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The EV guide to Ultrasound

Are ultrasound treatments right for you? Here's what you need to know, from how the technology works to who it suits and the results

Skin tightening and non surgical facelifts have been trending in skincare for a while now, and many people are turning to ultrasound treatments to lift, tighten and contour skin, including the eye area and body.

Energy based ultrasound treatments use high frequency sound waves – there are two types of ultrasound used in aesthetic medicine: high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) and micro-focused ultrasound (MFU), which targets a specific skin layer.

Traditionally, ultrasound treatments had a reputation for being rather uncomfortable, however the science has moved on and the procedure is now described as mildly uncomfortable – skin cooling and strong numbing cream also helps patient tolerance.

Brand names to look out for include Ultherapy, HIFU and Ultracel Q+, and the latest to debut in this space, Sofwave.

Want to find out more? Here's the lowdown...

How does ultrasound work?

The energy based treatment works by producing focused ultrasonic waves generated by a transducer: if you’re looking for a solution to sagging skin or skin laxity, your practitioner will deploy the heat based energy source to stimulate the deeper structures of the face.

At the right depth and temperature – the sweet spot for stimulating collagen ranges between 60C and 70C – the aim is to heat the dermis and induce thermal injury to the tissue, resulting in skin coagulation which is what’s needed for firmness, skin rejuvenation and a collagen boost.

What is it used for?

Along with structural tightening, firming and boosting collagen, ultrasound technology is also used to improve sagging and wrinkles on the face, neck, chin and chest as well as a drooping brow. It can also help practitioners to see beneath the surface of the skin, including its thickness, fat pads and blood vessels.

Some practitioners use the treatment to help tighten the deeper layers in the skin to give more support, which can also create the illusion of a slimmer face without any fat reduction.

Ultrasound is also a useful tool for analysing the location and performance of dermal filler, and assisting in managing complications. If a patient wants their filler dissolved, visualising the filler enables dissolving filler to reach the relevant area, so that smaller doses can be used.

Is it painful?

As ultrasound is energy based, it generates heat so you are going to feel a heat sensation. Again, it depends on which treatment you go for, but each cycle or zap typically feels like a building warmth which drops off just as you think it’s about to become intolerable or burn.

You’ll also find that certain areas of the face are more uncomfortable than others, such as around the eyes where the skin is thinner. As a result of such precise energy delivery, most people only need one treatment, however some people may require or desire a couple.

Will it work for me?

Ultrasound treatments are suitable for most skin tones and types, including darker skins. The ideal candidate is typically someone with mild to moderate skin laxity. However, before taking the plunge, make sure you consult an experienced practitioner who will determine if you are a suitable candidate.

Is there any downtime?

The technology is known to be safe and effective, however depending on the chosen treatment, downtime can be up to 24 hours as you may experience tenderness, sensitivity, swelling, redness and numbness after your treatment, although most people are fine after a few hours. We have tried ultrasound treatments and experienced no downtime whatsoever.

How long do results last?

Typically a couple of years – some initial tightening should be visible straight after your treatment, but the end result won’t be seen until between three and six months.

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