Using high-intensity, focused ultrasound, high-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, is a non-invasive therapy that can help lift and tighten skin around the chin, neck, chest and brow areas by boosting your body’s natural collagen production. HIFU for the face is also known as the branded names of Ultherapy®, Ulthera®, or Ultraformer III®.
The content has been reviewed for quality and accuracy to the best of our knowledge by Qunomedical and its Medical Board of Experts.
High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) for the face was designed as a non-invasive technique to lift the skin on the neck, chin, and brow and to improve lines and wrinkles on the décolletage (the chest area). It achieves this using micro-focused ultrasound to stimulate collagen production deep in a subcutaneous layer of the skin.
HIFU focuses on a layer of the skin called the superficial musculoaponeurotic system, or SMAS. The SMAS is a continuous fibrous layer that is composed of collagen, elastin and muscle fibers as well as fat cells. It also connects your facial muscles to your dermis layer, and is located at different depths in different parts of the face and neck.
Micro-focused ultrasound creates heat energy that heats the SMAS to more than 60°C. The focused ultrasound forces the layer to contract and essentially damages or wounds the collagen fibers in this layer. This forces the collagen to mount a healing response and stimulates new collagen production.
HIFU does also work on more shallow layers of skin such as the deep dermis and superficial dermis. However, because the microfocused ultrasound is able to target the SMAS and bypass the top layers of skin, recovery time and side effects are kept to a minimum.
HIFUs were initially used to target tumors in the body. Shortly afterwards, the HIFU device Ulthera, later Ultherapy, was first FDA-cleared for use on the face.
Ultherapy is FDA-cleared to be used on the following areas where lines and wrinkles can also occur as we age:
Besides use on the face, the HIFU device Ultraformer III can also be used on fat and cellulite on other parts of the body.
You’ll first have a consultation with your practitioner to talk about which areas you would like to concentrate on, assess your skin and if you’re suitable for the procedure.
During this time your practitioner may provide you with a medication for any potential pain or apply a numbing cream for a bit to numb the areas being treated.
Your skin will be cleaned of any makeup or skin products. Your practitioner will have a planning card to figure out the correct number of treatment columns needed for you. They will actually draw on your face or neck and map out a grid of where to place the ultrasound wand. This gives them a visual marker of where to deliver the treatment and ensures there is no overlap.
An ultrasound gel will be applied. Ultrasound sound imaging will be used first to see deep into your skin using the ultrasound transducer, or wand. This helps determine the optimal placement and depth to target the microfocused ultrasound.
Once the placement has been determined, your treatment will begin. The same ultrasound transducer is used for imaging is also used for your treatment. The transducer is pressed firmly into the skin for a predetermined number of seconds while the line of ultrasound pulse is delivered. It is then slid slightly to the next location and the process is repeated multiple times. Different transducers may be used for different areas and to reach different depths.
The treatment can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes depending on which and how many areas are treated.
After your practitioner has covered all the areas to be targeted, the ultrasound gel is wiped off.
You may have some redness, slight swelling, or tenderness directly afterwards or bruising a few days later. Otherwise there is typically no downtime and you are able to leave right after your treatment. You can return to your usual activities and skincare routine immediately. You may need someone to take you home depending on any pain medication you decide to take.
Some people report that Ultherapy can be uncomfortable or painful and it can vary depending on your pain threshold. Your practitioner might recommend taking over-the-counter painkillers or prescribe a painkiller or relaxant before your procedure. Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) or numbing cream may also be offered. However, the pain typically only lasts as long as the ultrasound pulse is being delivered.
You might notice a slight improvement in your skin immediately after the procedure but you typically have to wait between 2 to 4 months to see your results. This because the Ultherapy stimulates collagen production but breaking it down and forcing a healing response. However since new collagen will be produced over several months afterwards, results may become more visible over time.
Even though new collagen can be produced for years afterwards, the visible effects of Ultherapy will vary according to how fast you personally age, and other factors that affect the skin such as sun damage, smoking, or your overall health. However, the effects from Ultherapy can be visible from 12 months to 3 years for some people.
High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) For Face is offered in 3 countries