RF is a frequency found within the electromagnetic spectrum that spans from radio waves to gamma rays. When RF energy is applied to human tissue via special devices, it generates heat. This heat energy can be manipulated for various applications in the medical field from tissue cutting and / or coagulation to skin tightening and rejuvenation in the face.
RF has been used for medical treatment for the past 70 years i.e diathermy, MRI, ablation. In 2002, Thermage becomes the first machine to be US FDA approved for skin tightening and wrinkle improvement. Other brands followed suit i.e Exilis, 3Deep RF, Accent XL and Fractora.
RF machines achieve rejuvenation by virtue of the tip transferring heat to the deep skin layers to effect contraction of collagen and stimulate production of new collagen. With aging, there is loss of collagen from the skin, causing wrinkling and loose skin. Therefore, repeated controlled heat stimulation of skin collagen production ultimately leads to firmer and tighter skin. Because the heat is transferred from skin surface to deeper layers, cooling needs to be concurrently administered to prevent heat damage to superficial skin.
Lasers and light devices target melanin in the skin. Hence, use for rejuvenation is off-limits for darker-skinned clients for example Fitzpatrick’s skin type VI. RF energy is electric-based, making it colour blind and therefore suitable for all skin types.
RF is non-invasive in that it does not disrupt the superficial skin layers. Therefore, downtime is minimal or negligible. As most RF devices nowadays provide concurrent surface cooling, pain is minimized. RF also does not target melanin and therefore provides a good alternative for those of dark - very dark skin types a chance for non-invasive rejuvenation
RF is suitable for clients who are not too old and whose skin is not too saggy. A realistic expectation from the client is also crucial as one cannot expect lifting results similar to surgery with just RF procedures.
As RF devices rely on tissue conduction of heat energy, it is difficult to accurately place the heat at the correct skin layer due to variations in skin thickness, hydration and composition. It can be deduced then that the outcome will be variable. However, recent advances saw companies coming out with more and more targeted RF, i.e Infini that delivers RF energy via insulated needles up to 3.5mm deep. Clients are usually advised to go for 6-8 sessions of RF treatment for best outcome.
As aging is a perpetual process, any benefit gained from RF is slowly lost once RF treatments are stopped. For better or longer lasting, clients are advised to combine RF with other aesthetic treatment modalities such as Botox, fillers, threads depending on level of acceptance.