Which Technology Works Best for Skin Tightening – The Evolution of Radio Frequency
By: Dima Ali, M.D.
Lasers and other light devices have become household names in the last several years. With regard to skin tightening, however, these light based technologies do not penetrate deep enough to make a significant difference. Radio Frequency (RF) energy, on the other hand, has come into focus because of its ability to penetrate deeper into the skin and target those tissues needed to effect skin rejuvenation and tightening.
The concept of inducing controlled injury to skin in order to stimulate collagen contraction and healing is not new. Those of us in the field of aesthetic medicine and surgery use it on a daily basis, whether it’s a strong chemical peel or an ablative laser device, to rejuvenate skin and improve appearance.
Historically, one of the most popular treatments in the RF category was monopolar (one pole or electrode) to deliver the energy. The most popular of these devices is known as Thermage. Next on the scene were the Bipolar RF devices using two poles on the skin area inducing a “less invasive” electric current and thus a more tolerable treatment.
However, both of these technologies deliver superficial and uncontrolled energy flow to the targeted tissues. The inefficient mechanism of delivery in the first generation RF devices thus required higher energy settings (more pain) to achieve minimal results. In my estimation, when the difference is minimal and the side effect profile and price tag is high, compliance with treatments (and therefore results) becomes low.
The latest innovation in the RF devices allows for maximum penetration of multiple layers of skin with uniform heating ensuring exponentially improved clinical results even after one treatment in some cases. It accomplishes this by combining Multipolar (8 electrodes!) with Magnetic Pulse (MP2) technology. This “Synergy Effect” is truly remarkable in that, despite the increased amount of energy to the area being treated there is no anesthesia and no downtime. Virtually every area on the body can be tightened: the face, neck, arms, abdomen, buttocks, thighs and bra bulge.
If you’ve decided that you’d like to forgo a full face or neck lift for a few years or if you’d like to “prepare” your skin in anticipation of such a procedure down the road, then RF with MP technology is your best bet.
When evaluating such a device, I look at the risk/benefit ratio. I try it out on myself and all my staff. I usually insist on one-sided (unilateral) treatments initially to evaluate the efficacy of the device (although we don’t leave anyone lopsided for long!)
You need to base your decision on multiple factors, including your own “gut feeling” about the practitioner. I would also caution potential patients to go to a center where there is an experienced doctor on staff – someone who has performed hundreds if not thousands of aesthetic treatments over several years. In the wrong hands any medical device can be harmful causing side effects such as first or second degree burns and residual or even permanent scarring.