Radio Frequency Skin Tightening

RF skin tightening is considered an elective cosmetic dermatology service, therefore this procedure is not covered by insurance.

Radio Frequency Skin Tightening: Does It Work and Is It Safe

Sagging skin, wrinkles and fine lines are common issues that stem from genetics or photodamage caused by exposure to the sun. Over time, collagen and elastin, two components present within your skin, break down and cause your skin to lose its elasticity.

During a radio frequency (RF) skin tightening procedure, heat is used to encourage the production of new collagen and elastin. The renewed production of these components helps to eliminate wrinkles and fine lines, and tightens skin.

How Does Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Work?

RF skin tightening works by targeting the tissue beneath the outer layer of your skin, or epidermis, with radio frequency energy. This energy generates heat, resulting in new collagen production.

This procedure also triggers fibroplasia, the process in which the body forms new fibrous tissue and stimulates the production of collagen, causing collagen fibers to become shorter and more tense. At the same time, the molecules that make up collagen are left undamaged. Skin elasticity increases and loose, sagging skin is tightened.

What is the treatment like?

During treatment, an RF skin tightening machine will send alternating currents from the tip of an electrode to your tissue at a frequency between 0.3 and 10 MHz. This process bypasses the amount of melanin pigment present in your outer layer of skin, making the treatment effective for all skin types and colors.

The pain caused is often rated on a five-point pain scale, where zero is equivalent to no pain and four is equivalent to an intolerable level of pain. Most patients who undergo RF skin tightening rate the pain at a level of one, with the remainder reporting a pain level of two..

Benefits of Radio Frequency Facials

RF treatments use heat to damage the tissue beneath the epidermis without negatively impacting the outward appearance of the skin.

Patients may notice skin tightening immediately after treatment. Other patients may notice results within six months of initial treatment or require multiple procedures before noticing an effect. In general, and with proper skin care, results last for two to three years.

Periorbital skin tightening

RF skin tightening can be used on the eyelids to decrease skin laxity. The eyes are protected from RF energy with special contact lenses worn during the noninvasive procedure. In some cases, a local anesthetic may be used in the periorbital region.

RF facial rejuvenation around the eyes results in no downtime and little to no risk of negative side effects. Patients can expect mild to moderate improvement in the tightness of their eyelid skin.

Forehead and eyebrow skin tightening

RF facials are effective in elevating the brow line. The procedure tightens the skin to pull back the eyebrows from the midpupillary line, or the center of the eye. The noninvasive process also gives the eyebrow a more natural, acute angle.

Cheek tightening

RF treatments can tighten loose skin in the cheek area. The surface area of a person’s jowls, or saggy skin below the cheeks, can be decreased after undergoing RF treatment.

Nasolabial folds, the indents on either side of the nose commonly referred to as smile or laugh lines, are also effectively treated. In fact, the tightening of the nasolabial folds following RF skin tightening is one of the most dramatic observations noted by researchers.

Facial rejuvenation of the cheeks via radiofrequency skin tightening is safe for all skin types. Studies have shown that skin laxity in the cheeks and neck is improved in 96% of patients following treatment.

Before and Afters

  • Radio Frequency Skin Tightening
  • Radio Frequency Skin Tightening
  • credit: renewaesthetics.co.uk
  • Radio Frequency Skin Tightening
  • Radio Frequency Skin Tightening

Radio Frequency Skin Tightening on the Body

RF treatments can be used on areas of the body other than the face – including the neck, abdomen, arms, thighs, knees and buttocks. In some cases, patients undergo treatments for the purpose of body contouring, which reduces fat in addition to tightening sagging skin and wrinkles.

  • Skin tightening on the neck requires the radio frequency machine to operate at lower temperatures than normal due to the neck’s skin, which is thinner than most of the skin on the rest of your body.
  • Abdomen, thighs and buttocks – RF treatments are an effective body contouring method for these areas and are even effective at reducing skin laxity in those postpregnancy.
  • Arm – loose skin on the arm can be tightened but multiple treatments may be required before there is a noticeable improvement.
  • Knees – sagging skin can be tightened but dermatologists should use caution when applying RF techniques because of the thin skin in this area and the lower amount of sebaceous glands (a type of gland that lubricates and waterproofs the skin)
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RF skin tightening on the body also reduces the appearance of cellulite on the abdomen, thighs, arms and buttocks.

Before and Afters

  • credit: skinologie.com
  • Radio Frequency Skin Tightening
  • Radio Frequency Skin Tightening
  • Radio Frequency Skin Tightening
  • Radio Frequency Skin Tightening
  • Radio Frequency Skin Tightening

Dangers of Radio Frequency Skin Tightening

RF skin tightening procedures cause few side effects and little to no downtime. Almost all studies report no permanent side effects following treatment.

Pain

Early RF treatments caused a great deal of pain and required patients to be sedated with anesthesia. Some procedures still require topical or local anesthetics, depending on the type of machine used or doctor and patient preference.

As RF technology and treatment became better understood, dermatologists discovered that reducing the radio frequency reduced pain while still providing effective results.

Erythema

Patients may sometimes experience erythema, or reddening of the skin, after a procedure. Erythema typically fades within 24 hours after treatment.

Edema

Edema, or swelling, is another side effects caused by RF treatment. Swelling can be expected to last for up to 24 hours after treatment, although some patients may experience edema for up to one week..

Other side effects

Other side effects are rare and generally caused by error or an inexperienced technician or dermatologist or undisclosed contraindications (an existing condition that makes a procedure harmful).

Side effect Recovery time
Skin denting Up to 3.5 months 1
Skin rash Within 1 week 1
Crusting Within 1 week 1
Skin tenderness 2–3 weeks 1
Burn scarring Up to 6 months, treatable with medication 2
Hyperpigmentation Up to 5 days 3

1. Weiss RA, et al. Monopolar radiofrequency facial tightening: A retrospective analysis of efficacy and safety in over 600 treatments. J Drugs Dermatol 2006;5(8):702-12; 2. Paasch U, et al. Skin rejuvenation by radiofrequency therapy: methods, effects and risks. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges 2009:7(3):196-203; 3. el-Domyati M, et al. Radiofrequency facial rejuvenation: evidence-based effect. J Am Acad Dermatol 2011:64(3):514-35.

RF skin tightening should not be used to treat patients who have pacemakers, defibrillators or facial implants as RF energy can interfere with the device’s functionality.

Radio Frequency Skin Tightening Cost

RF skin tightening is considered an elective cosmetic dermatology service, therefore this procedure is not covered by insurance.

The cost of RF skin tightening is dependent on the specific type of treatment needed and the area of your body that will be treated. In general, a typical procedure costs between $1,000 to $4,000.

Should You Use an At-Home Radio Frequency Machine?

At-home radio frequency skin tightening devices can be used for skin rejuvenation and body contouring from the comfort of your own home.

At-home RF devices deliver less power than those found in a dermatologist’s office. As a result, they require daily or weekly use to match skin tightening results comparable to a single or bi-yearly office visit.

At-home RF machines cost between $30 and $1,000, making them more affordable than in- office treatments, however, the trade-off in power and the time it takes to see results merit consideration.

Additionally, professional RF providers are trained to deliver expertly targeted treatments that minimize any potential risks associated with the procedure.

Alternatives to Radio Frequency Skin Tightening

A number of alternatives to RF skin tightening exist to tighten sagging skin and reduce skin laxity.

Easily implemented into a skin care routine

No downtime; side effects similar to RF skin tightening

Requires wearing a compression garment for 4–5 days following the procedure

Downtime of 10–21 days

Post-treatment skin care is necessary

Takeaway

Loose skin and excessive skin laxity can cause wrinkles and sagging skin in the face, neck, abdomen, arms and legs. RF skin tightening provides effective results by delivering heat to the tissue below the epidermis, stimulating collagen production and contracting fibers to tighten the skin.

While RF treatment isn’t a permanent anti-aging solution, it’s a safe and effective solution that does not require downtime. Whether you visit a dermatologist or try it at home, RF skin tightening is an effective solution for tightening skin without undergoing a more invasive procedure or surgery.

Sources

  • Neil Sadick, Tissue Tightening Technologies: Fact or Fiction, Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Volume 28, Issue 2, March 2008, Pages 180–188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asj.2007.12.009
  • Alster, T. S., & Lupton, J. R. (2007, September/October). Nonablative cutaneous remodeling using radiofrequency devices. Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17870527
  • Green, J. B., MD, Dover, J. S., MD, & Kaminer, M. S., MD. (2011, July). Tolerability of a Monopolar Radiofrequency Facial Skin Tightening Procedure: An Observational Study. Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.mdedge.com/dermatology/article/69982/aesthetic-dermatology/tolerability-monopolar-radiofrequency-facial-skin
  • Radiofrequency Treatment for Middle and Lower Face Laxity. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2004;6(6):370–373. doi:10.1001/archfaci.6.6.370
  • Rusciani A, Curinga G, Menichini G, Alfano C, Rusciani L. Nonsurgical tightening of skin laxity: a new radiofrequency approach. J Drugs Dermatol. 2007 Apr;6(4):381-6. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17668535
  • Ruiz-Esparza, J. (2004, February). Noninvasive lower eyelid blepharoplasty: A new technique using nonablative radiofrequency on periorbital skin. Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14756637
  • Carruthers, J., & Carruthers, A. (2007, July). Shrinking upper and lower eyelid skin with a novel radiofrequency tip. Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17598845
  • Nahm, W. K., Su, T. T., Rotunda, A. M., & Moy, R. L. (2004, June). Objective changes in brow position, superior palpebral crease, peak angle of the eyebrow, and jowl surface area after volumetric radiofrequency treatments to half of the face. Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15171772
  • Alster, T. S., & Tanzi, E. (2004, April). Improvement of neck and cheek laxity with a nonablative radiofrequency device: A lifting experience. Retrieved June 17, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15056138
  • Jacobson LGS, Alexiades-Armenakas M, Bernstein L, Geronemus RG. Treatment of Nasolabial Folds and Jowls With a Noninvasive Radiofrequency Device. Arch Dermatol. 2003;139(10):1371–1372. doi:10.1001/archderm.139.10.1371
  • Finzi, E., & Spangler, A. (2005, August). Multipass vector (mpave) technique with nonablative radiofrequency to treat facial and neck laxity. Retrieved June 17, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16042936
  • Spero J Theodorou, Daniel Del Vecchio, Christopher T Chia, Soft Tissue Contraction in Body Contouring With Radiofrequency-Assisted Liposuction: A Treatment Gap Solution, Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Volume 38, Issue suppl_2, June 2018, Pages S74–S83, https://doi.org/10.1093/asj/sjy037
  • Winter, M. L. (2009, December). Post-pregnancy body contouring using a combined radiofrequency, infrared light and tissue manipulation device. Retrieved June 17, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19951194
  • Man J, Goldberg DJ. Safety and efficacy of fractional bipolar radiofrequency treatment in Fitzpatrick skin types V-VI. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2012 Aug;14(4):179-83. doi:10.3109/14764172.2012.699682
  • Weiss, R. A., Weiss, M. A., Munavalli, G., & Beasley, K. L. (2006, September). Monopolar radiofrequency facial tightening: A retrospective analysis of efficacy and safety in over 600 treatments. Retrieved June 18, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16989184
  • Gold, M. H. (Ed.). (2010, May). Update on tissue tightening. Retrieved June 18, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922712/
  • Ruiz-Esparza, J., & Gomez, J. B. (2003, April). The medical face lift: A noninvasive, nonsurgical approach to tissue tightening in facial skin using nonablative radiofrequency. Retrieved June 18, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12656808
  • Paasch, U., Bodendorf, M. O., Grunewald, S., & Simon, J. C. (2008, June 28). Skin rejuvenation by radiofrequency therapy: Methods, effects and risks – Paasch – 2009 – JDDG: Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft – Wiley Online Library. Retrieved June 18, 2019, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1610-0387.2008.06780.x
  • Wesley, N., & Talakoub, L. (2019, January 14). At-home radiofrequency devices. Retrieved June 18, 2019, from https://www.mdedge.com/dermatology/article/89359/aesthetic-dermatology/home-radiofrequency-devices
  • Jones BM, Lo SJ. How long does a face lift last? Objective and subjective measurements over a 5-year period. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2012 Dec;130(6):1317-27. doi:10.1097/PRS.0b013e31826d9f7f
  • Moyer JS, Baker SR. Complications of rhytidectomy. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am. 2005 Aug;13(3):469-78. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16085292
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Last modified: September 7, 2020

What is Radiofrequency Skin Tightening?

radio frequency skin tightening, woman receiving a beauty treatment

Radiofrequency (RF) therapy, also called radiofrequency skin tightening, is a nonsurgical method of tightening your skin.

The procedure involves using energy waves to heat the deep layer of your skin known as your dermis. This heat stimulates the production of collagen.

Collagen is the most common protein in your body. It creates the framework of your skin and gives your skin its firmness.

As you age, your cells produce less collagen, which leads to sagging skin and wrinkles. Skin laxity occurs around age 35 to 40 when the quantity and quality of your collagen begins to decline.

RF therapy has been used since 2001 to fight against sagging skin and signs of aging. In this article, we’re going to look at how this cosmetic therapy works and what potential benefits it has for your skin.

Thermalift was the first type of RF available for skin tightening, but now many companies offer similar technology.

Some of the most common types of systems in the United States include:

Each type of technology works the same way. RF waves heat the deep layer of your skin to between 122 and 167°F (50–75°C).

Studies have found that maintaining a temperature over 115°F (46°C) for over 3 minutes causes your body to release heat-shock proteins. These proteins stimulate your body to create new collagen fibers.

The procedure normally takes less than an hour and should be nearly painless.

What are radiofrequency waves?

RF waves are a form of radiation. Radiation is the release of energy in the form of electromagnetic waves.

It can be classified as low energy or high energy depending on the amount of energy released. X-rays and gamma rays are examples of high energy radiation while RF waves are considered low energy.

Radio waves, WiFi, and microwaves are all forms of RF waves.

The form of radiation used in RF skin tightening releases about 1 billion times less energy than X-rays.

The primary benefits of RF therapy are tightening your skin and getting rid of wrinkles.

However, RF therapy may also help fight sun damage due to its ability stimulate the production of collagen.

Fighting sun damage

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause the collagen fibers in your skin to break down and become disorganized.

A 2011 study found that 3 months of RF treatment led to clinically significant improvements in a small group of people with mild to moderate signs of sun damage.

Body contouring

RF therapy may help tighten loose skin on your body by stimulating the production of collagen.

A 2017 study found that 24 of the 25 people who underwent 5 to 8 sessions of RF therapy sessions saw an improvement in their body shape. Twenty-three people were happy with their results.

Face contouring

One small study looked at the effect of RF combined with pulsed electromagnetic treatment for 8 weeks.

The researchers found significant improvement in facial skin laxity in all 11 participants, and 73 percent of them had improvements in facial contour.

Wrinkles and fine lines

A 2018 study looked at the effect of RF therapy on wrinkles around the eyes of 70 middle-aged women.

The researchers found that three treatments over 6 weeks significantly reduced their wrinkles.

RF for face slimming

RF treatment has the potential to be used as a nonsurgical method of slimming your face.

A 2017 study looked at the effect of using RF therapy to break down fat in the lower face of 14 middle-aged Asian women.

After 5 weeks, more than 90 percent of the women had a reduction in fat, and 60 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their results.

The only side effect observed was mild redness several hours after the procedure.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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