Although some in the fourth class of skin tighteners are not actually lasers, I have grouped...
together because they function similarly:
- deep tissue heating
- subsequent collagen production
- subsequent tightening
- with a goal of creating true lifting without surgery
- but uniformly falling very short relative to surgical facelifting or traditional (15-year-old) ablative laser technology
Radiofrequency devices are like microwaves. They emit low-frequency light energy (radio waves and microwaves) to create heat in deeper tissues. The most popular in this new class is the Thermage....
- minimal post-procedure redness
- minimal side effects
- quite uncomfortable during the treatment
- inconsistency of results
- about 1/3 will have significant improvement--but only after waiting months for full collagen production and tightening
- the other 2/3 will obtain minimal if any improvement, no matter how long they wait
- In at least one study, only 5 of 15 Thermage patients reported satisfactory results, and the photographic analysis by experts did not yield any statistically significant results.
- Recent modifications may have improved the technology. The final verdict is still out.
Infrared devices also produce deep penetration. A popular model is the Titan.
- not much downtime
- not too uncomfortable
- poorly studied--even worse research than for Thermage
- absolutely no long-term research
- At least one preliminary study showed less improvement with an infrared device compared to a radiofrequency device. (And, as mentioned above, radiofrequency devices are, at best, minimally effective. So, this is a pretty damning comparison.)
Combinations devices may produce augmented effects relative to either radiofrequency or infrared alone. The Galaxy is the most well known combination device.
- Combination of...
- bipolar radiofrequency
- infrared laser
- intense pulsed light
- apparently safe
- minimal downtime
- radiofrequency and infrared energies may be synergistic to produce real improvements
- The radiofrequency portion of the treatment may hurt (like Thermage).
- the least well studied of all
- almost no good quality research documenting efficacy
- almost no long-term research
The bottom line: I don't own a radiofrequency device, an infrared laser, or a combination machine. And I don't plan to buy one any time soon. The non-surgical facelift remains elusive.
However, skin tightening using radiofrequency or infrared energy sources is a compelling area of active research. I think that it is worth my time to keep abreast of this technology. As newer, more effective devices are rapidly becoming available, the objective of achieving the non-surgical face lift may become a reality during my career.