Thermage is a skin tightening procedure that quickly produces visible and long-lasting results.

This procedure requires no incision, and essentially no recovery time. Sounds too good to be true? Here’s what you need to know about this ‘miracle’ treatment before scheduling an appointment.

What is Thermage?

Thermage is an FDA-approved non-invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency (RF) to heat deep skin tissue and kickstart the body’s own natural renewal process.

The radiofrequency energy is delivered to the skin by way of a patented handheld device, meaning the procedure is noninvasive. This has led many to view Thermage as a safer and less dramatic alternative to the traditional facelift.

Although Thermage is not the only device that uses RF technology for this type of procedure, it is among the most highly trusted names in RF skin tightening.

Thermage Device

What are the benefits of Thermage?

Thermage promises to make you look years younger by targeting problematic areas and common skin concerns:

  • The eyelids and eye area wrinkles, excess skin in the eyelids, and periorbital region
  • The face and neck loose skin along the jawline and below the chin
  • The body and limbs – crepey skin in the midsection, thighs, and around joints

Much like Ultherapy and other energy-based treatments, Thermage tightens loose skin by stimulating the body’s natural production of collagen and elastin.

Collagen is a protein in the skin charged with maintaining its structure. It’s the most common protein in the body, and basically the glue that holds it together. It’s the collagen in your skin that keeps it firm. Elastin is a connective protein that gives skin elasticity, allowing it to bounce back after you pull or stretch it.

With age, skin gradually stops producing collagen and elastin, causing it to wrinkle and sag. It also has a more difficult time repairing itself and firming up after being stretched or damaged.

While Thermage does address skin laxity, it has no effect on blemishes, scars, or varicose veins. Although the makers of Themage claim that treatments provide a temporary improvement in the appearance of cellulite, this remains hotly debated.

The Thermage before and after pictures below show the skin tightening results that patients have achieve according to the device’s maker:

thermage face

thermage eyes

thermage abdomen

thermage legs
Before and After Photo credits: Thermage

What can I expect from a treatment?

The process is short and simple. The doctor or technician uses a handheld wand to heat the skin for a few seconds. If necessary, the same area may be treated more than once over the course of a session.

A cooling spray is applied to the skin before, during, and after this process. This is meant to prevent any damage to the outer layer of the skin (epidermis).

Depending on the size of the treated area, a session can last anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours, though most sessions take less than an hour to complete.

Thermage is most often used on the face — this is where it produces the best results, especially around the eyes and jawline. The procedure can also be applied to other parts of the body, including the stomach, buttocks, and thighs.

Who is a good candidate for Thermage?

Since they’re typically looking for something that won’t interfere with their busy schedules, men and women in their 30s and 40s make ideal Thermage candidates. However, a good candidate is any healthy person looking for a more subtle change and shorter recovery period than a facelift can offer.

Although Thermage is very safe, there are still some people who should avoid it. Those with skin conditions in the treatment area, are pregnant or have a pacemaker or defibrillator should avoid Thermage.

Is Thermage painful?

In a word, no. You will experience a deep heating sensation from the touch of the Thermage device. However, this sensation shouldn’t be painful.

You may experience more discomfort from the heat if you undergo a higher intensity treatment. Most doctors will provide patients with a painkiller when necessary.

Does Thermage have any possible side effects or complications?

Side effects from Thermage treatments are uncommon and usually minor. These side effects can include:

  • Mild redness – This typically disappears within a few hours of the procedure.
  • Swelling – This often accompanies redness and is usually gone within a few days.
  • Blisters – This may be accompanied by scabbing if the blisters break, and typically disappears within a few days.
  • Bruising – This is extremely rare. Should bruising occur it will go away within a few days.

A notable rare side effect is surface irregularities of the skin. In other words, you might experience some pitting (small indentations). This is often temporary but can be permanent.

If you’re concerned about potential long term complications, you can ask cosmetic doctors on our forum for their professional opinion.

When will I see results and how long will they last?

You will notice some benefits pretty much immediately. Your skin will likely feel more firm within a few days. For the full results to be noticeable, you’ll need to wait another four and six months. It takes time for the collagen and elastin stimulation to work its magic.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences illustrated this prolonged time frame when assessing satisfaction in 45 patients, after one month and after six months following the procedure. The study concluded that patient satisfaction was higher across the board after six months.

As for how long the results last, much depends on the health of your skin and your habits. Typically, results will last for a couple of years, but if you are a smoker or spend a lot of time under the sun, you could find yourself looking for another treatment sooner than that.

Thermage vs. Fraxel: What’s the difference?

RF is not the only non-surgical skin tightening cosmetic procedure on the market. Laser resurfacing is another popular method for achieving younger-looking skin.

Fraxel is a unique laser resurfacing method that uses tiny beams to permeate the surface of the skin. Fraxel is often compared to Thermage due to these procedures’ many similarities.

Fraxel and Thermage appear similar on the surface. They’re both surgery-free, cause little discomfort, and offer quick recovery times. Both promise firmer skin and fewer wrinkles. However, they operate under very different principles.

As mentioned earlier, Thermage uses heat to stimulate new collagen growth. Fraxel uses lasers to create microscopic punctures in the skin that then trigger the healing process and boosts collagen production.

Each procedure offers its own unique results and has its ideal candidates. Speaking with a clinic or medical professional that offers both procedures can help to determine which is best for your specific situation.

How much does Thermage cost?

The cost of Thermage depends on the size of the area you want treated, but expect to pay somewhere between $1,000 and $5,000. A face treatment typically costs $2,000.

If this sounds like a lot of money, remember that it’s still significantly less than the price of a facelift, which typically costs over $7,000.

Many doctors offer payment plans and other financing options in the effort to make their services more accessible to people on limited budgets.

To learn more about Thermage pricing and financing options, use our cosmetic doctor directory to speak with a doctor in your area.


  • Araújo, A. R., Soares, V. P., Silva, F. S., & Moreira, T. D. (2015). Radiofrequency for the treatment of skin laxity: mith or truth. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia, 90(5), 707-721.
  • Gold, M. H., MD. (2010). Update on Tissue Tightening. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 3(5), 36-41. Retrieved November 22, 2017, from
  • Jaffary, F., Nilforoushzadeh, M. A., & Zarkoob, H. (2013). Patient satisfaction and efficacy of accent radiofrequency for facial skin wrinkle reduction. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 18(11), 970-975. Retrieved November 23, 2017, from

» Show all

About The Author

Articles by

I am a former teacher, current resident of Colorado, and new mom. When I’m not writing and chilling with my son, I’m gaming, watching movies, doing yoga, eating out, taking pictures, and harassing my cats. I love words.

Translate »