We all strive to keep our youth as long as possible. While science may not have gotten to the point of complete anti-aging, it has come far enough to help us keep the looks that we had in our younger years. Of course, we’ve all seen ads for the unlikely products and even tried a few failed products ourselves. So, it can be hard to know which treatments are worth it and which are a waste of your time and money.
In this guide, we are going to look at a treatment known as radio frequency skin tightening. However, this isn’t just an advertisement for RF treatments. We will look at the benefits, but we will also look at the side effect and other aspects of this treatment. By the end of this article, you won’t only know what radio frequency skin tightening is but what it can do for you and if it is the right option for you.
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What is Radio Frequency Skin Tightening?
Before we get into your options and the side effects of RF treatments, it’s important that you understand exactly what Radio Frequency Treatments are. First of all, this procedure is not a surgical one, so you won’t have to worry about the same level of risk as with a surgical procedure.
This treatment does, as the name suggest, employ the help of radio frequency energy. This energy is used to heat the collagen beneath your skin. If you are unsure what collagen is, it is the protein that is found in connective tissue and skin. It, in part, gives the skin structure and helps it keep its shape. Heating the collagen helps to tighten your skin back up, reducing the wrinkles and fine lines you currently have. As we already know, no matter how it is achieved, tighter skin can help take years off your appearance.
You may have noticed at this point that we haven’t said that it would change the appearance of your face specifically. This is because this treatment can be used for more than just the wrinkles and fine lines of your face, but for any wrinkles, sagging skin, and cellulite as well.
All in all, an RF treatment can be used on any part of the skin. RF treatments are used on internal organs as well at times for medical purposes and in transferring this idea to a cosmetic procedure, it treated the skin as an organ. However, for the purposes of this article, we will mainly focus on radio frequency treatments as an alternative to procedures such as face lifts but we will touch on some other purposes of this treatment.
Different Types of Radio Frequency Skin Tightening
In your research on radio frequency skin tightening, it is more than likely that you have come across phrases such as monopolar, bipolar, tripolar, and even multipolar. These terms get more into the specifics of different radio frequency skin tightening treatments but what do they mean exactly?
When it comes down to it, these are different methods that have varying effectiveness for different people receiving the treatment. They each have more common names as well. For example, most doctors and dermatologists will refer to monopolar treatments as Thermage treatments, bipolar treatments as Velashape treatments, and multipolar treatments as Venus Legacy treatments. Depending on the doctor, they may use one of these methods or blend a couple for the best result.
“Not all RF devices are the same, however, the results are technician dependent and that is most important. If you decide on a therapy, go to someone reputable who has experience and doesn’t delegate the procedures unless that person is very well trained. I do all my treatments myself to get the best results for my patients. I have monopolar (Thermage), multipolar (Venus Legacy) and bipolar (Velashape) devices and use them in combination to get the best results.”
- Dr. Jason Elmer, a Los Angeles Dermatologic Surgeon
Why Has Radio Frequency Treatment Caught On?
Radio Frequency treatments are just one of many beauty fads that have received attention over the years. In the end, though, what made RF treatments spark such a following? Well, part of it is how easy the treatment is. It isn’t as painful or invasive as a facelift and doesn’t take the time of a spa treatment or the routine of a nightly face cream.
While it does take a professional to perform your RF treatment, they are becoming more available and easier to find when you want to undergo this process. In addition to being less invasive, these procedures don’t have the traditional recovery time we think of in reference to face lifts.
Is Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Safe?
When you are talking about destroying fat cells and reshaping skin, it is only natural to wonder if it’s something you should be doing. After all, not every remedy for facial imperfections that has sparked interest has been the best thing for your health. So, which side of the fence does radio frequency skin tightening treatments fall on?
Luckily, the dangers in a radio frequency face lift treatment are – generally – considerably minimal. In a moment, we will go over the exceptions of how this treatment may pose problems to a small percentage of people but for the vast majority of those who chose to get a radio frequency face lift.
What Do Customers Have to Say About Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Treatments?
One of the things that we tend to look at before buying anything is if it works. There isn’t any better way to do that than to look at the experiences that other customers have had. However, it can be a pain to go to search every corner of the Internet for customer reviews that you can rely on. To help you out, we have gathered some of the most helpful reviews that we found and consolidate them here so you can easily and quickly refer to them all in one place.
“I was treated by machine reaction and it was amazing. I was really afraid that it would be painful, but it was nice. When I got home, my husband even asked me what I did with my face!”
“I’ll be 50 next month but all my friends told me that I look like in my late 20s. I have no wrinkles at all; tight, normal looking skin unlike a surgical face lift that could look too tight or unnatural. Smaller pores. Of course, with the help of RF. I have achieved an excellent result after 6 treatments (once every 2 months).”
“I finished a course of 4 RF accent treatments 2 months ago on my sagging jowls which have been bothering me for some years. I’m 52 and otherwise young looking. I experienced mild discomfort during the last two treatments when the power was increased, but have been very pleased with the results. I don’t look startlingly different, but I can see a real improvement and people tell me I look “well” and “fresh”. That’s exactly what I was told by my practitioner would happen.
He also told me the results would be slow to start with but continue for 3 months after my last treatment and that has proved to be accurate. I lost some weight during the treatment period, which tends to counteract the effects, but I’m still very pleased and will be having 2 more top up treatments to make up for this. I think as long as you are realistic about what can be achieved and use a reputable and qualified practitioner with plenty of experience, you won’t be disappointed. It has certainly given me more self confidence.”
“I just started the RF treatment and after the first session there was a noticeable improvement. There was no discomfort. I look forward to continued RF therapy.”
“I am 54 and have had 6 treatments with the Diode Laser and RF and it has made a significant improvement in my skin tightness, reduced wrinkles and even eliminated the ‘marionette’ lines that ran vertically on either side of my mouth.”
What Do Doctors Have to Say About Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Treatments?
We can rave all day about the benefits of radio frequency face lifts. In the end, though, neither we nor the customers who receive these treatments are professionals. As such, hearing from a doctor can help you feel more comfortable before you commit to a treatment. So, we have gathered some testimonials from professionals to help you feel safer in the safety and legitimacy of a radio frequency skin tightening treatment.
“Radio frequency machines can tone and tighten the skin and results can last for up to two years. They won’t do anything for fat, but some of them do heat deep enough to soften up the fibrous areas that make cellulite look prominent”
-Heidi Waldorf, Director of Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center
“RF(radiofrequency) treatment can be used for resurfacing skin as well as deeper tightening of collagen based on the system being used. For skin tightening I always like to compare RF to how a microwave oven causes bacon to shrink when the power is on.
So, you should see some improvement almost immediately and then some subtle additional improvement over the next several months. RF improvement is never dramatic and simply doesn't work on patients with full heavy faces. It does not lift skin. It offers subtle improvement in overall laxity and fine lines, so watch the promises and hyperbole offered by office where it sounds too good to be true.”
-Steven Swengel, MD, Los Gatos Dermatologic Surgeon
What is a Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Treatment Session Like?
One thing that helps relieve the anxiety of trying any sort of new treatment is knowing what to expect when you finally give a session a try. The first time you go to a clinic or dermatologist, they probably won’t perform the procedure without first having some sort of consultation with you. This usually entails you explaining what you want out of the procedure and a dermatologist or specialist explaining your options and how the treatment works.
When you are going for a simple session to get a radio frequency face lift, there are some differences depending on who you go to get the treatment done. However, most sources will tell you to plan on the treatment itself taking around 30-45 minutes. Of course, this time may slightly vary depending on the specialist performing the procedure.
It will most definitely vary if you are planning on getting a radio frequency skin tightening treatment on a different area of the body. However, for patients who need to be sedated the session will obviously take longer but we will get into the reasons for sedation later.
What are the Benefits of Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Treatments?
We have touched on this topic already. For example, we have already discussed tightening of the skin and aid that this treatment has for fine lines and wrinkles. However, there are benefits of RF treatments that go beyond this. Here are some of the other ways that RF treatments can help you cosmetically to improve your confidence in your appearance.
Briefly, we discussed that these treatments can help tighten loose skin. While this can help with skin sagging underneath chins and on your neck as you age, it is most often employed after liposuction surgery. RF treatments can help to tighten the loose skin left after the fat is removed from the body. This benefit – whether used for wrinkles or extra skin – helps to adjust what we see in the mirror by adjusting the layer underneath the skin by using the method we discussed in the previous section.
RF treatments can also help to reduce body fat. This is thanks to the heating that the radio frequency treatment causes which melts the fat in the body. It is then absorbed into the system, helping to reduce how apparent this body fat is. As to this benefit of radio frequency treatments, it can be experienced regardless of age, unlike removing wrinkles or age-related sagging skin.
To generalize this and some of the other benefits that radio frequency treatments can create are the benefit of body contouring. This allows you to slightly change the shape of your body without the invasiveness of plastic surgery. Of course, this does not include changes such as enlargements or extremely drastic changes.
Many doctors have weighed in on the various benefits that radio frequency skin tightening treatments can have. Here we have just a couple of the praises that these doctors have for these processes so you can weigh expert opinion in while you consider this treatment option.
“It is difficult to tighten the skin of the neck with any non invasive treatment. But, in NYC, we have seen good results with Thermage for the jawline and the loose skin of the stomach. The results can be major, or subtle, and you have to have realistic expectations going in. But Thermage is safe, there is no anesthesia, no scar, and no down time. We have a lot of satisfied Thermage patients. You need to use a big treatment head to deliver enough energy, which is more expensive. Some doctors cut corners here, and that is one of the reasons for the variable results.”
-George J. Beraka, MD, Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
“RF on the neck is amazing but you want superficial RF for crepe skin and deep RF for tightening. I use Sublative or Viva for superficial tightening (crepe skin and texture) and Thermage for deep lifting (and I never get any fat atrophy). It is not the device used it is the person doing it that matters most. Go to a well trained expert for treatment.”
-Dr. Jason Elmer, a Los Angeles Dermatologic Surgeon
Radio Frequency Facelift Side Effects
However fantastic it can be, radio frequency facials can have adverse side effects just like any other treatment. It is crucial to remember that they aren’t for everyone either. If you are pregnant, for example, you should not get this treatment. It may also have trouble with this treatment if you have an extremely low pain tolerance, although it doesn’t bother most people.
The mild and expected side effects of each radio frequency facial treatment are redness on the skin that was treated, mild swelling, extra sensitivity at the treated area, and some sinking. Some patients have also experienced some bruising as a side effect, which is also normal. None of these are to be worried about unless they fail to go away, then you should see a doctor about a potential health risk.
There is, of course, the risk of radiation with this treatment as well since it uses radio waves. However, the levels of radiation that this process emits are extremely low. Only those who are particularly sensitive to it will experience issues, usually characterized by pain that patients sometimes – though very rarely – need to be sedated. Doctors have noticed that while this level of sensitivity is rare, it isn’t anything to be overly concerned about. If you are worried about it or find it too painful, though, there are plenty of alternatives to achieve a young look.
Unfortunately, there are some more serious side effects to be worried about as well. These increase in risk if you go to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing or has the wrong equipment or if, even worse, you try to replicate a radio frequency face lift at home. Some of these side effects include burns, changes in skin pigmentation, fat loss too deep in the skin, open sores, and infection. In the long term, poor reactions can include permanent scarring, which isn’t a fantastic result when you are looking to remove blemishes from your face.
If you experience any of the minor side effects, then you are probably okay to continue with this treatment in the future if you wish. If you find these symptoms and side effects too painful, then you can, of course, choose a different cosmetic treatment if you wish. However, if you experience any of the more severe side effects, we suggest that you stop any further treatments and seek medical help for any burns or sores that aren’t healing properly or are too severe to leave alone.
The Unpredictability of Radio Frequency Facelifts
There is one more unfortunate fact about RF treatments that isn’t quite a side effect but it needs to be addressed all the same. This is that the results of radio frequency skin tightening are variable depending on the purpose. Some dermatologists specifically point out the products of the method of Thermage as having less than consistent results. However, there are some who actually swear by Thermage when it is used correctly.
However, there are some people for which radio frequency treatments skin tightening treatments simply don’t work. While this complete failure of the radio frequency skin treatment is incredibly rare, it is a slight possibility. While some patients have a sensitivity to the radio waves used in RF treatments, there are those who are rather resilient to them. This may sound like a good thing, but the treatment doesn’t take as well for these individuals.
This, of course, prompts a reasonable question: how do you know if an RF treatment won’t work for you? After all, you don’t want to waste your money and time on a treatment that will ultimately fail. The best way to avoid this is to see a dermatologist. While you can ask specifically about RF treatments, they will usually make a professional recommendation based on what your personal needs are.
A dermatologist can also help you by giving advice on how to deal with the minor, unavoidable side effects while going through your radio frequency skin tightening treatments. However, if you go to a clinic and they immediately recommend a radio frequency face lift without any other options given or initial consultation, this is nothing short of shady and you should seek a second opinion.
Can You Give Yourself a Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Treatment at Home?
From a strictly technical standpoint; yes. You can replicate this procedure at home. However, as we mentioned before, it isn’t highly recommended. We have already gone over the negative side effects that can occur if you receive a radio frequency skin tightening treatment from someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.
Because of this, most dermatologists don’t recommend that you perform this procedure yourself. When making this decision there is one important thing to remember; the doctors and specialists that give you this treatment in their offices are trained to use these machines to the best of their abilities with as little room for error as possible. Doing this on your own – even with research – removes this professional expertise from the situation.
Why Would You Perform a Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Facial at Home?
If it isn’t necessarily the most recommended option, why would you an RF treatment at home? Well, there are multiple reasons that you might make this choice. Convenience, for one, since you wouldn’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to get a radio frequency facial.
An even stronger motivator for many is that it cuts down on the cost of RF treatments. To show the best results, these treatments need to be done more than once. When you go to a clinic, these visits begin to stack up in cost. However, if you do these treatments at home, you just have the one-time investment of the machine itself.
If you do it properly, these home radio frequency treatments can be successful in your home. You do have to be careful, though, because you are working with a machine that emits a small amount of radiation and has the potential to burn you.
How Do You Make Sure That You Perform a Successful RF Treatment at Home?
Since it is possible to do at home, it is better to go over some of the precautions and rules you should take note of rather than leaving you to ultimately figure it out yourself when you can’t afford a trip to the clinic. Our first suggestion, though, is that you at least visit a clinic so they can point you in the right direction so you can go about this treatment safely and complete it with the best results possible.
With the rising demand of radio frequency skin tightening treatments, companies that make these radio frequency devices have stepped up to this demand and made a variety of these devices that can be used in a home setting. Of course, if you are planning to do these treatments in your home, you will have to invest in the purchase of one of these radio frequency home devices.
These are most often smaller and simpler versions of the RF generators that dermatologists use in their clinics. The best choice is usually mobile versions of this product in a kit, which include all the technology and supplies you need for the treatment but with a smaller, less burdensome design. If you aren’t sure where to start looking, your dermatologist should be able to point you in the direction of a worthwhile RF machine.
When choosing your machine, keep in mind what you plan to do with it. RF treatments for different parts of the body have different designs and shouldn’t be substituted for one another. As you look for the best product for your radio frequency facial, make sure to use the machine that is made for use on your face for the best and safest results. If you use a machine where the wand is too large, for example, you run the risk of safety hazards since your face is an area of your body where precision is crucial to protect your eyes.
Before jumping right in, though, you will need to familiarize yourself with the machine you end up choosing. Just jumping in with no idea about any of the specifics of these machines is bound to end up in accidents that should have been easily avoidable. This means doing your research; reading the instruction manuals, doing online research, and getting advice from your local clinic.
Make sure that this research goes beyond just the product and into the process that this treatment calls for. Don’t forget: you need to research not only how to start your machine but how to turn it off when you are done with it as well. After all, this treatment is more involved and less safe that just putting on your favorite face mask a couple of times a week. It is also a good idea to contact the manufacturer of the machine and receive advice from them. After all, they designed the machine and will know better than anyone how to operate it without a problem occurring.
First, let’s take note of what your first steps should be. We have already gone over the potential of burning with this skin tightening treatment so, it is important to consider the correct precautions to prevent this from happening. You should be sure to apply the correct serum or lotion to your skin. There are, of course, different types available for different skin types. For example, water-based creams are best for oily skin.
Whether you have sensitive skin or not, it is important to test the serum or cream you are using before committing to it. The best way to do this is to apply it to a small area (usually somewhere on your jawline is best) and leave it for a little bit. If you experience any adverse effects such as redness, rashes, or similar problems you should cease use of this product and find a new one. However, if the use of lotions or creams with your device is advised against, do not use them. It is better to follow the instructions strictly than to not and later wish you had. Again, your dermatologist will be able to give you some tips as to what products would be best for your skin.
There are some things you should always make sure to do when you are performing a home RF treatment. The first is that after you do this treatment since your skin will be tender from the heat used already, avoid any extreme temperatures and be especially careful of sunburn immediately after the treatment. To make sure that your treatment takes as well as possible, you will want to remain healthy.
This means drinking water, using sunscreen, and doing everything you can to protect your skin. It also helps to avoid foods that create more oil in your skin such as fish. It is also suggested that you quit smoking if you have this habit. Most specialists will recommend that stop smoking a few weeks before your first treatment to help it take and last longer. Doing this not only helps with the frequency with which you need to perform a radio frequency face lift but also how well these treatments take to your skin.
On the other hand, there are things you should definitely avoid when you do a radio frequency skin tightening treatment. For one, don’t forget the creams and lotions we mentioned before after your treatment. This can help to treat the mild burning, redness, and swelling that these treatments cause. Don’t panic at these symptoms either. As we mentioned these are normal even if it takes a week or two for them to subside.
You also shouldn’t irritate the area that you performed the radio frequency treatment on. Some things to avoid are using face scrubs that are at all abrasive, cleaning your face with water that isn’t completely clean, or using any other materials that could cause scratching or other irritation to the area. This will extend the time to recover from the treatment. Speaking of recovery, you shouldn’t do these treatments back to back either. You need to give your skin some time to heal after your first radio frequency face lift before you subject it to another. Ignoring this healing period can result in botched results and increase the likelihood of more severe side effects – such as burning and scarring – to occur.
Before you start your treatment do not take any anti-inflammatories, Aspirin, or herbal supplements, especially if they can work as any sort of blood thinner. This advice is given for most cosmetic procedures including traditional face lifts and even when you get a tattoo. This is because when you increase your risk for bleeding, it increases the chances that your treatment with any sort of risk – radio frequency skin tightening treatments included – going wrong or causing injury.
Professional Tips for Operating a Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Treatment Device
As we said, one of the best ways to get tips on how to use a radio frequency skin tightening treatment device is to ask a dermatologist or specialist directly. However, we understand that this can be difficult at times since some dermatologists don’t recommend that you do an RF treatment at home and others require a full consultation to answer questions – which is exactly what you are trying to avoid by doing this treatment at home.
To get you started, we found a doctor’s - who has been doing radio frequency face lifts for a while now – testimonial. He explains how to find the best temperature setting on your device that will promote the best results possible without ending in burns.
“The key with radio frequency is to treat to maximum temperature. My suggestion is to use the machine until it becomes fairly warm on your skin. After that you must be concerned about blisters and overheating. The changes are strictly related to heating the collagen and elastic fibers.”
-Jeffrey Rapaport, MD, Englewood Dermatologic Surgeon
How to Take Care of Your Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Treatment Device
Keeping your machine in the best shape possible is the best and safest way to make sure to avoid injury or less than satisfactory results. There are certain steps you should follow to make sure that your device lasts long and performs ideally.
First, proper storage after each use is incredibly important. To make sure your device lasts as long as possible, you should be sure to keep it in a cool, dry place. Make sure that you don’t store this in direct sunlight either, as this is extremely bad for it. If it comes with a case, make sure to store it in this case when it isn’t use. If it doesn’t come with one, the same protection can be mimicked with the use of a plastic sheet to cover your home radio frequency device.
Once again, you can call the manufacturer of the machine you sue for additional tips. Since they made the machine, they will know exactly what you should do to make sure your machine lasts. These tips could be anything from how to store your machine to information on any cleaning or maintenance your machine may need.
At the end of the day, the choice of a radio frequency skin tightening treatment to help you look young and beautiful is a fantastic choice. For the vast majority of people, it is completely safe and comfortable. If you do experience a high level of pain during these treatments then a specialist can sedate you and complete the treatment without you feeling a thing.
If you don’t have time to run to your local dermatologist’s office, there is a growing number of home device options for your radio frequency facial. While it takes a good amount of research, careful planning, and practice to get the procedure down, it can be achieved. In addition, the results that show after multiple sessions or treatments can help to take years off your face. So, go forth and give radio frequency skin tightening treatment a shot; it may be exactly what you are looking for!