridiculously sharp and the jowls around my mouth were all gone!

Even with the swelling, bruising, and dimpling (a temporary effect caused by the tugging on the skin), I could see how high and rounded my cheeks now looked and the pronounced “V” of my chin. It looked like a hyper-feminized version of my face, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure that I liked it at first.

Threadlifts are usually advertised as having little to no downtime, but both Dr. Cyril and Jan were quick to debunk this. While I did more-or-less look “normal” post-procedure (versus microneedling, which resulted in dramatic scabbing, redness, and peeling) I did not feel normal, at least for a few days. The slight bruising and dimpling took a week to disappear (it usually takes longer for older patients) while the swelling and tenderness took a bit more to subside. Overall, it took a month before my face completely normalize, but I was able to see visible results as early as three days after.

Jan, Cha, and Dr. Cyril ensured a pleasant experience. I wasn’t allowed to smile after the treatment so here’s my RBF.

Jan, Cha, and Dr. Cyril ensured a pleasant experience. I wasn’t allowed to smile after the treatment so here’s my RBF.

As with any invasive cosmetic procedure, Happy Lift has strict aftercare requirements. Here’s a quick rundown of what I was asked to do post-op:

  • Take a prescribed antibiotic twice a day for three days, to prevent any potential infections due to the foreign body now in my face.

  • Avoid makeup for at least twenty-four hours, and avoid rubbing or massaging my face for at least five days. Yes, I had to skip my skincare routine!

  • Sleep face up, in an elevated or seated position, for three to five nights to prevent the threads from moving. A friend who underwent the PDO threadlift did not follow this so the thread ended up coming loose and needed to be reinserted. Needless to say, I was very careful to follow this rule!

  • Avoid excessive laughing, smiling, and unnecessary face and neck movements for two weeks. I found this harder to follow as I laugh easily.

  • Avoid high-impact sports for up to two weeks.

  • Use daily sun protection and avoid tanning beds, saunas, hammams, etc.

I also had two check-ups scheduled: one at the one-week mark, and one at the three-week mark, to ensure all had gone smoothly.

As Dr. Cyril promised, as soon as the initial dimpling and swelling went down, my “over-corrected” face settled into something more subtle. In fact, friends and family told me that if I hadn’t said anything, they wouldn’t have thought that I’d had anything done. They had noticed that my cheekbones and jaw looked sharper and more prominent but assumed this was due to me slimming down. I liked the subtlety of the effect; my initial appearance post-threadlift had me worrying that I would have to live with a brand new facial structure for 18 months, so I was pleased to see the final results were more enhancement than all-out transformation!

The effects of Menarini’s Happy Lift are infinitely more obvious when my Before and After photos are side by side. My cheekbones now appear to sit higher on my face and my jawline is more defined. The most drastic difference has to be my frown lines, known in cosmetic surgeon speak as nasolabial folds. In the Before picture, the corners of my mouth are definitely turned down. Though the ghost of the folds remain, the After photo shows that the corners of my lips are now a pleasant straight line, giving me a more open and youthful appearance!

Would I do this again? Honestly, yes! The Menarini Happy Lift threadlift by Lift Aesthetic Clinic definitely delivered on minimal actual “downtime” (I could show my face after a day), and while my face was still tender after 11 days, I mostly forgot that I had barbed threads under the skin of my cheeks and jaw. The slight discomfort at the beginning is definitely worth the results, which are simultaneously subtle and dramatic. I’m also extremely pleased with Dr. Cyril’s technique, which emphasized my favorite facial features - my cheekbones and my jaw - while vanishing the trouble area of my frown lines.

The only reservation I have is the price tag for the Happy Lift: it’s P45,000 for 18 months of that lifted effect. While this is definitely cheaper (and less painful!) than a surgical face lift, it’s still quite a lot of money so I may need to wait until I’m a little bit older. In the interim, should my jowls give me problems again, I might take up Dr. Cyril’s recommendation of Lift Aesthetic Clinic’s Botox treatment as a more affordable maintenance procedure for this area.

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I’m definitely loving the results of Happy Lift, and I’m actually thinking if I can save up for a second round for when this wears off!

What about you? Would you try a threadlifting procedure?


This story is brought to you by the Lift Aesthetic Clinic.

Lift Aesthetic Clinic is located at G/F 16 United Street, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig City (in front of Ace Hotel/Ace Water Spa. For more information, you may contact (0917)616-1873, or visit their Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/liftclinicph.

Procedure and in-clinic photos by Karen Borromeo