Ultherapy vs. Thermage: Which Non-Surgical Skin Tightening Laser Is Better?
In their quest for a non-surgical treatment that tightens and lifts loose or lax skin, many patients will come across two popular treatments: Ultherapy and Thermage. On the surface both treatments appear similar, they are both minimally invasive procedures that can yield skin tightening benefits without the downtime and risks of surgery.
How They Work
Ultherapy uses ultrasound technology to strengthen the skin from the inside out. It works by using ultrasound energy to gently heat the tissue under the treatment area. The skin responds to this energy by stimulating the production of new collagen, resulting in a gradual tightening and firming which naturally lifts surface layer skin over time.
Thermage uses radiofrequency energy to tighten and contour the skin. A special handpiece is used to deliver the energy which heats the tissue under the skin, stimulating the body’s natural renewal of collagen. Thermage is capable of not only tightening closer to the surface of the skin (for better smoothing and tightening), but also deeper under thicker skin (for contouring on the body).
Ultherapy is FDA approved to tighten and lift the brow line, chin, neck and chest. For facial treatments, Ultherapy is great at improving the muscle fascia which is the primary muscle addressed in traditional facelift procedures. It’s also a good non-surgical way to address mild to moderate submental fullness (double chin). Ultherapy can be used off-label with successful tightening of the skin on the abdomen, arms and knees.
Thermage can be used to address the same facial areas as Ultherapy. However, it can also be used off-label to address many areas of the body including the hands, arms, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs. Thermage is also a viable treatment option for light to moderate cellulite.
Number of Treatments Needed
Ultherapy and Thermage are similar in that most patients will only require a single treatment every 6 months to a year a part to realize their desired end result. However, additional treatments may be necessary for some patients who have higher skin laxity or exhibit more severe aging symptoms. Most patients benefit from additional treatments after a year or two as well as a follow-up to maintain results.
Ultherapy treatment sessions are typically shorter than Thermage treatments. An Ultherapy treatment for the full face and neck typically lasts around 60 minutes whereas as similar Thermage session may take closer to 90 minutes because of the cooling that has to occur on the top layer of the skin, which is called the epidermis.
Recovery & Side Effects
Both procedures are minimally invasive and require no downtime. Patients can undergo either treatment on their lunch break. Common side effects of Ultherapy and Thermage include redness, swelling, and tenderness of the skin, which will resolve on its own in a few days without intervention.
While both treatments have been shown to fight the signs of aging, Ultherapy does have a slight edge in terms of effectiveness as its ultrasound energy is able penetrate to deeper layers of the skin. In contrast, the radiofrequency used in Thermage is unable to go beyond the outermost layer of skin.
The procedures differ greatly in how quickly results become apparent. The final results of Ultherapy typically become apparent within 2-3 months of treatment while it can take up to 6 months for optimal Thermage results.
It’s important for patients to understand that neither Ultherapy or Thermage offers permanent results. However, patients can choose to undergo maintenance (“touch up”) treatment sessions in order to keep their results long-term.