These days, there are all kinds of methods available to enhance your butt, ranging from the noncommittal (e.g. sporting the notorious "butt crack leggings") to the more labor-intensive (i.e. glute-focused workouts) to the life-altering (read: surgery). Somewhere in the middle of the latter two lies the non-surgical butt lift, a cosmetic procedure that's less permanent and invasive than going under the knife and, according to Steve Fallek, M.D., surgical director of BeautyFix Medspa, is becoming increasingly popular. Maybe it's a result of social media (after all, the tag #nonsurgicalbuttlift has 9.3 million views on TikTok) or a response to the recent reports about the safety of Brazilian butt lifts. For whatever reason, the treatment is trending.
But what's the hype really all about, anyway? Ahead, everything you need to know about this non-surgical butt lifts. (Related: These Professional Cosmetic 'Tweakments' Are the Key to Natural-Looking Results)
What Is a Non-Surgical Butt Lift?
There are a two main methods for perking and/or plumping up your butt non-surgically.
Whether you've seen people posting before and after booty pics on Instagram and TikTok or someone told you that they got a non-surgical butt lift, there's a good chance they received injections of dermal filler (aka a gel-like substance that can add volume to an area). Sculptra is the most commonly used filler for the butt, says Bruce Katz, M.D., dermatologist and director of JUVA Skin and Laser Center. "The active component in Sculptra is poly-l-lactic acid, and it's basically a collagen stimulator," he explains. (Reminder: Collagen is a naturally-occurring protein in your muscles, skin, and bones that helps provide structure to your skin and keep joints strong.) "So by injecting it into the buttock area, not only are you creating more volume, but you're also stimulating the patient's own collagen to create more volume as well." Icing on the cake.
Similarly, Radiesse — another oft-used filler — stimulates the body's natural collagen production. But, unlike Sculptra, it features calcium hydroxyapatite filler (which, BTW, is made of a material found in bones) and is more expensive. "Sculptra is a lot more cost-effective than Radiesse," says Dr. Katz. "It's also a liquid, whereas Radiesse is a paste. With a liquid, it's easier to sculpt in the right portion or area, whereas a paste is a little harder to manipulate and adjust." And while both filler options require two to three injection sessions initially, Sculptra's effects last two to three years while those from Radiesse remain for one to two years. (See also: A Complete Guide to Filler Injections)
Regardless of which dermal filler you choose, your provider can inject the substance strategically based on what you're hoping to achieve. "When someone wants more fullness or roundness, we'll inject more in the middle area," says Dr. Katz. "If they want more lift, we'll inject more on the upper area to get more lift there. If they have some asymmetry, we'll correct it and inject more on one side than the other to correct the asymmetry."
Electrical Muscle Stimulation
That being said, filler isn't your only option when it comes to non-surgical butt lifts. Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) offers a non-invasive butt lift alternative that can be used in conjunction with filler or on its own. The devices — including options such as Cutera TruSculpt Flex and Emsculpt NEO — deliver high-frequency electromagnetic energy to the glute muscles via conduction pads. These gadgets stimulate nerves that make muscles contract, boosting muscle recruitment and, over the course of several sessions, helping you build muscle in the area, creating volume and lift. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, in a small study assessing Emsculpt, participants received four treatments on their abdominal muscles, resulting in an average 15.4 percent increase in thickness of their rectus abdominis ("six pack") muscles. (Related: Is Electrical Muscle Stimulation Really the Magical Workout It's Hyped Up to Be?)
Dr. Katz has been offering what he's termed a "NEO butt lift" to patients, a combination of Emsculpt NEO alongside the cellulite-reducing injectable QWO. "Emsculpt is creating 20,000 contractions of the buttock muscles in half an hour period, going beyond what you can achieve by exercise alone," he says. With Emsculpt, effects typically last a year and most people opt for four initial treatments with yearly maintenance treatments thereafter to achieve optimal results, says Dr. Katz.
Who Should Choose a Non-Surgical Butt Lift?
In general, someone might opt for a non-surgical route over a surgical one for a number of reasons, including recovery time — which can be weeks-long for surgery vs. practically nonexistent for non-surgical treatments — and pricing. But when it comes to butt procedures, in particular, there's also a common hesitation around safety.
However, those concerns are largely regarding surgical butt lift procedures, namely the Brazilian butt lift. "Over the last few years, there has been concern about deaths that have been involved with Brazilian butt lifts," a surgical option that involves removing a patient's fat from one location (e.g. the abdomen) then transferring the fat to their butt, says Dr. Fallek. The procedure has been responsible for "a number of fatalities and high incidences of post-surgery complications," according to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Specifically, when surgeons inject fat too deeply or inject too much fat, it can lead to fat embolization of the heart and lungs (when fat enters the blood stream and travels to the heart and lungs), which may end up being fatal, according to ABCS. A 2017 study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal surveyed 612 surgeons and found a rate of one in 6,214 Brazilian butt lifts resulted in a fatal fat embolization. "For the most part, [Brazilian butt lifts] are safe and effective, but there is obviously that concern," says Dr. Fallek. It's also possible that you might not have enough fat to remove for transfer (something your doc can determine during a consultation), thereby making you not be a candidate for a Brazillian butt lift, explains Dr. Fallek.
Some good news? The potential risks of non-surgical butt lifts aren't as unsettling. Common side effects of poly-l-lactic acid and calcium hydroxyapatite fillers include swelling, bruising, bleeding, lumps and bumps, and redness at the injection site, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Both types of fillers get absorbed by your body over time, but calcium hydroxapatite fillers can remain in trace amounts. Still, there aren't any reported longterm complications from it, according to research published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. EMS treatments, on the other hand, can cause immediate muscle soreness similar to what you might experience from a workout. (Related: How to Create the Healthiest Butt Ever, Inside and Out)
If you decide to get any type of procedure, it's key to go to someone who's qualified to perform what you're seeking out. For a Brazilian butt lift, that's a board-certified cosmetic surgeon. (Here's more on how to find a doctor who qualifies.) Doctors can also provide filler, as can dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and registered nurses, depending on what state you're in. The guidelines on who can provide Emsculpt aren't as clear-cut — it'll depend on whether it's deemed a "medical procedure" within your state, and who is allowed to practice medicine in that state, according to an article from the American Med Spa Association.
How Much Does a Non-Surgical Butt Lift Cost?
Choosing a non-surgical method isn't necessarily a money-saver. As you might've guessed, achieving a noticeable change to your butt frequently requires more filler than injectors would use for your face. Translation: Don't expect to doll out the same amount as you would for, say, lip fillers (which typically range from $700-1,200, FWIW).
In total (read: over the course of multiple sessions), a Sculptra butt lift can cost upwards of $20,000 and a Radiesse butt lift can amount to $35,000, says Dr. Katz. EMS treatments, on the other hand, aren't as pricey; Emsculpt, for example, tends to cost around $750 per treatment, according to Dr. Katz. (Related: New Non-Surgical Beauty Treatments That Work Magic On Your Face and Body)
The Bottom Line On Butt Lifts
There's no shortage of treatment offerings for people who are seeking to transform their backsides. If you're after an emoji-like butt but are apprehensive of surgery, you might be more satisfied with a non-surgical butt lift — or, of course, you can always try to grow bigger, stronger glutes with your workout.