What is radiofrequency microneedling?
Radiofrequency, or RF, is a type of energy derived from radio waves and can be used both for skin resurfacing and for skin tightening. It delivers heat into the deep layers of the skin, causing the collagen structures to tighten and, over time, to produce new collagen.
Microneedling is the process of applying a roller or pen-type device tipped with rows of tiny needles to the skin in order to create thousands of holes in the epidermis to increase the efficacy of skincare products and to stimulate growth factors and collagen production within the skin. Microneedling’s wound healing response also helps address surface skin and textural problems such as acne scars, large pores, stretch marks and wrinkles.
RF microneedling delivers radiofrequency energy into the skin through microneedles of varying lengths, which have been insulated, so that the RF energy emerges just at their tips.
Both radiofrequency and microneedling do very similar things, namely boosting collagen and elastin production in the skin. Radiofrequency stimulates our body’s cellular responses using heat, which helps tighten existing elastin and collagen at the same time as boosting new collagen. Microneedling creates a controlled injury, which stimulates the body’s wound healing response, once again kick-starting fibroblast activity, resulting in tightening and boosting of new and existing collagen and elastin.
Usually, the needles are insulated, except for their tips, so that the radiofrequency energy they dispense is delivered directly to the dermis, rather than dispersed into the rest of the skin that the needles are passing through.
Using needles to create micro-channels of damage enables the skin to heal itself faster than you would expect, because between each of the channels of damage is a portion of untreated, undamaged skin. So the skin isn’t trying to heal the whole of itself at once.
What does radiofrequency microneedling do?
By combining two already effective technologies into one, it gives a double whammy when it comes to boosting collagen and elastin and is suitable for all skin types, an additional bonus.
The radiofrequency energy, has a kind of shrink wrapping effect on the collagen deep in the skin, so the skin will regenerate from the inside. At the same time, you’ve also got the knock-on effect of the microneedling, which is creating tiny wounds in the skin so, as those heal, you get an extra degree of collagen contraction and skin regeneration.
Does radiofrequency microneedling work?
Yes, radiofrequency microneedling is very effective, hence its growing popularity. But, as with any aesthetic treatment, the results will vary from one patient to another. To get the best results for yourself, make sure you choose an experienced practitioner. Ask to see some of their results and before and after pictures and make sure it’s their results, not the generic marketing pictures provided by the brand.
Is radiofrequency microneedling safe?
Yes, radiofrequency microneedling treatments are generally very safe, provided the practitioner providing the treatment is skilled and experienced with the device they are using.
RF microneedling devices are using heat and needles so of course there are risks, as with many non-surgical treatments.
RF has good depth control and delivers energy directly into a precise target area. It can be safely used on all skin types because it does not use light-based energy (which lasers use), so it doesn’t affect melanin in the skin.
The UK has almost no restrictions on who can operate machinery for aesthetic procedures, which means anyone can use these devices and offer treatment with them. Do your research and go to an experienced and appropriately qualified practitioner.
Where can I get radiofrequency microneedling treatment?
You can use the Find a Practitioner tool on this website to find a good, reliable practitioner for radiofrequency microneedling treatment.
What are the names of the different radiofrequency microneedling treatments?
There are a number of radiofrequency microneedling treatments on the market. You may have heard of Morpheus8 by InMode (that’s the one Judy Murray had); Secret RF from Cutera (see my video above); Profound RF; Focus Dual by Lynton and INTRAcel, with more being launched in 2021 by some of the other leading devices brands.
The Morpheus8 is described as a “subdermal adipose remodelling device” (SARD) for remodelling and contouring of the face and body. It is actually able to mould fat sub-dermally in order to “morph the ageing facial features”, hence its name. Morpheus8 is a fractional device designed to treat fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, and general skin tone. It has 24 coated pins that penetrate into the subdermal tissue, coagulating the fat and contracting connective tissue. Simultaneously, directional RF energy generates bulk heating in the dermis.
Secret RF is a fractional RF microneedling system designed to revitalise, refresh, tighten and lift the skin and address the common signs of ageing, such as, fine lines, wrinkles, acne scars, photo-ageing and striae (stetch marks). The micro-needles allow the practitioner to deliver energy at various depths, so it can be tailored to each individual’s needs. It has a Secret RF’s 64-pin handpiece with semi-insulated needles for treatments on the face, neck, chest, and body.
Profound RF has been clinically proven to create all three skin fundamentals: up to 5x more elastin, up to 2x more collagen, and increased hyaluronic acid. It has FDA clearance for the face and body and just one treatment is required to achieve lasting results, according to the manufacturer. It also professes to have a 100% response rate for facial wrinkles and its effects have been proven in eight clinical studies.
The INTRAcel machine has a treatment head which incorporates heated needles as well as electrodes that dispense radiofrequency. The needles can be adjusted between 0.5mm and 2.5mm, depending on which bit of the face is being treated – areas such as the cheeks and the chin can take longer needles than the forehead. The needles are insulated, so they can deliver radiofrequency energy, which generates heat into the deeper levels of skin without heating up the outer layers of skin.
Focus Dual uses super fine adjustable ‘micro’ needles so that the depth as well as the level of RF energy delivered can be tailored. It uses non-insulated micro-needles, which it claims creates a safer treatment with less bleeding and discomfort versus other devices. Non-insulated needles are believed to reduce pinpoint bleeding and the risk of infection post-treatment, as small capillaries in the upper layers of skin are sealed in this heating process.
How much does radiofrequency microneedling cost?
The costs of radiofrequency microneedling will depend not only on what device the clinic is using but also the areas you are having treated and your post code. Typically treatment will cost anywhere between £400 and £1,000.
You will normally need to have a course of treatments to get the best results.
How long does radiofrequency microneedling take?
A typical radiofrequency microneedling treatment takes between 15 and 60 minutes, depending on the area being treated and the device the practitioner is using.
Before some of the more intense sorts of radiofrequency treatments, you may need to have anaesthetic cream applied to the treatment area, and to wait 20-30 minutes for the cream to take effect.
Can RF microneedling reduce fat in the jowls?
Yes it can – it depends how deep the needles delivering the RF energy reach into the skin. If that RF energy is directed into the fat tissue, its heat can melt it. If you’ve got too much fat in the face, this sounds a great idea. If you don’t have much fat in your face, your practitioner will keep the needles away from the fat, and concentrate on stimulating the lower layer of the skin.
How often do you need radiofrequency microneedling treatments?
You will typically need around four radiofrequency microneedling treatments at regular intervals, every three to eight weeks. This allows your skin to heal in between treatments. Some practitioners recommend more treatments or top up treatments to maintain results. It can take three to six months to see results.
How long does radiofrequency microneedling last?
The effects of radiofrequency microneedling treatment should be long-lasting – usually up to a year – however this depends on your own baseline (the quality of your skin before treatment) and your lifestyle factors i.e. how you look after your skin post treatment and whether you drink/smoke/eat an unhealthy diet or sunbathe.
Your practitioner will likely recommend that you continue to have maintenance treatments to preserve the effects as long as possible.
Are there any side effects to radiofrequency microneedling?
Radiofrequency microneedling treatment can have side effects. It is using both heat and needles, so there is the potential for things to go wrong, albeit very rarely.
Side effects can include:
- Herpes/cold sore breakout
- Pin prick marks on the skin
What is it like to have radiofrequency microneedling?
In my experience, it’s challenging, but it’s worth it as the treatment gets great results. If you have already flinched at the mention of repeated needling – you’re right, it is not comfortable, but your practitioner will give you enough numbing cream beforehand to make sure that you are comfortable.
- First, you will have a consultation with your practitioner and a discussion of your treatment goals.
- On the day of treatment, your appointment will start with the application of anaesthetic cream for up to half an hour, which is cleaned off before treatment starts.
- Your practitioner will work the device steadily across the areas to be treated, delivering needled shots of radiofrequency energy as they go, until all areas of the skin have been covered.
- You will feel a prickly buzz from the needles, but it should be tolerable.
- Your skin will feel warm once treated.
- Your skin will look really quite red after treatment – the sort of colour where you will prefer not to have to take public transport home.
- This redness will calm down over the next day or two, and will look like a fading sunburn. Your skin will start to feel a little rough as it heals, as the channels of damage in the skin will be healing up and creating new collagen, and pushing out the old, dead skin cells on the surface.
- As the new skin comes through, it will leave the whole surface of the skin smoother, firmer and tighter.
- You will see the best results after a course of treatment.
What is fractional radiofrequency and is this the same as radiofrequency microneedling?
Yes effectively radiofrequency microneedling is the same as fractional radiofrequency but different to fractional lasers, which use concentrated light to bore tiny channels of damage into the skin in order to stimulate the wound-healing response.
Fractional radiofrequency and radiofrequency microneedling treatments seek to make the same sort of deeper channels of damage into the dermis, the layer of the skin where the collagen lies. The treatment head of the radiofrequency device is equipped with a large number of tiny needles. These are driven into the skin, and the radiofrequency energy is driven through them, deeper into the skin.
Is radiofrequency microneedling safe for darker skin?
Yes, radiofrequency microneedling is safe to use on all skin types.