Ultrasound is one of the most popular skin-tightening treatments out there. This tweakment category can get a little confusing though, because there’s ultrasound and then there’s HIFU (high-intensity focused ultrasound), and they work in slightly different ways.
Both ultrasound and HIFU devices are intended to stimulate the production of collagen, the protein that gives our skin its structure and firmness and that forms the scaffolding of our skin, but the technologies differ in how they actually deliver that ultrasound energy to achieve this goal. You can find out more about the differences between ultrasound and HIFU here.
In an ultrasound or HIFU treatment the usual target is the collagen around the superficial muscular aponeurotic system (SMAS). This is the layer of muscular tissue in the face that surgeons manipulate in a surgical facelift, so while you can’t really compare the results of ultrasound to a facelift, there’s some truth in ‘non-surgical facelift’ nickname. A word of caution though, just so you’re prepared – these treatments are known for being pretty uncomfortable. Of course, it depends on your pain threshold, but most (the makers of Ultraformer III say pain prevention isn’t needed) require topical anaesthetic or/ as well as oral painkillers.
Here’s our pick of the ultrasound devices on the market and what they do best.
Best for whole-face skin-tightening: Sofwave
Sofwave is a skin-tightening ultrasound energy device with a difference. Unlike HIFU or micro-focused ultrasound, this uses a different technology that means the ultrasound energy is aimed solely at the collagen within the skin – it only goes 1.5mm deep. It helps improve some of the most common concerns associated with ageing; laxity, lines and wrinkles and overall tone and texture by stimulating the production of new collagen.
It’s ideal for someone in their forties or fifties who wants to work on their collagen levels, improve signs of ageing and rejuvenate the skin overall. A small initial lift can be seen from the immediate ‘thermal response’, and full results are visible after around three months. The results from just one treatment last for up to a year.
Alice tried it, and three months on the tightening and lifting effects were clear. She said her cheeks lifted, her nose-to-mouth lines became less pronounced, and she was impressed at how much tauter the skin on her jawline had become. To top it off, her eyebrows looked to be lifted slightly, too.
Price: Around £3,000 for a full face and neck treatment
USPs: Sofwave’s Synchronous Ultrasound Parallel Beam Technology is FDA Cleared for improving facial lines and wrinkles, lifting the eyebrow, and lifting lax submental (beneath the chin) and neck tissue.
Lasts for: Up to 1 year
Best for a brow lift: Ultherapy
Ultherapy works by using precise micro-focused ultrasound with visualisation energy to target the deep structural layers of the skin without disrupting the skin’s surface, and the machine has a ‘visualiser’ panel to show the therapist exactly at what depth each shot of energy is landing within the skin. After treatment, the body’s tissue repair process stimulates the production of new collagen and elastin, creating a gradual lifting effect. Ultherapy doesn’t give a sudden change in appearance, instead, results develop gradually over six months.
An Ultherapy brow lift is a good entry-level energy-based tweakment. It only takes 15-20 minutes and can improve lid laxity on the top eyelids, making the eyes look fresher and more open.
Price: From £500 for a brow lift
USPs: Quick treatment time
Lasts for: Around 18 months
Best for avoiding discomfort: Ultraformer III
Ultraformer III is a HIFU device that uses energy for non-invasive skin tightening and lifting. The treatment can be done on both the face and body to provide rapid, long-term tightening of the skin.
Ultraformer III targets the deep foundation below the skin with a special, focused ultrasound technology that produces super-fast shots of energy. This is what makes the treatment more comfortable – patients say it’s more like a small amount of discomfort as opposed to being painful. So, if you want to avoid anaesthesia or painkillers, Ultraformer III could be the option for you.
Price: Around £800 for a full face and neck treatment
USPs: Doesn’t require anaesthesia
Lasts for: 6-12 months
Best for contouring the jawline: ULTRAcel Q+
ULTRAcel Q+ is a non-surgical skin-tightening treatment that uses high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) to treat concerns including a sagging brow, forehead wrinkles and nasolabial folds. But where it really comes into its own is when used to contour the jawline and reduce a double chin.
Unlike some other HIFU devices, ULTRAcel Q+ can also be used to define the structure of the jawline by deliberately targeting fat tissue as well as lax skin. The device has two action modes which can be used separately or simultaneously, meaning you can choose skin tightening, fat reduction effect, or both.
Price: Around £380 for double chin/ jawline
USPs: Can also be used for targeted fat reduction
Lasts for: Around 6 months
The Tweakments Guide Takeaway
One ultrasound treatment can sound very like another - but there are definite differences between them. While Sofwave reaches a depth of 1.5mm to tighten just the skin, other brands of ultrasound like Ultherapy aim their energy up to 4.5mm below the surface of the skin, to target the collagen around the 'SMAS' layer for deep tightening. Ultracel Q+ and Ultraformer III do this too, and can also be used to break up fat beneath the skin.
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