Thermage: All Your Questions, Answered

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In a world where new anti-aging skincare products are always coming out, one might think that all you need to do to combat aging is head to your local drugstore or beauty retailer. However, if you’ve already begun to notice mild-to-moderate wrinkling and sagging (whether on your face or body)—and, more importantly, if you’re actively looking to address it (because by no means do you have to)—it might be time to turn your attention toward in-office skincare treatments.

One of the best anti-aging, skin-tightening options on the market is Thermage. We asked board-certified dermatologists Anne Chapas, MD, and Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, MD, and facial plastic surgeon Corey S. Maas, MD, to tell us everything there is to know about the device and how it works. Read on for what they had to say.

Meet the Expert

  • Anne Chapas, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the medical director of UnionDerm in New York City.
  • Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist with the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York.
  • Corey S. Maas, MD, is a facial plastic surgeon and president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS).

What Is Thermage?

Thermage is an in-office skincare device that uses radiofrequency energy to offer a host of anti-aging beauty benefits. 

“Thermage uses radiofrequency energy to heat the deeper layers in the skin and thus stimulate collagen production and improve laxity in the jowls, cheeks, neck, buttocks, abdomen, eyelids, hands, and extremities,” explains Chapas. As a result, she says that troubled areas of loose skin can look smoother, more contoured, and younger in appearance post-treatment. 

The beauty of Thermage is that the treatment is able to offer all of these benefits without being invasive. “Its radiofrequency technology heats the deep, collagen-rich layers of the skin, while the tip of the device vibrates and cools the surface to help aid in patient comfort,” explains Bae. Additionally, she points out that Thermage is the only skin tightening device in the United States indicated to treat the eyelids.

Benefits of Thermage

  • Tightens skin
  • Smoothes skin
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Improves face and body contours
  • Promotes a more youthful-looking appearance
  • Non-invasive procedure with little to no downtime

Thermage is a great option for those looking to book an in-office treatment with virtually no downtime. “Thermage helps deliver natural-looking results like smoother skin, softened wrinkles and lines, and improved contours of the face and body,” Bae shares. “Thermage also requires little to no downtime and most patients can return to their regular activities immediately following the treatment.”

What’s more, a 2019 study found that Thermage is among the most effective minimally invasive skin-tightening procedures within the anti-aging field.

How to Prepare for Thermage

Chapas and Bae say that, unlike some in-office skin treatments, Thermage doesn’t require any special preparation. You don’t have to stop drinking or avoid certain medications, nor do you need to switch up your regular beauty routine. 

One thing to note, however, is that if you have a cardiac pacemaker or any other active implant(s), Bae says you should not undergo a Thermage treatment, as the radiofrequency can interfere with them.  

What to Expect During Thermage

Once upon a time, Thermage was anything but popular. “When it was first introduced over 10 years ago, the treatment settings and patterns of energy delivery resulted in pain levels that were unacceptable for an office-based treatment,” says Maas. “The newer, current levels of energy and their means of delivery have been significantly modified to improve patient satisfaction as well as provide skin tightening effects.”

As Maas points out, the new modifications include a cooling surface interface, as well as a light vibrating motion, both of which serve to mitigate any discomfort associated with the radiofrequency heat treatment.

As a result of these adjustments, Chapas says that modern-day Thermage treatments are well-tolerated and typically take between 45 minutes and an hour. “Patients feel a mild warmth during the treatment and see about 10 percent of the tightening results immediately,” she adds. “The skin typically continues to improve up to three to six months following the treatment.”

Thermage vs. Other Radiofrequency Devices

The key difference between Thermage and other radiofrequency devices on the market is that Thermage is the only skin tightening device cleared for treatment on the eyelids. “When treating the eyes, it can help reduce hooding non-invasively and tighten the upper and lower eyelid for a refreshed look,” Bae says.

Additionally, Chapas says that Thermage is one of the best treatments for tightening on the body, as its large applicator can treat the abdomen, legs, arms, and buttocks within an hour.

In addition to its ability to treat areas both large and small, Bae says that Thermage is unique in its ability to deliver results in a single treatment. 

Potential Side Effects

While adverse effects are rare with Thermage, Bae admits that some are possible. ”Some patients have temporary redness or minor swelling after the treatment, but this usually goes away within 24 hours,” she says. “The treatment may also result in mild-to-moderate pain, pigment changes, altered sensation, edema, lumps, burns, blisters, scabbing, or scarring, but these adverse effects are typically temporary and resolve within a short period of time.”

The Cost

As always, the cost of a Thermage treatment depends on where you live, where you’re getting the treatment performed, and the area of your body in which you’re targeting. 

That said, Chapas says that a typical Thermage treatment usually starts at $2,500. Maas agrees with her numbers and adds that most physicians recommend this as part of an annual skin maintenance program.


Following a Thermage treatment, your skin may feel slightly irritated, but Maas says that it shouldn’t require any pain medication or product avoidance. “Makeup can be applied immediately to the treated area if necessary and approved by your doctor… so there is really no aftercare,” he says. With that in mind, he reminds any hopeful Thermage patients to be patient. “It takes three to six months to see the best results,” he says, echoing Chapas’s earlier comments. 

While you can go about your life as normal following treatment, Chapas and Bae do recommend ensuring that sunscreen is part of your routine.

The Final Takeaway

Thermage is a well-received anti-aging skincare treatment for those with mild-to-moderate loose, sagging skin. “Thermage is a gentle, non-invasive treatment that can be used to treat people of all ages and skin colors,” Bae adds. And since it doesn’t require any downtime or frequent follow-up appointments, it’s essentially a one-stop shop for more youthful-looking skin. 

That said, it’s important to be realistic with your expectations. “The key to success for physicians providing this service is to come to a clear understanding with the patient about how much improvement can be expected,” Maas says. “The treatment itself does mild-to-moderate tightening of the area of treatment and is thus not a replacement for surgical procedures like facelift surgery... a good consumer will carefully study before and after pictures in the doctor’s office, and ask to see only the results of the doctor, as well as how many he or she has done and what the common and worst side effects that they have seen are.” By following these tips, patients will be able to know whether or not the treatment is right for them. 

Article Sources
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  3. Pink L, D J. Determining the effectiveness of non-surgical skin tightening methods. Published online September 1, 2019.

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