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What the F*ck is Thermage?

by Valeriya Chupinina

It seems like today, there are a million and a half skin treatments on the market, looming over you, waiting for you to cave and try. Lasers, radio frequency, chemical peels are amongst many things we’ve never even heard of. One of those procedures is Thermage — a non-invasive radio frequency treatment that tightens and contours the skin by targeting collagen and stimulating new collagen growth. It’s FDA approved for all large parts of the body including your face, neck, abdomen, arms, and legs. While it’s more popular for middle aged women or those who have had children, it’s becoming more and more attractive to the “preventative skincare” crowd.

I was extremely curious about this lunchtime treatment, so I headed over to Skinney Medical Spa in Flatiron, Manhattan to try it for myself. I also spoke to Lindsay Malachowski, Director of Operations at Skinney, to find out more about in-depth knowledge about Thermage’s benefits, the differences between it and other similar innovations on the market today, and what to expect during the treatment.

How Does Thermage Work and What Is Its Purpose?

As we age, the collagen that keeps our skin firm beings to break down, resulting in aging skin that contains fine lines and wrinkles. A Thermage FLX™ treatment uses radio frequency technology to heat the deeper, collagen-rich layers of the skin. The applied heat causes collagen to contract and encourages new collagen to start growing. This helps create smoother skin after just one treatment with results that continue to improve with treatment. Its purpose is to plump, tighten, and tone skin laxity and restore a youthful appearance to aging skin.

How Does It Differ From Ultherapy, Its Competitor?

Ultherapy uses ultrasound technology to target smaller areas such as face, neck, and décolleté. At the muscular level, Ultherapy provides more of a lifting result. Radio frequency targets larger area, which targets collagen remodeling in the dermal layer where the fatty cells then stimulate the collagen growth to firm and plump the treated area.

When Can You Expect to See Results? Who Is the Ideal Thermal Candidate?

Thermage sees full results at three months and additional improvement for up to 6 months. The ideal Thermage candidate is someone who has mild to medium laxity and is looking for a rejuvenated, plump appearance to the skin or looking to improve contour in face and also mild-to medium laxity in the abdomen post weight loss.

How Many Treatments are Needed?

After your initial treatment, one treatment every six months to one year can be beneficial depending on desired results and own individual aging process. That being said, no touch ups are ever required.

What is Recovery Like?

Typically, downtime is minimal, though patients may feel minor tenderness in the treated area and puffiness around the eye area. No harsh chemicals or products should be used in any treated areas for up to 48 hours.

My Experience

When I was ready to try Thermage for myself, I went into the Flatiron location and went through standard protocol. First, the area is completely sanitized. Second, a sheet of temporary tattoos in a small block pattern is placed onto the skin so that your doctor is able to guide themselves in a pattern. Thermage is a machine that uses radio frequency one small block at a time to deliver heat to your skin, so the doctor needs to know where they have placed it and where they have not. Then, a conducive jelly-like liquid is also put on the face to help the machine. Usually, the doctor will treat one side of your face, pulsing through multiple passes.

I personally thought that the heat was mildly painful in some areas (a 7/10 at worst). Unfortunately, you cannot be sedated or numbed through the procedure because the physician has to know whether or not they are causing you too much pain. After about 30 minutes, the jelly is wiped off and the area is sanitized once more.

As for results, after the three month mark, I can see a significant difference in my skin’s overall texture. It’s safe to sat that tighter, smoother, and seemingly less porous skin is very much achieved with this device. The lift in skin texture is obvious, as my skin feels a less loose or “grab-able” than ever before. I would highly recommend this procedure to anyone looking for preventative anti-aging skincare treatments, as well as anyone looking to tighten skin non-surgically, as it’s an incredible alternative.

Feature Image via Daniela Spector

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