Thermage Explained: Is Wrinkle-Free Skin Worth $2,000 to You?
Thermage is a no-knife skin tightening procedure that almost instantly produces visible, long-lasting results. 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. No incisions are made, and the recovery time is very brief. For these reasons, Thermage is considered a safer and less dramatic alternative to the traditional facelift.
Thermage also refers to the company that manufactures the Thermage RF device, although it’s not the only company who uses this method. Thermage is, however, among the most highly trusted names in RF skin tightening.
What are the benefits of Thermage?
Thermage promises to make you look years younger by targeting these 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 the joints
Collagen is a protein in your skin charged with maintaining its structure. It’s the most common protein in your 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 your skin elasticity, allowing it to bounce back after you pull or stretch it.
As the years go by, your 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. And although the company does claim that treatments provide a temporary improvement in the appearance of cellulite, this remains hotly debated.
The Thermage before and after pictures below (credits: Thermage) show the outstanding skin tightening results that patients can achieve.
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 between twenty minutes and two hours, although most sessions take less than an hour to complete. Of course, you also need to factor in prep time and consultations.
Thermage is most often used on the face — this is where it produces the best results, especially in specific areas such as the eyes or 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, any healthy person looking for a more subtle change and shorter recovery period than those provided by a facelift would be considered a good fit.
Although Thermage is very safe, there are still some people who should avoid it. Do not undergo the procedure if you have any skin conditions in the treatment area. You should also avoid Thermage if you’re pregnant or have a pacemaker or defibrillator.
Finally, while Thermage treats many parts of the body, your doctor may or may not find you a suitable candidate depending on the area you’re looking to treat.
Want to know if you’re a good candidate for Thermage? Use our free online consultation tool to ask a doctor near you.
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 oral pain medication in such cases.
Does Thermage have any side effects or complications?
Worried that heating your skin will leave you with burns? We have good news for you. Side effects from Thermage treatments are uncommon and usually minor.
These side effects include:
- Mild redness – This typically disappears within a few hours after surgery.
- Swelling – This often accompanies redness and is typically 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 notably more rare but nevertheless concerning side effect is surface irregularities on the skin. In other words, you might experience some pitting (small indentations). This is often temporary but can be permanent as well.
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 tighter and more firm within 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, one month and six months after undergoing the procedure. The study concluded that patient satisfaction was higher across the board the second time around.
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, a unique laser resurfacing method that uses tiny beams to permeate the surface of the skin, is often measured against Thermage.
Fraxel and Thermage appear similar on the surface. They’re both surgery-free with little discomfort and quick recovery times, while promising 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.
How much does Thermage cost?
That 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. Plus, 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.
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