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 Tweakments

Radiofrequency

Radiofrequency, often abbreviated to RF, is a type of energy derived from radio waves. Radiofrequency can be used both for skin resurfacing and for skin tightening.

This page covers radiofrequency as a clinical treatment for skin tightening and skin resurfacing.

See the Radiofrequency Microneedling page  to find out about this treatment, which is done with a device that combines these two tweakment technologies, and which delivers the RF energy deep into the skin through the tips of the needles.

See the Radiofrequency Facial page  to find out how this type of radiofrequency treatment works and what it is like to have it done.

Scroll down for all the info and FAQs about radiofrequency.

Radiofrequency

EXPECT TO PAY

£ 350 - 2900

TWEAKMENT TIME

1 hour

LONGEVITY

Up to 2 years

ANAESTHESIA

Optional numbing cream

DOWNTIME

3 days

Find a Practitioner Near You


FAQ ABOUT Radiofrequency


What is radiofrequency?

Radiofrequency, often abbreviated to RF, is a type of energy derived from radio waves. Radiofrequency can be used both for skin resurfacing and for skin tightening.

This page covers radiofrequency as a clinical treatment for skin tightening and skin resurfacing. See the Radiofrequency Facial page [[add a link here to the Radiofrequency Facial pillar page]] to find out how this type of radiofrequency treatment works and what it is like to experience.

What are monopolar radiofrequency and bipolar radiofrequency?

Radiofrequency energy is an alternating electrical current which creates an electromagnetic field that sends out radio waves, and radiofrequency devices are either monopolar or bipolar. Monopolar machines, such as Thermage, have a treatment head that delivers the radiofrequency energy, while a metal pad attached to the machine is placed under your shoulder. This radiofrequency energy can be fine-tuned to hit precise depths within the skin, up to 2cm deep.

Bipolar radiofrequency machines, on the other hand, have two electrodes on the treatment head, and the current passes between them, which means it can’t go far into the skin at all (like, only 2mm), unless it is helped to go deeper by being passed through needles sunk a small way into the skin.

You’ll find radiofrequency machines called ‘tripolar’ or ‘multipolar’, but given that electrical polarity is a plus-to-minus sort of thing rather than a plus-to-minus-to something-else-in-the-middle sort of thing, these other machines just use variants on bipolar technology. Practitioners who like using radiofrequency treatments usually prefer monopolar machines, because they offer a more flexible way to treat patients.

What does radiofrequency do?

Radiofrequency delivers heat energy to the skin and the tissues below it. As a tweakment, radiofrequency heats up the lower levels of the skin, where the collagen lies, to the extent that the collagen contracts – you can think of it as ‘shrink-wrapping’ the skin. This effect of this radiofrequency treatment is to tighten sagging skin and improve its firmness. For extra effect, radiofrequency can be used in combination with focused ultrasound that tightens the muscular layer within the skin.

Radiofrequency is also used for skin resurfacing and fractional skin resurfacing.

Does radiofrequency work?

Yes, radiofrequency does work – 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 who can identify the most suitable treatment for you and then implement it skilfully.

Is radiofrequency safe?

Radiofrequency aesthetic treatments are generally considered safe provided that the practitioner administering them is skilled and experienced with the radiofrequency device. In the hands of an unskilled practitioner, however, radiofrequency devices can cause thermal burns – no surprise, given that radiofrequency treatments routinely heat tissue to temperatures of 42 degrees C or higher – and can melt subcutaneous fat. This melting of fat can be an added bonus in body treatments which offer fat-reduction and skin tightening at the same time, but most people absolutely don’t want to lose any fat from their faces – unless it is around the jowls. So your practitioner needs to be both well trained and well experienced in the use of any radiofrequency device.

Also, you should bear in mind that the UK has almost no restrictions on who can operate machinery for aesthetic procedures, such as radiofrequency devices, lasers, and ultrasound machines. Anyone can use these devices and offer treatment with them.

Where can I get radiofrequency treatment?

You can use the Find a Practitioner tool on this website to find a good, reliable practitioner for radiofrequency treatment.

How much does radiofrequency cost?

Radiofrequency-only treatment typically costs in the range £150–300 per treatment session, depending on which area you’re having treated. You will normally need to have a course of treatments to get the best results.

Treatments that combine radiofrequency with other cosmetic technologies can cost substantially more. For example, the radiofrequency-based Thermage ‘face-ironing’ treatment costs around £3,000 for the lower face and neck – but it requires only a single treatment rather than a course of treatments.

How long does radiofrequency take?

A typical radiofrequency 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.

How often do you need radiofrequency treatments?

You will typically need around six radiofrequency treatments at regular intervals, such as four weeks. Some practitioners recommend more treatments – for example, eight or 10 treatments.

How long does radiofrequency last?

The effects of radiofrequency treatment should last for a good while – from several months up to a couple of years — though this depends on the original condition of your skin, and how well you look after it afterwards. 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?

Radiofrequency treatment can have various side effects.

The following side effects typically occur after radiofrequency treatment:

  • Redness and heat. The treated area will be red and will feel hot for several hours after the treatment. This is because it has been blasted with heat energy.
  • Swelling. The treated area will be swollen for up to two days after the treatment. The swelling will gradually go down.

The following side effects can occur but should never occur if the practitioner is using the radiofrequency device correctly:

  • Thermal burns. The radiofrequency device delivers a considerable amount of heat energy, and the practitioner must make sure no part of the treatment area receives too much heat.
  • Subcutaneous fat loss. Monopolar radiofrequency treatments can reach deep enough into the body to hit the fat beneath the skin, and the radiofrequency can kill the fat cells it reaches. This can be great in a bottom-shrinking treatment, but it’s far from great in a face which is already losing its fat pads.

What is it like to have radiofrequency?

Having radiofrequency treatment varies considerably depending on which type of treatment you have. But generally speaking, the treatment goes something like this:

  • You meet the practitioner and discuss your goals. The practitioner examines you and recommends suitable treatment.
  • On the day of the treatment, you may need to have numbing cream applied to the treatment area and wait for it to take effect. Whether you need numbing cream depends on the treatment you’re having.
  • The practitioner may apply a gel to the treatment area to help the device’s treatment head slide across your skin.
  • The practitioner will move the treatment head across the treatment area, keeping it moving to avoid delivering too much energy to a single area.
  • With other types of radiofrequency device, the skin is marked out with a grid pattern, and the practitioner works the device across the grid, section by section, to bring each area up to the required temperature.
  • Your skin will start to feel warm or hot.
  • After treatment, your skin will be red and will feel hot for several hours. It may be swollen for up to two days afterward.

How is radiofrequency used for skin resurfacing?

Radiofrequency can also be used for resurfacing the skin, by working more deeply into the skin. This is done by using a technique called ‘fractional radiofrequency’ which is carried out with a variation of the radiofrequency device.

What is fractional radiofrequency?

If you have heard of fractional treatment, it may well have been in the context of ‘fractional’ lasers which use concentrated light to bore tiny channels of damage into the skin in order to stimulate the wound-healing response that leads to the production of fresher, stronger clearer, smoother skin.

Fractional radiofrequency treatment seeks to make the same sort of deeper channels of damage into the dermis, the layer of the skin where the collagen lies, but it does it in a different way. For fractional use, 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. 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.

What are the benefits of fractional radiofrequency?

Having fractional radiofrequency will not only give you the skin-tightening benefits that other radiofrequency treatments offer, but will also refresh and smooth the surface of the skin by generating a greater amount of new collagen within the skin.

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 is it like to have fractional radiofrequency?

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 each pulse of the needles and radiofrequency – 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 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, perhaps alternating tightening radiofrequency treatments with deeper resurfacing ones.

Is radiofrequency safe for dark skin?

Yes, unlike laser and IPL treatment, radiofrequency is almost always safe to use on all skin types.  Laser and IPL both use light energy to target melanin, the brown pigment in the skin, which makes them tricky to use on skin types IV, V and VI – that is, light brown, darker brown and black skin — without causing damage and either hyperpigmentation (extra pigmentation) or hypopigmentation (a lack of pigmentation, or de-pigmenting of the skin).

But if you use radiofrequency energy (rather than light energy) to heat up the collagen in the skin, it can do this without harming or provoking the melanin.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that yes, radiofrequency is a great choice of treatment for tightening darker skin.

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ASK ALICE

Alice answers your question. Want to ask Alice a question? Pop it in here and check back in a few days for the answer.


Hi Alice, I’m currently on a weight loss journey and have lost 34 pounds. I now have a crepey jowl area under my chin and I just hate it. I have more to lose so I guess I’m better off waiting until I’m at a healthier weight. My beautician…

Hiya, TTG editor Georgia here. Yes, definitely wait until you’ve lost as much as you’d like to. Then, book in with an expert practitioner for a consultation to see what they’d advise, taking into consideration your recent weight loss and any implications that might have. It may well be that a course of skin-tightening treatments like radiofrequency or HIFU would do the job, perhaps with a couple of rounds of injectable moisturisers too, to improve that skin quality and smooth the crepey texture. If not, they can refer you onwards to a surgeon to discuss a surgical lift.…

I'm having Forma at a clinic, what can I do to carry on the treatment at home? My main concern is eye bags and hooded eyes. I'm 42 not ready to go down the surgery route. Thank you 🙂

Hiya, TTG editor Georgia here. As Forma is a radiofrequency treatment that works deeper under the skin, there’s nothing you can do to – or need to do – at home, apart from following your aftercare advice. Just let it do its job and consider a maintenance treatment every year or so after your initial course.

What do you think about Orlaya Skin DermaDeep RF? Is it effective in comparison with other RF devices? On the other hand, I'd like your opinion about Oxyjet Go and if it is OK to use with my own serums. Thank you in advance!

I think the Orlaya Dermadeep looks fab, and practitioners speak well of it (unusual for a home-use device!) as it's strong enough to be effective. I don't know the home-use Oxyjet device but the in-clinic version is a nice, gentle skin-rejuvenation treatment. Re using your own serums, it might work ok with your own water-based serums, though if the brand has a product which is specially formulated to enhance the results of its device, I reckon it's worth using to see what results you get, before downgrading to another product that may or may not do the job.

I’m looking for solutions for under-eye wrinkles. I’m 61.

Start by using a really good eye cream which will help smooth the appearance of the wrinkles, then I'd suggest reading up on the various tweakments that can help with under-eye wrinkles, like laser and radiofrequency. Take a look at this recent Tweak of the Week video, too. You can see how much radiofrequency microneedling improved Linda Lusardi's under-eye area. Next, find a fab practitioner in your area and have a consultation with them to see what treatments they can suggest that you would be comfortable trying.…

Hi Alice. I get RF facials done and I also had HIFU last September. I just had another round of HIFU done. What I want to ask is, I bought the Sensica Sensilift RF handheld tool mini version – has this had good results?

Hi the Sensica ought to give results if you use it enough, but as with all home-use devices you will need to be very consistent with it, follow the instructions to the letter and use it as much as they tell you to, in order for it to get a chance to work like it's meant to.

Hi Alice. I’m interested to know how the home RF devices compare to salon-strength devices. I have a NEWA Beauty RF device but don’t appear to be getting any results. Am I wasting my time? Or, more worryingly, damaging my skin?

How devices compare to clinic/ salon equipment rather depends on the device in question. The NEWA is not very powerful but it ought to give some results if you use it enough (don't worry, you won't be damaging your skin). The home-RF device that I'm most curious about at the moment is the Orlaya Dermadeep Pro, as that is many times more powerful than the NEA/ Tripollar/ Sensica home-use RF devices, so that is very likely to give results.

Hi, can you recommend what a 73-year-old can have after 3 Profhilo treatments and 3 Skinpen treatments (alternate months)? As in RF or any other skin and jaw tightening treatment?

Hi, I'd be tempted to keep going with monthly microneedling for another three months, then leave it for a while because those needling sessions will go on delivering their benefits (in skin strength, smoothness and tightening) for several more months, particularly with all that Profhilo in your skin (which won't need doing again until six months after your first session of it).  See what your skin is looking like after all that before you step up to anything else. Yes, you could try RF – what does your practitioner suggest?…

I have had cataract surgery done recently. Is it safe to do radiofrequency treatments after two weeks following surgery? Is it safe to use Nuface device and red LED mask following eye surgery ?

I would double check all these things with the surgeon who did your cataract surgery and follow their advice on that and wait until the healing is complete.

Hi Alice, I'm keen to have some kind of skin tightening laser for my undereyes, however I'm worried about the metal eye shields they put in your eyes after the problems you had with your eyes! Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks, Debbie

Hi Debbie, you ought to be alright with the eye shields – so many surgeons and laser practitioners contacted me while I was recovering and said they were shocked because they'd been using the shields for years and years and had never had an issue like that. As long as the practitioner is familiar with using the shields, and uses enough lubrication drops as well as anaesthetic drops, you should be fine. The other alternative is to try a radiofrequency or RF microneedling treatment which can be used all around the eyes without requiring those shields.…

What's your opinion on Exilis versus Ultherapy for skin tightening?

Exilis is a radiofrequency treatment which has a kind of 'shrink-wrapping' effect on the skin; Ultherapy uses focused ultrasound to achieve the same sort of damage-and-remodelling to the collagen in the skin... they're both good treatments that can produce great results on the right patient. My opinion would be to get your face in front of a great practitioner and ask them what they'd recommend for your particular concerns, and whether you're the right patient for either of these treatments.…

I’m looking to have a necklift – do you have any recommendations please?

Recommendations for specific surgeons would depend where in the country you are, but it may be worth first booking in with a cosmetic doctor to discuss possible non-surgical options before deciding on surgery. Find a brilliant practitioner near you here. And have a look at our page dedicated to crepey skin on the neck to find out more about treating this concern– depending on how lax the skin is, it may be that a course of injectable moisturiser or some skin-tightening tech like HIFU or radiofrequency is all you need.…

The fat from my cheek pads seems to have slipped downwards, making me look jowly. What is the best treatment for this?

Hiya, editor Georgia here answering on Alice's behalf. There are a few things you can do for jowls. If you suspect yours are more to do with fat rather than loose skin, I'd look into fat freezing with CoolSculpting (if the fat is beginning to group under the chin and around the jawline), or FaceTite. FaceTite is slightly more invasive as it involves extraction of the fat from under the skin with a cannula, but it can be very effective and only one session is needed. It first uses radiofrequency energy to melt the fat before sucking it away and leaving you with a more taught jawline. There are more options on our free Jowls factsheet,…

I chicken out of eye surgery for now, can you suggest anything else I can do for eye lids other than surgery?

Hi, there are a few treatments you could try to tighten the skin on the eyelids and around the eye area. None of these will give as quick, clean or definitive a result as eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) but they could help. Ping, a radiofrequency skin-tightening protocol put together by Dr Sach Mohan, which is specifically designed for non-surgical skin tightening around the eye Laser skin tightening, with a fractional laser - practitioners including Dr Maryam Zamani can offer this with the Sciton laser, other practitioners will have their own favourites. You do need to wear intra-ocular shields for this procedure, which are like…

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