Radiofrequency Skin Tightening: All About This Long-Term Skin Solution

Radiofrequency Skin Tightening

Getty/Design by Cristina Cianci

If you’ve noticed sagging around your lids, cheeks, jaw, or neck, chances are, you’ve searched for ways to address it. And, as much as you may hope to find a solution within a jar or bottle of skincare, those products typically don’t have what it takes to reverse the effects of sagging fully. However, radiofrequency skin tightening treatments do—which is ultimately to say, if you’re searching for ways to reverse skin sagging, you’re in the right place. Ahead, discover everything there is know about radiofrequency skin tightening, including what it feels like, what aftercare is like, and how long results typically last. 

Meet the Expert

  • Gabrielle Garritano is a New York-licensed physician assistant and the founder and CEO of Ject.
  • Howard Sobel is the founder of Sobel Skin and attending dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

What Is Radiofrequency Skin Tightening?

Ever heard of Thermage? That's just one example of a radiofrequency device designed to target the texture, firmness, and overall appearance of skin. But how does it work?

“Radiofrequency therapy is a non-invasive/non-surgical treatment to address fine lines and sagging skin,” explains board-certified, New York-licensed Physician Assistant, Gabrielle Garritano, who is the founder and CEO of Ject. “This procedure uses energy waves to heat the deep layers of your skin (dermis), thus stimulating the production of fibroblasts, which play a critical role in the production of collagen and wound healing.” When the energy waves make contact, Garritano says that they trigger tissue contraction, effectively resulting in tighter skin.


While radiofrequency skin tightening is a wonderful treatment all on its own, Howard Sobel, founder of Sobel Skin and Attending Dermatologist and Dermatologic Surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says that Vivace—a combination of microneedling treatment, radiofrequency (RF), and LED light therapy—is especially popular at his practice. “Vivace laser treatment encompasses the next wave of skin rejuvenation therapy and diminishes fine lines, wrinkles, and other blemishes, and provides a more youthful appearance by firming and lifting sagging skin,” he explains.

Benefits of Radiofrequency Skin Tightening

  • Boosts collagen production
  • Offers immediate results
  • Accelerates healing
  • Tightens skin
  • Improves texture and tone overall

 “Beginning in our 20s, we lose about 1% of collagen each year, which unfortunately leads to less plump and radiant skin,” Garritano explains. “Radiofrequency skin tightening stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, resulting in tighter skin.” That’s because collagen and elastin help to improve skin texture and elasticity and minimize the appearance of enlarged pores, superficial acne, scarring, and fine lines and wrinkles.

The best part about radiofrequency treatments is that they don’t require injections or surgery to bring results to life. “Radiofrequency will help improve jawline definition, sculpt cheekbones, tighten the neck, and enhance the contours of the face,” Garritano says.

How to Prepare for Radiofrequency Skin Tightening

Unlike some cosmetic treatments, radiofrequency skin tightening doesn’t require much prep work. That said, Garritano says if you’ve recently had a microneedling treatment, chemical peel, dermal fillers, and/or wrinkle reducers, it’s best to wait one month before getting skin tightening. This will help avoid any risks or adverse effects.

What to Expect During a Radiofrequency Skin Tightening Treatment

Radiofrequency skin tightening treatments aren’t typically painful; however, many dermatologists, estheticians, and physician assistants will apply a topical numbing cream before the treatment, just in case. That said, Sobel says that radiofrequency treatments are very comfortable, and patients who prefer not to numb typically tolerate the treatment very well and report feeling a light pressure with an occasional warm, sparking feeling.

As for the treatment itself, Garritano says that a thick layer of cooled ultrasound gel is applied to the treatment area once it’s been numbed (if you opt for numbing). Once the area is prepped with gel, she says that patients can expect to feel mild heat to the skin, similar to a hot stone massage. In total, the treatment tends to last between 20 and 40 minutes.

Radiofrequency Skin Tightening vs. Other Skin Tightening Treatments

While radiofrequency skin tightening does work well to tighten and tone skin, it doesn’t do so by melting or dissolving fat, as some other tightening treatments do. Instead, Garritano says that radiofrequency is used to tighten the skin by building collagen. Additionally, she points out that many other skin tightening treatments tend to result in swelling and pain. On the converse, RF skin tightening is typically pain-free and results in zero downtime.

Potential Side Effects

On its own, RF is incredibly safe and doesn’t typically lead to ample adverse side effects. When combined with laser therapy and/or microneedling (as many of Sobel’s patients opt for), however, temporary redness, tingling, and swelling can occur. “There is a slight risk of infection at the insertion site, though this is extremely rare,” Sobel adds.

The Cost

Individual radiofrequency skin tightening treatments aren’t super expensive—at least not compared to cosmetic treatments in the thousands. That said, Gaarritano says that a single session typically costs around $500 and, for best results, patients should opt for a series of treatments, meaning the whole process could end up in the $1500 to $2000 range.

As with all cosmetic treatments, pricing will vary based on your location. That said, it’s best to speak with a local dermatologist for a more precise estimate. 

Aftercare

Considering the side effects of radiofrequency skin tightening are minimal, aftercare isn’t much to worry about. According to Garritano, patients may experience mild redness. Still, more often than not, they can get back to their normal skincare routine and activities immediately after treatment, without fear of looking flushed or burned. 

As for results, Garritano says that you will immediately see a tighter and more contoured appearance following an RF skin tightening treatment. “Results last two-to-three weeks after the first treatment and longer after subsequent treatments,” she explains, noting that her practice recommends a series of six treatments to promote optimal collagen remodeling and one to two treatments a year for maintenance thereafter. 

The Final Takeaway

Radiofrequency skin tightening addresses sagging skin by promoting collagen production. It’s an ideal treatment for anyone with mild sagging skin on their face and neck, though it can be used on other areas of the body (such as the abdomen and thighs) as well, so long as you get your dermatologist’s go ahead. While the results aren’t permanent, they are long-lasting and can be maintained with just a couple of treatments per year. 

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