“Is Ultherapy or Thermage better for me, doctor?”
If you have asked this question before, congratulations! You have come a long way in exploring non-surgical anti-ageing treatment. This is one of the most asked questions in my practice, so I think it’s time to answer this question once and for all. If you are still unsure of which treatment you should go for, read on.
While there are many good reasons why these 2 treatments are often compared, they are actually based on completely different technologies.
The good news is that they are both FDA (US) approved devices for medical usage. Both treatments also have a reliable history and track record. The fact that these 2 technologies survive and continue to do better each year for the last 10 over years speaks volumes, with over 1 million treatments performed worldwide by each device. They are established treatments, and can cost thousands of dollars per treatment.
Key comparison between Ultherapy and Thermage
Both Ultherapy and Thermage aim to stimulate collagen production and delay overall skin ageing. But they do this in different ways.
Ultherapy uses microfocused ultrasound energy with real time visualisation.
Thermage uses monopolar radiofrequency.
Simply put, both generate sufficient and optimal energy for the skin to stimulate collagen production and ultimately produce skin tightening and lifting effects.
Depth of energy delivery
Ultherapy delivers ultrasound energy up to 4.5mm, which is the SMAS layer of the skin.
Thermage delivers RF energy up to 3.0mm, which is the dermis layer of the skin.
In other words, Ultherapy goes deeper and treats your skin from inside out. Thermage treats the more superficial layer of the skin.
Duration of treatment
Duration of treatment is similar – about 45 to 90 minutes depending on the area of treatment.
Both Ultherapy and Thermage were extremely painful treatments when they were first launched more than a decade ago. Technology and technique have improved significantly since then, and treatments are way more comfortable today.
In my experience, Ultherapy is generally a more comfortable treatment due to its precision in energy delivery with real time visualisation. Having said that, the latest generation of Thermage FLX has in-built cooling and vibrating function that minimises discomfort with each shot.
Results from Ultherapy and Thermage are often subtle and progressive. They are never dramatic. In fact, most people will not notice any visible changes. This is because these changes occur over a period of time, and are unnoticeable as we look at ourselves in the mirror every day.
However, people you who don’t see you often may notice these changes. If you are looking for dramatic changes, do not do Ultherapy or Thermage. Go for face lift surgery instead.
Theoretically, Thermage produces results earlier (from 6 weeks) compared to Ultherapy (from 2 months). In real life, this is not important because the purpose of doing both treatment is long term anti-ageing effect.
Ultherapy and Thermage can be repeated once every 6 to 12 months depending on age and severity of skin ageing.
Ideal candidate for each treatment
Thermage and Ultherapy are suitable for men and women with mild to moderate skin ageing. Thermage targets more superficial skin layers therefore is ideal for improvement of mild wrinkles and loose skin. Ultherapy goes deeper therefore is ideal for improvement of mild sagging and folds.
Having said that, this is all theoretical. Every person responds to these treatments differently. It is also operator dependent – meaning the treatment must be done correctly, tailored to each individual’s unique face. There is no default blueprint that works for everyone.
Thermage and Ultherapy combo?
Another question that I often get asked is : Can I do both?
The answer is a resounding yes. All the comparisons mentioned above become irrelevant when we increasingly understand the skin ageing process. There is no single treatment that promises everything. However, if combined correctly, technology can help address different skin ageing concerns. Thermage and Ultherapy target different layers of the skin with different types of energy, and can address various skin ageing concerns.
How do I combine them?
There is no hard and fast rule. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to delay skin ageing.
They can be done 6 months apart. Some choose to alternate the treatment every year.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can even do the two on the same day.
What is the downtime like?
Ultherapy and Thermage produce minimal downtime. You may have mild redness, swelling and soreness for up to a week. Some people do not even feel anything the very next day. If you are concerned about downtime, it will be wise to do the 2 treatments on different days. Doing them on the same day may be very uncomfortable with longer downtime.