Is High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) More Effective Than Face Lifts?

Introduction

A big discussion that is taking place at the moment is whether or not High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is going to replace face lifts in the world of cosmetics and aesthetic improvement. A HIFU treatment clinic in Bangkok is relatively new, there are many benefits to favouring this treatment over the traditional face lift. But before we can make a decision, first we must establish what HIFU is.

HIFU is considered to be a non-invasive procedure, particularly in comparison with face lifts. This painless treatment uses ultrasound energy to encourage the production of collagen, ultimately resulting in firmer, tighter skin.

Collagen is the main structural protein in the extracellular space in the various connective tissues in the body.”

HIFU background

HIFU is known for being used for treating tumours, though has since been used for aesthetic purposes as of 2008. This treatment was then approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) in 2009 for brow lifts. Then in 2014, the FDA approved HIFU to improve lines and wrinkles to the neckline and upper chest area.

A number of minor clinical trials have found that HIFU is almost certainly a safe and effective remedy for refining wrinkles and facial lifting. Those who have used HIFU treatment have seen positive results in as little as a few months after, absent the risks that come with facial lifting surgery (rhytidectomy).

In addition to the neck and upper chest, HIFU is also used for facial rejuvenation and body contouring, however, these are yet to have been approved by the FDA and are thus considered to be “off-label” uses of HIFU. Having said that, many people who have used HIFU for said “off-label” treatments have experienced positive results with a zero-recovery time—though more evidence will be needed before this promising treatment can be thoroughly approved.

An important thing to note is that High-intensity focused ultrasound is better suited to younger people (aged 30+) with less severe cases of sagging skin.

 

How does high-intensity focused ultrasound facial treatment work?

HIFU harnesses ultrasound energy and targets the layers of skin that lie just beneath the surface. The ultrasound energy encourages the lower layers of tissue to heat up rapidly. When the focused skin cells reach the target temperature, they will experience a level of cellular damage. This may sound counterintuitive and indeed, rather painful, however, the damage will in fact stimulate the cells to produce more collagen—which (as mentioned above) is a protein that provides additional structure to the skin.

This is where the tighter, firmer skin comes from; the increase in collagen, thus resulting in fewer wrinkles. In addition to that, as the ultrasound energy focuses on the lower levels of skin tissue, there will be no damage to the surface skin, hence why it is considered to be non-invasive.

Again, HIFU is not appropriate for everyone, so before exploring this treatment further, you should first consider the following factors:

  • HIFU is best suited for people aged 30 and over with mild to moderate skin laxity
  • Those with a higher degree of loose skin will likely need multiple treatments before experiencing positive results
  • Those much older than 30 which severe skin laxity are not suitable candidates and would be best suited to aesthetic surgery if they seek positive results
  • People with severe acne, skin lesions, eczema or infections are not recommended to pursue this treatment

HIFU aesthetic benefits

Between 2012 & 2017, the number of high-intensity focused ultrasound treatments performed has increased by 64%, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). This increase is almost certainly a direct result of the aesthetic benefits that HIFU offers.

  • Effective wrinkle reduction
  • Tighten the sagging skin under the neck
  • Lifting cheeks, eyebrows & lids
  • Enhancing the jawline and improving definition
  • Tightening the upper chest area
  • Smoothing the skin in general

Whilst the traditional face lift comes with many disadvantages when compared to HIFU, the results last significantly longer. Let’s compare the two so that you can make an informed decision as to which treatment is best suited to your requirements.

Invasiveness

  • HIFU: a non-invasive treatment that requires no incisions
  • Face lift: a highly invasive treatment that requires a number of sutures and incisions to the face

Affordability

  • HIFU: costs an average of $1700 USD
  • Face lift: costs an average of $7500 USD

Recovery time

  • HIFU: no recovery time whatsoever
  • Face lift: a minimum of two to four weeks

Risks

  • HIFU: minor swelling and redness to the face
  • Face lift: infection; bleeding ;blood clotting; pain &/or scarring; hair loss on the incision site; all additional risks that come with undergoing anaesthesia—nausea & vomiting; dry mouth; sore throat; confusion; muscle ache; itching; difficulty passing urine; dizziness; postoperative cognitive disfunction

Long-term effects

  • HIFU: positive results for at least 6 months (regularly treatment will be required)
  • Face lift: positive results for an average of 12 years

How does HIFU treatment feel?

Whilst HIFU is described as being a non-invasive treatment, you may experience slight discomfort during the procedure. Some people describe the treatment as little electrical pulses or a light prickling sensation under the skin. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea, there are steps that you can take ie., taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen to help with the swelling.

How does the appointment process work?

We’ve covered how the procedure itself works, but what can you expect from your appointment? Below we will list a step by step so that you will know what to expect when you book your HIFU appointment.

  • Your physician will clean the targeted area (ensure that you’re not wearing any makeup before arriving)
  • In some cases, a topical aesthetic cream may be applied
  • Your physician will then apply ultrasound gel to the targeted area
  • The HIFU device is then placed on your skin
  • Your physician will adjust the device until the correct setting is found, using an ultrasound viewer
  • The ultrasound energy is then delivered to your skin for 30 to 90 minutes (depending on the target area / type of treatment)—you’ll likely experience an uncomfortable tingling sensation
  • The device is removed
  • You’ll get cleaned up and have the option of scheduling your next appointment (if regular treatment is required)
  • You can then return home and get on with life absent any need for recovery time

Potential side effects after procedure

Again, the HIFU treatment is incredibly safe and non-invasive and will be carried out by a trained and qualified physician, thus the risks are very low. However, you may experience redness of the skin and minor swelling. Other than that, you’ll be able to carry on about your day without any issues. It may just look as though you’ve been in the sun for too long or you’ve just had a good workout at the gym.

Conclusion

What we can gather from these comparisons is that if you’re looking for long-term results and are comfortable with the higher cost and the risks involved, then a face lift might be your preferred choice. However, on the whole, high-intensity focused ultrasound treatment is far safer, less-painful and produces incredibly positive results. The fact that HIFU is significantly cheaper, means that you will be able to afford regular treatment as and when a “top-up” is required.

The reality is that at some point, a face lift is going to be very noticeable and that’s not always a positive as you get older. I’m sure we won’t have to offer any examples of those who have under-gone extensive aesthetic facial surgery who now don’t look any younger, only, unnatural. Therefore, it’s fair to say that HIFU is almost certainly the best course of action to take for individuals who would like to “age gracefully” with the occasional non-invasive treatment to tighten their skin and make them feel more confident.

It’s hard to deny the advantages that HIFU has over the traditional face lift. There are no incisions involved, zero scarring afterwards, there’s no recovery time, and it’s significantly cheaper. In addition to that, you can experience results in as little as three months after the treatment. That’s a fast turn around time, considering the fact that there are no risks involved.

It’s important to remember that high-intensity focused ultrasound is no miracle cure. Nobody can stave off the relentless advance of aging that hounds us all. However, with this treatment, you can indeed make your skin feel tighter and smoother, with fewer wrinkles, for longer.

If you have any questions and would like to gather more information from us regarding the procedure, then please feel free to contact us today. One of our friendly and professional representatives will gladly accommodate you.

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