Posted on April 25th, by staff in Treatments. 13 comments


Thermage is the non-invasive anti-aging treatment that Gwyneth Paltrow recently praised for making her look refreshed. The 40-year-old actress told Self Magazine, “I don’t mind a few wrinkles and freckles. I had this laser treatment recently, Thermage, and it took a couple of years off my face but I haven’t had any plastic surgery yet.” 

Mrs. GOOP wasn’t the first celebrity to tout Thermage’s efficacy—Oprah put it on the map back in 2006 when she, too, praised it. Ok, so what if it has a cute name and celebrities like it, right? After all celebrities are not the most reliable experts.

Looking at the science of Thermage, we begin with clarifying a common misconception.  Thermage is not technically a laser; it is radio frequency energy. Radio frequency (RF) has been used in the medical field for over 70 years, most notably in wound-healing (Annals of Surgery, 2012).

Cosmetic uses

Thermage was first approved by the FDA in 2002 for use around the eyes, facial wrinkles in 2004, and then cellulite and body laxity in 2005. Most dermatologists agree that it can tighten skin.  Toronto-based cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Lisa Kellett goes on to say, “Thermage works by using radio frequency to tighten skin. The heat dissipates quickly but the effect of the heat stimulates collagen tightening and the effects last a couple of years”. That’s why most people need just one treatment, with full results seen within 3-6 months afterwards. “Thermage does not harm (ablate) the skin’s surface, so there will be no downtime with a gradual tightening occurring especially on the lower face and neck,” adds cosmetic nurse Diana Phillips.

While Thermage can be used on many areas of the body, Phillips is especially fond of the results she has seen from her eye rejuvenation patients. The underlying dermal volume loss from age results in sagging of eyelid skin. Says Phillips, “Thermage is one of the few proven technologies that can be used to safely treat the delicate skin around the eyes, and I have seen the most impressive results from Thermage on mature eye skin.” Thermage is known to help reverse that dreaded hooded eyelid look (think Susan Sarandon, 66 years old).

How it works

Thermage uses something called monopolar radio frequency. Monopolar means that the current emitted moves in one direction.  When the pulse from the hand piece hits the skin, the RF energy travels deep down into the lowest layers of the skin where skin-plumping collagen resides. The heat from the RF changes the structure of the collagen proteins, making them recoil and tight again, translating to tighter and more youthful-looking skin. Think of when you boil eggs, the heat denatures the protein and causes the eggs to stiffen. The same thing happens to the collagen in your skin when heat is introduced, at around 40 to 75 degrees Celsius, from a Thermage tip. These heat settings are controlled by the physician who works with your tolerance level, ensuring a comfortable and effective treatment.

Below is a photo of one of Dr. Kellett’s patients who had Thermage done on her full face. The after photo was taken five months after one treatment.

It is important to keep in mind that Thermage is medical-grade technology, so it should only be used under a qualified physician’s care–there are several inferior spa-grade skin tightening machines out there. For more information about Thermage, and before and after photos, click here.


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