Most skin firming and tightening devices are based on the principle of sending heat to the deeper levels of the skin while protecting and bypassing the outermost layer of the skin. The added benefit of these nonablative skin rejuvenating systems is that there is little or no downtime in the form of scabbing, bruising, swelling and crusting. They heat and tighten loose skin by inducing deeper skin retraction under the skin – so the surface remains intact and you can wear makeup right away.
These devices may utilize a variety of energy including radiofrequency, broad based light, or ultrasound to deliver heat. Areas that can be treated may include the forehead, around the eyelids, lower face, jowls, neck. hands, and chest.
A number of radiofrequency devices are currently available for skin tightening. Some of these devices utilize radiofrequency alone (such as Thermage CPT and Pelleve Wrinkle Reduction) while others use a combination of radiofrequency and lasers or light (as in Titan and Refirme ST). The radiofrequency energy passes through the skin’s surface and provides diffuse bulk heating deeper in the skin where it induces skin retraction. The result is skin smoothing, firming, and some wrinkle improvement. The heat from radio frequency treatments causes some skin contraction that will be visible immediately following treatment; however, it may take a few weeks to a three to six months to see the final firming results.
Syneron elōs is the first and only technology that uses combined energies to effectively and gently treat your skin. ReFirme ST offers virtually painless and fast treatment for skin. It is ideal for sagging under the eyes, brow lines, and nasolabial folds. According to New York City Dermatologist Judith Hellman, “ReFirme is a very effective system to tighten skin. It is not a facelift, but both younger and older people from the 30s to 60s can be treated successfully without taking time out of their normal routine. It causes the body to produce more collagen, which makes the skin appear thicker and firmer with less wrinkles.”
Ultherapy uses ultrasound energy to heat columns of the deep skin right above the muscular layer. This allows deep skin tightening to achieve a lifting effect without affecting the epidermis so there is no downtime. According to New York Plastic Surgeon Bryan G. Forley, “You may see some improvement right away, but most people will notice gradual improvement over several months. With recent improvements in the technologies used for non-invasive skin tightening, positive results can be achieved more predictably. It has become a very popular treatment among younger women in their 40s, especially now that people are more anxious to delay surgery for longer.”
Some tightening technologies also allow more areas of the body to be successfully treated, including knees, upper arms, and post-baby tummies. Of the systems mentioned, Thermage CPT and Ultherapy tend to be the most uncomfortable. Pelleve is actually pleasant and relaxing. The results from these devices can also vary, often depending on who is doing the treatment and how they are using it. They are generally considered safe for all or most skin types. However, any time heat is delivered to the skin there is always a risk of blistering, crusting, skin darkening or lightening. Select a dermatologist or licensed healthcare professional who has significant experience with all skin types and is familiar with the safest settings to use.
Although some systems tout a single treatment, generally when it comes to skin firming, more is more. For example, Pelleve and Refirme ST are typically done in a series of three treatments for best results. With all skin tightening treatments, you can expect to need maintenance treatments down the road to stay firm. The beauty of this exploding category of skin lifting alternatives is little to no recovery time, and you can continue having treatments over time as your skin gets slack.