As we age, our skin undergoes changes which are hallmarked by volume loss and break-down of collagen and elastin. These changes lead to visible signs of aging, such as lines, wrinkles and folds and skin sagginess (as if the skin is being pulled “down-ward” with areas in lower face looking heavier). This can be summarized by the transition from triangle of youth to pyramid of aging.
Various nonsurgical treatments are available to address these changes of aging, ranging from various injectables to energy-based devices. One of the most advanced and effective treatments is Ultherapy. Ultherapy uses safe ultrasound waves to deliver focused energy at precisely selected depths of the skin. The ultrasound waves also visualize the treated area (just as a regular ultrasound scan is used for body imaging), allowing your clinicians to see the treatment area and choose the right target.
The energy from ultrasound is converted to heat, which raises the temperature in the target area in a controlled manner. The raised temperature (which exceeds typical ranges achieved by other modalities such as radiofrequency) stimulates body’s regenerative and rejuvenating response, activating and mobilizing cells such as fibroblasts to make new collagen (neocollagenesis) and other components of a healthy and renewed skin.
Ultherapy is FDA approved (cleared) for lifting and tightening skin and reducing lines and wrinkles on lower face, under the chin, neck and chest (décolletage). It is also FDA approved for tightening and lifting skin above eyebrows for nonsurgical brow lift.
Ultherapy is an ideal treatment for those with mild to moderate skin laxity and saggy skin. Here are a few examples of conditions that we can treat with Ultherapy:
This phenomenon of awakening and stimulating body’s own healing and regenerative capabilities is exploited in many energy-based treatments using lasers and radiofrequency. Each of these treatments offer certain advantages and to determine the best option for each patient, an individual consultation is required. However, when it comes to skin tightening, Ultherapy’s unique and innovative technology offers several advantages.
Lasers usually act on more superficial layers of skin and are generally incapable of delivering adequate energy to the deeper layer of skin which are very important for stimulating new collagen and effective reversal of signs of aging. Additionally, most lasers are affected by skin color and skin typing is needed to determine the safe level of laser energy to avoid causing burns and pigmentation issues. On the other hand, radiofrequency treatments are generally not affected by skin color and type, but they lack the precision and penetration of ultrasound waves used in Ultherapy. Compared with most other radiofrequency treatments, Ultherapy is capable of safely increasing the temperature of the target area to the higher levels. In this setting, the amount of new collagen that is made is directly associated with the increased temperature that is achieved: higher temperature at the target depth is generally associated with more new collagen buildup.
Ultherapy is a good nonsurgical alternative to a surgical facelift for those with mild to moderate skin laxity and sagginess who are not ready for surgery. As a nonsurgical treatment, it might not be able to achieve the same results as surgical facelift (e.g. in patients with excessive sagging skin), but for many other patients, it can be an effective nonsurgical option that can effectively tighten and lift the skin and can delay the need for surgical facelift for a long time (individual results vary). It can also be an option to consider for extending and further improving the results of a prior surgical facelift. Overall, Ultherapy is an excellent option to consider as part of nonsurgical (liquid) facelift procedures.
Following the Ultherapy treatment, it will take some time for the body to generate new collagen. The results will gradually emerge as the collagen buildup continues and it reaches the optimal level in about 2-3 months. It is important to remember that as Ultherapy stimulates the body to make new collagen, the extent of the final results and their clinical visibility is dependent on the body’s ability to make new collagen (as well as the baseline level of skin laxity and sagginess) and hence, individual patient results may vary.
Ultherapy stimulates body to make new natural collagen but at the same time, the natural aging process continues as our body continues to break down and remodel collagen. Hence, the time the results will stay clinically visible and last depends on the balance between the speed the new collagen is made and the speed the body breaks down the collagen.
For many patients, the results typically last for several months and treatment can be done once a year. However, the extent of the results depends on many factors including the degree of skin laxity, the natural aging process and ability of body to make new collagen and hence, some patients might need earlier touch-ups and treatments. No matter how much we want to see great and lasting results for everyone, the reality is that everyone is different and satisfaction can be a subjective matter. We start with one treatment and depending on how the body responds to it in the months that follow, we can discuss the need for further touch-ups and treatment on a case-by-case basis.
Ultherapy is generally a very safe treatment. Ultrasound waves that are used in Ultherapy have been used in medicine for decades without any significant safety concerns. Of course as any other medical procedures, there are some potential risks and it is very important o work with clinicians who are highly experienced and trained.
Following the treatment, some patients might experience temporary skin redness which typically goes away within hours. Slight swelling and tenderness or tingling to touch might also occur in some patients which also tend to be temporary and short-lasting. Bruising or numbness of small areas of skin are possible not uncommon. Other potential and side effects are very rare and include scarring and transient muscle weakness, pain or numbness due to injury to facial nerve (although no permanent facial nerve injury has been reported as of this writing).