FILLERS VS SCULPTRA: What is the difference?


By Sandy Yang

So much has been said about the collagen stimulating effects of Sculptra, which is offered as an anti-aging treatment in The Sloane Clinic as Dream Sculpture. Dermal Fillers on the other hand also fill similar positions in the aesthetic world, having been around for decades and is known for its ability to grant sunken faces instant volumisation and plumping of wrinkles and lines.

Is there room for both of these cosmetic super-powers to co-exist? And do they exert synergistic effects when combined together? We speak to Dr Michelle Lim to gain some insight on this topic.

Sandy: What are facial fillers and Sculptra (used in Dream Sculpture) made of? 
Dr Michelle: Most facial fillers today are made of hyaluronic acid (HA), which is found naturally in our own body. HA is the chief molecule of water and helps the skin retain its natural moisture. It is responsible for helping the skin stay pliable and firm. Hydrated skin tends to feel softer, smoother and has less fine lines and wrinkles.

Sculptra is made of Poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA). Although it is a synthetic compound, it is biocompatible and biodegradable, and is naturally and gradually absorbed by the body. In fact it is commonly found in dissolvable stitches. This FDA-approved material is injected into the skin to help naturally stimulate lost collagen, a key cause of aging. Boosting collagen reserves will help skin stay young, supple and lifted.

Sandy: What are the main similarities between Facial Fillers and Dream Sculpture? 
Dr Michelle: Both are means to facial sculpting and aim to reverse signs of aging. HA fillers can additionally make certain features ‘pop’, such as the nose, apples of the cheek and chin, resulting in an overall more ‘3D’ effect for the face.

Sandy: What are the main differences of Facial Fillers and Dream Sculpture? 
Dr Michelle: Facial fillers tend to volumise and lift facial features immediately. They can be used in many areas of the face to fill up hollow spaces such as the temples and cheeks, or augment certain features such as the nose, chin and lips. Sculptra fills grooves and hollows and can improve wrinkles that are due to a loss of volume over time. Results are only appreciated after 4-6 weeks since it acts as a collagen stimulator and collagen reserves take time to grow.

What is the difference between Fillers and Sculptra?
What is the difference between Fillers and Sculptra?

Sandy: What is the procedure like for Facial Fillers and Dream Sculpture? 
Dr Michelle: Both procedures are extremely similar. The face is first numbed adequately for about 15 to 20 minutes with topical numbing cream to ensure maximal comfort. The product is then distributed in selected areas chosen by the doctor that will give maximal rejuvenation.

Sandy: What can one expect after Facial Fillers? What can one expect after Dream Sculpture? Dr Michelle: After Dream Sculpture, a patient will see transient results from the product injected for about 5 days before the face returns to its pre-injected state. PLLA crystals remain in the skin long after being injected, and plumping effects can be noticed gradually after 4-6 weeks.

HA fillers effects, on the other hand, can be appreciated immediately. There may be a slightly accentuated result in the first week due to very mild water retention and swelling, but these are transient and often not significantly noticed.

Sandy: What sort of patient is most suitable for Facial Fillers? 
Dr Michelle:  HA fillers are suitable for areas that Sculptra can’t be injected, such as the undereye areas, lips, and in most cases, the nose bridge. For small amounts of filling in the cheeks and temples for example, HA is recommended. Patients who wish to appreciate results immediately, or are not sure if they will adapt to the new changes should also have HA injected instead of Sculptra, as HA fillers can be easily dissolved.

Sandy: What sort of patient is most suitable for Dream Sculpture? 
Dr Michelle: Sculptra is suitable for patients with moderate to severe thin faces or deep, hollow areas. If larger amounts of filling is required, Sculptra may be more cost effective over time.

Sandy: What are the main side effects of fillers? What are the main side effects of Dream Sculpture? 
Dr Michelle: Both are extremely safe. Apart from pin prick marks which last a few hours after the procedure, bruises are also possible, but these resolve quickly and definitely over time. Lumps and bumps may be experienced very rarely, and those caused by HA fillers can easily be dissolved without hassle. Sculptra treatment is best planned over a series of treatments, usually 2-3 treatments and lumps are also rare.

Sandy: Can both of these therapies be combined together? If so, what sort of patients will benefit from a combination of both Fillers and Dream Sculpture?

Dr Michelle: Both therapies can be combined but preferably in separate areas. For example, patients who have very thin faces may need hollows filled as well as certain features such as cheekbones defined. In these cases I would opt for HA fillers for the cheekbones to give an immediate lift, and use Sculptra for submalar (below cheekbones) hollows. So there is the added benefit of being able to see some immediate improvement without the need to burn a hole in the pocket to fill up large amounts of facial hollows.

Dr Michelle Tan performing fillers procedure
Dr  Michelle Lim performing fillers procedure

Sandy: Can these treatments be done with other aesthetic treatments? If so, what type of aesthetic treatments do you recommend is best combined to give optimal effects?

Dr Michelle: The idea is to take some years off the face. Young faces are invariably more plump and skin is more taut compared to their older counterparts, so a combination of treatments is usually ideal to address different problems. Fillers and Sculptra can be combined with most other treatments, from non-invasive face lifting devices such as Ulthera and Thermage to injectables such as Botox to further improve facial contours and fine lines or wrinkles. Some of my patients also have resurfacing lasers done intermittently to improve overall complexion health and to reduce pigmentation. It is important to go through your concerns with your doctor so that a treatment plan is designed and carried out, usually in stages.


  1. Thinking of getting fillers as my skin is not as puffy as before.



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