Mark your calendar: When you turn 50, you will notice your neck. You may never have given it a second glance, but out of nowhere, thoughts about your neck will start to take up more space in your brain. You will ask yourself when those horizontal "necklace" lines got there. You will pinch your neck's delicate skin and wonder why it doesn't snap back into place. You'll find yourself chatting with friends about your neck, and they'll want to talk about their necks, too.
My intrusive neck thoughts led me to try Sofwave. The in-office device uses a form of ultrasound to rebuild your skin's supportive collagen and elastin fibers without affecting the surface of your skin. It can be used to lift skin that's already started to sag or prevent the sagging from beginning in the first place. While I wouldn't say I'm approaching face-lift territory, I'm definitively not pre-sagging.
I decided to schedule a visit with dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy Rose—the Sofwave Whisperer for many beauty editors. I also had a long chat with plastic surgeon Dr. Yael Halaas and her aesthetician, Brittany Blancato, about the non-invasive treatment. Read on to see how my 52-year-old face fared.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Blair Murphy Rose, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist practicing in New York City and the Hamptons. She is an accomplished cosmetic, medical, and surgical dermatologist specializing in leading-edge facial rejuvenation techniques.
- Dr. Yael Halaas, MD, FACS, is a double board-certified plastic surgeon practicing in New York City and Westchester. She currently is the chairperson of Emerging Trends and Technology for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
- Brittany Blancato is a sought-after aesthetician at Dr. Halaas’s practice and a trained Softwave technician; she’s purified the pores of many a celebrity.
What is Sofwave?
Sofwave uses Synchronous Ultrasound Parallel Beam (SUPERB™) technology to generate heat 1.5mm below the skin's surface, in the dermal layer of skin, where collagen is created. "The heat causes a targeted injury that triggers a very powerful boost of collagen production and tightens the existing collagen fibers, giving the skin a lift," explains Murphy Rose. "The surface of the skin is unaffected, as are the fat and the nerves."
In addition to treating the fine lines and wrinkles on the face, Sofwave was recently FDA cleared to lift eyebrows, under the chin, and the neck. 80% of clinical trial patients saw improvement in 12 weeks.
Benefits of Sofwave
- Reduces fine lines and wrinkles on the face
- Lifts eyebrows
- Improves laxity of skin under the chin and on the neck
- Results in 12 weeks and, anecdotally, within one week, as well
- Quick, tolerable procedure
- No downtime
"Sofwave is excellent for someone like yourself who's not a candidate for a facelift," Dr. Murphy Rose diplomatically told me, "but everyone can use a collagen boost. Collagen is the main structural protein of the skin, and it helps keep everything where we want it, but we lose about 1% of our collagen per year. Sofwave is a great way to restore that collagen."
The creation of new collagen and restructuring of existing collagen becomes noticeable around 12 weeks post-treatment. Still, Dr. Murphy Rose is also finding her patients have even quicker gratification: "Every patient I've treated with this device has told me they've seen a tightening effect within a week."
Sofwave can also produce that sought-after snatched look. "My patients in their 30s still have a little baby fat on their faces but want to look super-defined," says Dr. Hallas. "Sofwave gives them a more chiseled jawline and more defined cheekbones without having to remove the fat from their faces that they're going to want later."
How to Prepare for Sofwave
There's no intense preparation for Sofwave. If you are prone to cold sores, you'll want to pre-treat that day with valacyclovir to prevent an outbreak (this goes for pretty much any energy-based treatment). One more thing to remember: Some providers prefer not to inject neurotoxin or fillers 48 hours before or after Sofwave, so don't expect to "get the works" that day.
What to Expect During Sofwave
I'm at the age where almost every treatment I do at the dermatologist requires numbing first, and Sofwave is no exception. I sat for about 30 minutes with a numbing compound all over my face and neck so the heat produced by the ultrasound waves wouldn't make me flinch during the treatment. At Dr. Halaas's practice, they offer Pro-Nox (laughing gas) to take the edge off during the treatment. The Sofwave device is also equipped with a cooling plate that sits against the skin during the treatment to keep the skin's surface from getting too hot.
After removing the numbing cream, Dr. Murphy Rose applied ultrasound gel to my face and neck, which created a bond between the skin and the ultrasound transducer to conduct the energy. "We have seven transducers working all at once, so we can cover a good-sized area," Dr. Murphy Rose explained. She showed me the handpiece for the device and then held it to my face for the first blast. The heat comes on as a slow build: first nothing, then warmth, and just as you're reaching the point where it's going to be too much, you're done. And then you move on to the next spot. For the last two seconds of each seven-second interval, I found myself smacking my hands against my thighs (my version of squeezing a squishy ball), but at no point did I feel like I had to call it quits. The session took about 30 minutes for my whole face and neck.
There are things I like about this photo: my lashes are rockin', and my cleavage looks pretty perky. But zoom in, and you'll see a hint of a double chin (I'm pretty sure it's skin, not fat) and some bunching of the skin on my neck.
Three months later: Look at my neck: It's smooth, and the little under-chin smooshiness is gone, too. As Dr. Murphy Rose promised, within a week of my Sofwave treatment, my chin, cheekbones, and jawline looked sharper. It took a little longer to see a difference in the skin of my neck, but it's definitely smoother now. Blancato says: "I've had patients texting me two weeks out being like, 'Oh my god, this is amazing.' By the fourth week, I'll hear, 'I think something's happening, but I can't tell what.' By the time they hit 60 days, it's more like, 'Oh my god, who's this?' They love what they see in the mirror."
Sofwave vs Ultherapy
Sofwave is similar to Ultherapy, an ultrasound treatment that also targets the face and neck. In Ultherapy, the ultrasound waves penetrate to three different depths: 1.5mm (where Sofwave also does its work), 3.0mm, and 4.5mm, penetrating through to fat, nerves, and superficial muscular tissue. This has its pluses and minuses: Ultherapy can tighten muscle tissue in addition to skin, as would happen on a grander scale in a facelift. The downside is Ultherapy can hurt, even with numbing and Pro-Nox.
As Blancato explains, Ultherapy is more provider-dependent than Sofwave. "I've done so many Ultherapy treatments, and it so tedious," she laughs. "You can't have too much or too little gel; you have to have the perfect pressure and contact with the skin; everything has to be super perfect." Sofwave, she says, is "more like a point and shoot device."
Potential Side Effects
Sofwave’s clinical studies showed no adverse effects, and that was my experience, as well. If you’re prone to hyperpigmentation or are taking medication, a Sofwave treatment may make you more susceptible to hyperpigmentation (as with any heat-producing skin treatment). You should let your provider know about any concerns before treatment.
The price of Sofwave depends on the area treated and the location of your provider. In New York City, if you want a brow lift, it’ll cost about $1200. Just under your chin? About $800. The full face and neck will run between $3500 and $4500.
"Sofwave has zero downtime," says Dr. Murphy Rose. "Patients may have a little pinkness during the treatment, but it's gone by the time you leave the office." As soon as my treatment was done, I went into the ladies' room to apply makeup—I had an event to go to immediately after my session—and my BB cream was more than enough to even out any post-treatment blotchiness.
The Final Takeaway
Since my treatment three months ago, it seems like all my beauty editor buddies are trying (and loving) Sofwave. A second round of Sofwave can be considered at the three-month mark. While I don't think I necessarily need it, I want it! And here's how I know my results aren't some placebo effect: A month ago, I ran into a colleague who's about my age. I caught her checking out my neck. I swear it's not weird—it's just what we 50-somethings do. "Have you had work done?" she asked. "No knives, just Sofwave," I told her and promptly DM'd her Dr. Murphy Rose's number.