POSTED: 26 Oct 2023

What is Ultherapy and Can it Really Lift or Tighten Your Skin?

We’re no strangers to skin trends and whilst most come and ago, this one seems to have stuck around! From influencers to celebrities and even your bestie, non-surgical skin tightening treatments are having a moment. The big promise is that with technology constantly advancing, there’s no need to go under the knife to look younger. This is where Ultherapy enters the chat, so to speak. This is a popular treatment that claims to tighten and lift the skin without needles, injections or surgery. So, how much is this hype versus truth? In this guide, we’ll explore what is Ultherapy treatment, the science behind it, its benefits, risks and limits. We’ll also compare Ultherapy vs other similar skin tightening treatments like HIFU and Sofwave.

What is Ultherapy?

Ultherapy is a non-invasive skin tightening treatment. It uses focused ultrasound energy to lift and tighten loose skin without the need for surgery or injections. It is especially popular for the face, neck and décolletage. Ultherapy uses advanced micro-focused ultrasound energy. This specifically targets the deeper structural layers of the skin. These are the layers that are usually targeted by surgery, but it does so without breaching the skin’s surface. Instead, Ultherapy treatment stimulates the body’s natural collagen production process. This leads to gradual skin rejuvenation over time.

This treatment is approved by health regulators in numerous countries. These include the FDA in the USA and within the EU as well as UK. The key use of Ultherapy is to combat the early to intermediate signs of skin ageing. It is also to enhance the longevity of surgical facelifts and other skin rejuvenating treatments. The FDA approved Ultherapy treatment is for the face, neck and décolletage. However, it is also used off-licence on other parts of the body.

How Does Ultherapy Work?

Ultherapy treatment uses focused ultrasound energy to work on the deepest layers of the skin. When this energy gets into the tissue layers, it produces a gentle heat. This thermal effect not only induces immediate tissue contraction but also stimulates the body’s natural production of collagen. This is the protein in our skin that gives it firmness and elasticity. The overall effect of this is that over weeks and months, the skin starts to transform. It becomes tighter, thicker and more lifted. Additionally, Ultherapy has built in real-time ultrasound imaging. This allows practitioners to visualise and precisely target the areas that will benefit most from the procedure. Ultimately, this helps ensure both safety and efficacy.

The Science Behind it

The micro-focused ultrasound technology that underpins Ultherapy treatment has decades of research that support its safety and effectiveness. Numerous clinical studies have proven Ultherapy’s efficacy in skin lifting and tightening. In fact, many report significant improvement in skin laxity and an increase in collagen in the treated regions. In the US, Ultherapy treatment has FDA-clearance for areas like the neck, chin and eyebrow.

The Benefits of Ultherapy

Ultherapy offers a host of benefits that have made it an increasingly popular skin rejuvenation treatment. Here are the primary advantages:

  • Non-Invasive: One of the main attractions of Ultherapy is that it provides lifting and tightening without the need for surgery. This makes it an excellent alternative for individuals who want to avoid the risks and downtime linked with surgical procedures.
  • Natural Results: Ultherapy boosts the body’s natural collagen production process. Over time, as new collagen forms, the skin lifts and tightens, leading to subtle and natural looking results.
  • Safe: Ultherapy uses micro focused ultrasound technology, which has a long standing safety record in the medical field. It also integrates ultrasound guided imaging into the procedure. As such, when done right, Ultherapy is an even safer and more precise vs competitors like HIFU and Sofwave.
  • Visible Improvement: While results can vary, many patients report visible skin lifting and tightening after just one treatment. The full effects usually become more apparent 2-6 months post treatment.
  • No Downtime: After having an Ultherapy session, patients can normally resume their regular activities immediately. There’s no need for long recovery periods.
  • Customisable Treatment: With its real-time imaging, practitioners can view the layers of tissue they are targeting during the procedure. This ensures delivery of ultrasound energy precisely where it’s most beneficial.
  • Versatile: It has FDA clearance for use in lifting the skin on the neck, chin and eyebrow. However, medical practitioners often use it off licence to target other areas. For example, it is popular for improving the appearance of lines and wrinkles on the décolletage.
  • Long-Lasting Results: The results from a single Ultherapy treatment can last up to a year or more. This depends on the individual’s skin condition and natural ageing process.

Potential Side Effects and Safety Considerations

As with any cosmetic treatment, Ultherapy does have some potential side effects. Common post treatment effects can include redness, swelling and tenderness in the treated areas. Some patients might also experience temporary numbness or tingling. These side effects are generally mild and resolve within a few hours to days.

While safe for most people, this treatment isn’t suitable for everyone. Certain individuals should avoid this treatment due to potential risks or reduced benefits. These include:

  • Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women: the safety of Ultherapy hasn’t been studied in these groups.
  • Severe Skin Conditions: Those with severe or active conditions like cystic acne, eczema or open wounds should avoid Ultherapy.
  • Individuals with Certain Medical Implants: If you have electrical devices like pacemakers, stents or certain implants, Ultherapy might not be safe.
  • Severe Sagging Skin or Advanced Aging: Ultherapy is most effective for mild to moderate skin laxity. Those with severely sagging skin or advanced signs of aging might not see significant benefits and could be better candidates for more invasive procedures like a surgical facelift.
  • Younger Individuals with Minimal Skin Laxity: While there’s no strict age limit, Ultherapy is not normally useful for younger individuals who have minimal signs of aging or skin laxity.
  • Certain Medications or Health Conditions: Individuals on certain medications or those with medical, especially those that affect the immune system or skin healing, should consult with their doctor before having Ultherapy.
  • Keloid Scarring Tendency: If you have a history of keloid scars or excessive scarring, then please see a dermatologist to check that the treatment won’t worsen this.

What Does the Procedure Involve?

Ultherapy is a treatment that you can usually have at a med spa or aesthetic clinic. Here’s what the procedure typically involves:

  • Consultation: Before the treatment, a thorough consultation with a trained practitioner is vital. They will discuss your skin concerns, medical history, goals and potential risks. This will help them ensure that Ultherapy is suitable for you.
  • Preparation: Prior to the treatment, the target area will be cleaned and an ultrasound gel will be applied.
  • Ultrasound Imaging: Using the Ultherapy device, the practitioner will first use ultrasound imaging to view and map the layers of tissue beneath the skin. This allows them to determine the optimal depths and areas for energy delivery.
  • Treatment: The handpiece of the Ultherapy device is then placed on the treatment area, delivering focused ultrasound energy to the predetermined depths. This energy heats the tissue, triggering a natural response that stimulates the growth of fresh, new collagen. While the procedure is generally well tolerated, some people might feel brief discomfort or warmth.
  • Post-Treatment: Once the treatment is complete, there’s minimal downtime. Most people can return to their regular activities immediately. The skin might appear slightly flushed initially, but this usually fades within a few hours. Some patients might experience mild swelling, tenderness, or tingling for a few days post-procedure, but these side effects are typically mild and temporary.
  • Follow-Up: While some initial effects might be visible immediately post-treatment, the full benefits of Ultherapy are often seen over the course of 2-3 months as the body naturally regenerates collagen. The treatment results can last up to a year or more, but touch-up sessions are needed to help maintain results.

How Many Ultherapy Treatments Do I Need?

The number of Ultherapy treatments needed can vary depending on individual factors such as the condition of your skin, your age and the specific areas you want to treat. Generally, many people see visible results after just one session. This is because the treatment initiates a natural process of collagen production, which continues to improve the skin’s appearance over the following months. However, some individuals, particularly those with more advanced signs of aging or more pronounced skin laxity, may need several treatments. Your practitioner will assess your skin and discuss your goals to determine the best treatment plan for you.

It’s important to remember that while Ultherapy can provide impressive results, it doesn’t stop the natural aging process. That’s why people often choose to have maintenance treatments every 1 to 2 years to keep up with the natural aging process and maintain their results.

Ultherapy vs HIFU

Although both Ultherapy and High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatments utilise focused ultrasound energy, they aren’t the same. Ultherapy is basically a type of HIFU treatment, but what makes it stand out vs HIFU is its use of visualisation. Ultherapy devices come with an ultrasound imaging feature. This means practitioners can see the layers of tissue they’re targeting. It ensures the energy is delivered precisely where it’s needed most. This precision might makes Ultherapy a more reliable and effective option vs HIFU.

Sofwave vs. Ultherapy

Another contender for non-surgical skin tightening treatments is Sofwave. Like Ultherapy, Sofwave uses ultrasound wave technology. However, whilst Ultherapy is a micro focused ultrasound treatment, Sofwave employs a unique Intense Ultrasound Beam Technology. This method divides the beam into multiple treatment zones, targeting them simultaneously. This means that Sofwave potentially offers shorter treatment times vs Ultherapy. So, which is better? Whilst both have their merits, Ultherapy’s technology allows for precision vs Sofwave’s approach is more time efficient. In addition, Sofwave is a newer and less established procedure vs Ultherapy which has a longer track record and is more widely available. Ultimately, the best choice depends on your individual skin type, needs and availability.

Alternatives Treatments & Skincare

Non-invasive skincare alternatives to Ultherapy include treatments like laser therapy, radiofrequency or traditional micro-needling and topical anti-aging products like retinoids. Tretinoin, a powerful prescription retinoid, is a topical alternative to Ultherapy. Tretinoin can also help improve the skin and boost as well as maintain the results of professional skin treatments like Ultherapy. It works at the cellular level to increase skin cell turnover and stimulate collagen production. Through this it reduces fine lines and wrinkles as well as improves overall skin texture and tone. You can easily add it into a daily skincare routine. As such it offers a convenient and accessible approach to getting more youthful skin.

What is the Cost of Ultherapy in the UK?

In the UK, the cost of Ultherapy treatments varies. It is affected by geography, the area being treated, number of treatments, the reputation of the clinic and expertise of the practitioner. On average, prices for treating smaller areas, such as the brow or around the eyes, can start from £500 to £1,000. For more extensive treatments, like full face and neck procedures, the costs can range from £2,000 to £4,000 or more. It’s important to note that most people typically require only one session, though some might opt for additional treatments for enhanced results. Some clinics might offer package deals or finance options. However don’t be tempted by the cheapest option. Always book a consultation with a reputable clinic with a medical practitioner. They will give you a clear idea of what benefits to expect and give a clear quote based on this.

Comparatively, HIFU treatments tend to be more affordable vs Ultherapy. The cost for HIFU treatments can range from £500 to £3,000. The lower price point is often due to the wider availability of HIFU devices and the varying intensities of the machines used. On the other hand, Sofwave is generally comparable vs Ultherapy. It’s prices range from £1,000 to £4,000. However, since Sofwave is newer, pricing might be more subject to change as it becomes more established in the market.

In general, these treatments are expensive due to the technical expertise and equipment needed to perform them properly. HIFU tends to be the more budget friendly option vs Ultherapy and Sofwave which are usually in a similar price range. It’s important to remember that the cost should not be the only factor when deciding between these treatments. The right one for your specific needs and the practitioner’s experience should also be key considerations in making your choice.

For those seeking a non-invasive treatment for tighter and younger looking skin, Ultherapy is an attractive option. It’s unique blend of micro focused ultrasound technology with the body’s natural regenerative processes offers a safe and effective solution for those wary of surgical interventions. However, as with all treatments, individual experiences might vary. Whether you’re considering Ultherapy or any other treatment, always remember to do your research and consult with a professional. They will discuss with you your skincare concerns and goals to layout your treatment options and set realistic expectations.

At City Skin clinic, we are obsessed about personalised skincare. Through our virtual skin clinic, we connect clients with doctors for safe and effective treatments like Tretinoin and Hydroquinone. We treat skin conditions like acnehyperpigmentationmelasma and skin ageing. To get started on your personalised skincare protocol, book a virtual video consultation or use our online consultation form. The journey towards great skin starts here.

Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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