High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) was initially invented to destroy tumors by using the ultrasound energy. It was then being modified for aesthetic purposes since 2008.
Ultrasound energy delivers heat to target 2 areas: the subcutaneous layer at 3mm and the Superficial Muscular Aponeurotic System (SMAS) layer at 4.5mm. This ultrasonic wave will reinforce the existing collagen, as well as stimulate new collagen.
SMAS is a thin, band-like muscle which covers the lower two-thirds of the face as well as the neck. As we age, SMAS will loosen which results in sagging face.
Treatment of saggy face aims at tightening of SMAS. In surgical facelift, surgeon will remove a section of excess SMAS tissue and skin, followed by tightening and suturing.
However, for non-invasive facelift, we use HIFU to heat up SMAS layer with thermal-coagulation effect (heat-induced clotting/denaturation of tissue). This action will stimulate collagen and tightening of SMAS, results in face lifting effect. The focused beams can also melt the unwanted fats in the jowl and jawline while firming the skin.
Ulthera is the brand name of the machine that delivers HIFU technology. Ulthera is the first generation of HIFU machine for aesthetic use. Ultherapy simply means HIFU treatment by using the machine Ulthera.
Newer generation of HIFU machine such as Utracel Q+ is able to deliver the ultrasound wave faster e.g. 400 shots in 15 minutes, compared to traditional HIFU which requires 30 minutes. More importantly, it gives comparable results with much less discomfort.
The optimum results occur after 1 month as your body naturally regenerates collagen and elastin. Collagen provides strength to skin structure while elastin helps skin to resume their shape after stretching. Together, they help to counteract saggy and wrinkly skin by providing rigidity and elasticity.
Numbing cream is applied for 20 minutes before the procedure (optional). After removing the numbing cream, a cold soothing gel will be placed on the treatment area, followed by putting ultrasound applicator on the skin to deliver the ultrasonic energy. You may feel mild pricking but no sharp pain or hot sensation.
With newer generation of HIFU machine (Ultrael Q+), a procedure for the face and neck only takes 15 minutes, while body treatment requires half an hour. Due to the fast delivery of sound wave, the discomfort is kept to a minimum. It is much more comfortable compared to Ulthera or older generation of HIFU.
Skin firming effect may be observed a few days after the treatment, but more significant results occur after 1 month as the body takes time to regenerate collagen and elastin.
HIFU bypasses the outer layer of skin, and targets the deeper layers. Since the skin’s surface is not affected, there is minimal to no downtime. However, mild redness after the treatment is expected, which will wean off within a few hours.
It varies based on the degree of skin laxity and the biological response to ultrasound energy. Generally, you will need 2-3 sessions per year to get the best result.
It is a non-invasive procedure with little to no downtime. With newer generation of HIFU, the safety profile is excellent with no reported serious side effects.