What is Acne & What Causes Acne?
January 9, 2020

Ultherapy® vs HIFU (High-intensity focused ultrasound): Is there a Right Choice For You?

The often-terrifying spectre of aging is one that haunts us all. It starts out with a few wrinkles, before devolving into a jumble of age spots and saggy skin that’s enough to send you reeling. You can dread it, or even try to flee, but any attempt to avoid it only prolongs the inevitable. If this sounds like a terribly bleak prognosis, fret not—for the solution to all of your troubles may be just around the corner.

With a variety of new and targeted treatments like Ultherapy®, which is a type of HIFU (High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound) device, the process of aging has never met more formidable foes.

So, Ultherapy® is essentially the same as HIFU? Yes, and No! Ultherapy® is a brand that is recognised globally in the aesthetic world for more than a decade and more than 1 million cases has been performed worldwide so far. Ultherapy® is a medical device and that is approved by FDA, the United States’ Food & Drug Administration (US FDA) for lifting and tightening skin. It is a non-surgical lifting treatment meant for browlift, lower face and submental (jawline), neck and décolletage (upper chest). As it is a medical device that has to be registered with the Singapore’s Health and Sciences Authority (HSA), only medical doctors are allowed to deliver the treatment with the Ultherapy® Device in Singapore.

Whereas for other HIFU devices, there are many brands available in the market such as ultraformer, ultraskin, Hi-queen, doublo and more. There are Korean and china made HIFU machines that has flooded the market and many beauty salons have started offering HIFU treatments at very competitive prices. However, the safety profile of such machines used in spas and salons are always questionable. Whether or not it is Ultherapy or generic HIFU devices, both are able to deliver high energy into the skin to achieve skin tightening and lifting effect. If they are not done properly, side effect such as burns, short term nerve injury or prolonged pain and swelling may occur. Therefore, seeking for an experienced doctor for Ultherapy or HIFU treatment is utmost important.

Let’s look into these HIFU devices that are “Same Same” but different in some ways before deciding which one is right for you?

What is Ultherapy® or HIFU treatment (High-intensity focused ultrasound)?

If given a choice, most of us would prefer to conquer aging with treatments that are as natural as possible. Ultherapy® or generic HIFU treatments are non-surgical treatments with low or no downtime, comparing to other minimally invasive treatments such as threadlifts, toxins, fillers that involves injecting or inserting products into the skin to reverse aging. Ultherapy® is a treatment that works by delivering energy into different layer of skin to stimulate new collagen and elastin and lead to skin lifting and tightening over 2-3 months. The process is gradual, natural and subtle. Nobody can tell what you have done, you just look different in a good way. For ultherapy or a medical grade HIFU device, the lifting effect may sustain between 12 -18 months. However, if the energy or shots delivered to the skin is insufficient, multiple sessions of HIFU is required to achieve significant results.

How Ultherapy® or HIFU works and the reliability of it?

Essentially (High-intensity focused ultrasound) is a form of ultrasound energy that is being delivered through the skin in a form of lines with small pockets of energy without injuring the superficial skin. These tiny pockets of heat will heat up the deeper skin tissue up to 60-70C in a controlled and precise manner. The heated skin tissue will then undergo repair and rebuild, leading to more new collagen and elastin production that eventually tighten and lift sagging skin.

For safety profile comparing generic HIFU and Ultherapy®, Ultherapy® device will have an upper hand thanks to the DeepSEE technology – a unique visual aid (ultrasound window), whereby doctors are able to visualise the layer of skin that we are delivering the energy while avoiding important structure such as blood vessels, bones or even nerves. Hence, Ultherapy® is a safer and more reliable device for both practitioners and patients comparing to generic HIFU devices. Whereas for HIFU, the practioners or beauticians will have to treat the affected area blindly by delivering intense and focused ultrasound into the skin layer without any visual guidance. The risks of injuring the important structures or heating up the wrong layer of skin tissue is higher.

For both Ultherapy and HIFU treatments, energy pockets are generated in a form of lines and commonly the heat will be delivered to the depths ranging from 1.5–4.5 millimetres for the face and neck treatment. At 3.0mm, the energy delivered to the subcutaneous tissues will activate dormant cells and stimulate collagen production. At 4.5mm, the heat energy from the laser is used to contract the Superficial Muscular Aponeurotic System (SMAS), the same layer of skin that surgeons operate on during a real surgical facelift. By delivering the heat at these two layers of the skin, collagen will reproduce within the dermal layer and cause skin tightening effect over the course of 2-3 months.

What can I expect from each treatment?

Pain levels
Worry about the pain and heat from the treatment? Rest assured that it is easily manageable with just two simple steps. Mild to moderate pain, tingling or needling sensation can be felt during treatment and such sensation can be reduced by applying topical anesthesia cream and oral pain relief prior to the treatment. Patients should be prepared to experience some mild side effects, including a slight tingling sensation or temporary swelling or soreness for a few days right after treatment.

Downtime

You will be glad to hear that both Ultherapy and HIFU involve little to no downtime, and you will not have to spend time waiting for any part of your skin to recover from the treatment.

Follow-up sessions

For most of us, time is more precious than gold. Ultherapy treatment is known to be a treatment that is able to deliver results in one single treatment. You may repeat the treatment once every 12-18 months. However, in some cases with severe laxity, Ultherapy can be repeated after 6 months. In contrast, generic HIFU treatments requires more follow-up sessions than Ultherapy: depending on your initial skin laxity, the HIFU device that is being used, the number of shots being delivered to the skin, and etc. You may require 2–3 sessions (spaced about 2-4 weeks apart) in order to see more effective or sustainable results in some cases.

What to look out for before doing Ultherapy or HIFU?

What is the price of Ultherapy vs HIFU?

Price of Ultherapy treatment is highly depending on the area being treated. Each area will be charged differently depending on the severity of your condition and it is “dosage dependant”. If you are having a lot of sagging skin, naturally you will need more energy to lift them up, and hence the price of treatment will be higher too. To simplify the context, we shall take a treatment of 500 shots (gold standard) as a benchmark.

For Ultherapy, a benchmark of 500 lines is generally charging above $3000 island wide. Be aware of some clinics that often advertise as “full face treatment @ $1xxx nett” or price that is extremely low compared to the norm. As good things never come cheap. The price you pay for Ultherapy is always equivalent to how much energy you are getting. Hence, it affect the effectiveness of your treatment.

As for HIFU, the price is generally cheaper than ultherapy, say around 10-15 % cheaper than ultherapy, assuming we are comparing the treatment with similar protocol. Similarly, price is always equivalent to the outcome of your treatment. A $200 HIFU treatment will not lift your skin that much, will it?

Are there any myths associated with HIFU and Ultherapy?

Will my face become stiff?

In this regard, you have nothing to worry about; in fact, you might just enjoy the opposite effect, as your skin becomes smoother and gains more volume. Both HIFU and Ultherapy do not alter the rigidity of your skin. Instead, they reflect against and shape your facial contours to give you a more youthful look.

Can HIFU or Ultherapy replace a surgical facelift?

While it may seem that both HIFU and Ultherapy may serve as a substitute for the effects of a surgical facelift (namely lifting and tightening of the skin), they are ultimately non-surgical procedures and therefore cannot serve as a complete replacement for the latter. However, they can be used as an alternative for patients who do not wish to take on the risk or hassle involved in a surgical facelift.

Who should ideally undergo HIFU and Ultherapy respectively?

Ultherapy is usually performed on the brow, chin, neck and chest. Similar to HIFU, similar areas can be treated. Some medical grade HIFUs do have a special handpiece to treat the body as well, which is not available with the Ultherapy device.

Although both HIFU and Ultherapy may be used by patients of all ages and genders, the best candidates (for either treatment) are patients in the 30’s up to early 50’s with mild to moderate degree of skin laxity (including wrinkles and loose or saggy skin) or facial fat.

So which procedure is right for me?

Ultimately, your choice of procedure should depend on reliability and safety of the device that you choose to believe in? Which one fits into your budget? And how many times of treatment are you willing to go through to achieve the desirable effect? Most importantly, approach a doctor that you are comfortable with, someone that is experienced in performing Ultherapy or HIFU, and understand well of what you are signing up for.

Ultherapy has the best safety profile with FDA approval to treat skin lifting. Treatment is performed under ultrasound guidance. One single treatment is sufficient to sustain results up to 18 months. However, it is slightly more expensive in comparison to generic HIFU.

For generic HIFU treatment, it is depending on which device that you are going after. Treatment cost will usually be cheaper for each treatment. Multiple treatments may be required to achieve drastic and sustainable results.

I believe these are the factors that are worth pondering before you make a decision to pick the RIGHT choice.