So, Are Radiofrequency Treatments Really Safe?

Benefits of radio frequency

With quick, comfortable treatment, zero downtime, and no scars, non-surgical skin tightening has become a popular way for patients to enhance their appearance and self-confidence without taking time for surgery and recovery.

Radiofrequency, the technology used by Thermi, Exilis, Profound RF, Thermage, etc., has been used for non-surgical skin tightening since 2001; however, it has only recently gained widespread recognition, thanks to high-profile celebrities who rave about the benefits of their RF treatments. If you’re new to the idea of non-surgical RF treatments as a way to improve your appearance, you may wonder, are they safe?

In short, yes—as long as you choose an experienced provider, such as a board certified cosmetic surgeon, who offers FDA cleared technologies. However, the more you know, the better choices you can make about your treatment options, so we’ve explored this question in greater detail below.

What exactly is radiofrequency?

Radiofrequency is a type of energy, which is measured in “frequency,” or wavelengths per second. All types of energy, from the sound waves your iPod emits, to sunlight, to the heat coming off your body, to gamma rays, are classified according to their frequency on the “electromagnetic spectrum.”

Radiofrequency (RF) is one category on this spectrum, and includes a lot of common energy types we use every day: WiFi signals, radio and TV waves, and microwave ovens. The RF energy used in skin tightening is in the ballpark of 450 kilohertz, which is on the slow end of the radiofrequency range. To put it in greater perspective, the wavelength used in RF skin tightening is about 100 million times slower than visible light, and over 1 billion times slower than an X ray. Physics lesson aside, RF energy is quite calm when one considers the whole electromagnetic spectrum.

How does radiofrequency tighten skin?

Like any form of energy, RF has the capacity to produce heat—and while each brand-name application uses a slightly different technology, all work by heating the skin’s deeper layers to induce new collagen and elastin production and encourage cell turnover, helping skin become firmer, thicker and more youthful-looking.

An advantage of using RF to heat tissues, as opposed to lasers (which use higher-frequency light waves), is that the lower frequency of RF can safely penetrate to a deeper level, helping to improve skin tone and structure, even lifting tissues. Lasers for the most part work to improve the skin’s surface. Moreover, RF can safely treat more patients with different skin tones without risking permanent discoloration.

Of course, the safety and efficacy of non-surgical RF or any treatment depends on the experience and skill of the person providing that treatment (more on that later).

Is radiofrequency safe? Here’s what studies show.

We’re all exposed to low levels of human-made RF every day, from cell phones, TV, WiFi, etc. Because it’s used for so many things, radiofrequency has been extensively studied for its impact on human health. According to the FDA, the World Health Organization has classified RF radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”—right along with coffee, power lines, and body powder. However, there is no conclusive evidence that RF exposure increases cancer risk in humans, even in people regularly exposed to higher amounts of RF for their jobs.

Both the American Cancer Society and Federal Communications Commission have issued extensive reports on possible impact of radiofrequency exposure. According to the FCC: “While some experimental data have suggested a possible link between exposure and tumor formation in animals [male rats] exposed under certain specific conditions [9 hours of daily exposure], the results have not been independently replicated. Many other studies have failed to find evidence for a link to cancer or any related condition.”

The main known risk associated with RF is the potential for burns from the thermal heating effect for people exposed to high doses—for instance, those who work around radar equipment without proper protection.

Radiofrequency in FDA-cleared non-surgical tissue tightening is highly controlled for your safety

With the above information, you may ask, if exposure of high doses of radiofrequency can cause burns, will non-surgical RF treatments hurt me? If you are a good candidate for the procedure and it is performed correctly, no.

The radiofrequency used in non-surgical treatments is different from that emitted by your microwave or cell phone, or radar equipment—the radiofrequency in skin tightening treatments is highly controlled. FDA cleared technologies use equipment that allows the practitioner to monitor and control the device during treatment to ensure that targeted tissues reach the optimal temperature to induce new collagen production and cell regeneration without overheating.

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Clinical studies have demonstrated an excellent safety profile on RF procedures for skin tightening, whether it be for vaginal rejuvenation, facial skin tightening, or body contouring.

What are the side effects of radiofrequency treatments?

Along with effectively lifting and tightening tissues without surgery or downtime, one of the greatest benefits of RF treatments, when performed correctly, is that post-procedure recovery is very quick and easy. Side effects are typically minimal and short-lived, limited to mild and temporary swelling, redness, and tingling, depending on the treatment. RF treatments can also be performed safely in tandem with injectables, microneedling, or other minimally-invasive treatments.

Always choose an experienced, qualified provider for non-surgical skin tightening

As low-risk, convenient, and effective as they are, apply the same level of scrutiny in choosing a provider for non-surgical RF treatments as you would for cosmetic surgery. Like any concentrated dose of energy, RF carries a risk for burns if performed incorrectly. You can almost completely mitigate this risk by choosing a provider who has in-depth knowledge and extensive experience in cosmetic laser and energy treatments, and specific training and experience in the treatment application you are considering.

A board certified cosmetic surgeon will be most likely to have the skill and experience to perform RF treatments safely and effectively and will offer FDA cleared technologies that have been thoroughly tested for safe administration of radiofrequency. A highly experienced physician’s assistant or registered nurse who meets the above qualifications and is operating under supervision of a board certified cosmetic surgeon may also be qualified to provide treatment. Be sure to ask a provider how many times they have performed the treatment you are considering for your specific issue and skin type. They should also be able to show you before and after photos of their own patients during your consultation.

Learn more from a board certified cosmetic surgeon

If you are interested in learning more about radiofrequency skin tightening treatments or have questions about any cosmetic procedure, consider contacting a cosmetic surgeon in your area who is certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Our diplomates are fellowship-trained in all aspects of cosmetic surgery, as well as non-surgical options including laser and energy treatments, and are known for their dedication to helping patients make informed decisions about their options. Find a cosmetic surgeon near you now.

— Update: 08-02-2023 — found an additional article 7 Best Benefits of Radio Frequency Skin Tightening from the website for the keyword benefits of radio frequency.

Benefits of radio frequency

The radio frequency therapy is a technique that uses radiofrequency (RF) energy to penetrate the deep layers of the skin. It is a safe and easy way to achieve youthful, vibrant skin. During a treatment session, a small device is placed on your skin. The energy waves heat the underlying dermal layers, promoting collagen production and revitalizing your skin.

As the radiofrequency heat the dermis layer of the skin, it stimulates the production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. These components begin to break down as we grow old, speeding up the aging process. When we lose collagen, our skin can wrinkle, sag, and lose its firmness. After a radiofrequency treatment, your body goes into overdrive, attempting to repair and revitalize the damaged skin. As a result, your skin looks younger, smoother, and tighter.

Radio frequency therapy is an effective method to improve your skin tone, minimize the signs of aging, and tighten loose skin. It is a safe and non-invasive skin care method with numerous advantages. Let’s learn the seven best benefits of radio frequency skin tightening treatments:

Benefit #1: Get rid of fine lines and wrinkles

Benefits of radio frequency

One of the best radio frequency skin tightening benefits is its anti-aging effects. Our skin can lose elasticity as we grow older, resulting in wrinkles and fine lines. These aging symptoms make us appear older than we actually are.

You can combat the symptoms with a radiofrequency treatment. The process helps tighten the skin, making it plumper. It can also reduce crow’s feet around the eyes and other creases.

Benefit #2: Firm loose sagging skin

Benefits of radio frequency

You can use radiofrequency for skin tightening benefits. Loose skin may occur for a variety of reasons. The aging process, pregnancy, and weight loss may all result in excess skin, often difficult to tone. Radiofrequency therapy is beneficial because it enhances collagen in the affected area. The treatment can firm and tighten the skin effectively.

Benefit #3: Even out skin tone and texture

Benefits of radio frequency

After years of exposure to the sun, your skin can become damaged and appear weathered. Radiofrequency treatments improve the skin tone and texture by increasing collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid production. It can help reduce dark spots and blemishes. Plus, the treatment makes your skin appear smoother and younger. 

Although radio frequency treatments can combat sun-damaged skin, you should avoid sun exposure before the appointment. Do your best to stay out of the sun for at least one week beforehand. This diligence will prevent extra irritation, ensuring your skin is in its best state to receive treatment.

Benefit #4: Reverse aging skin

Benefits of radio frequency

As we age, we can experience a wide variety of different changes to our skin. Dark spots can form. Skin can begin to sag and droop. Likewise, fine lines and wrinkles may appear. Sometimes, pores become enlarged, or our faces may show signs of scarring. 

Fortunately, the best radio frequency skin tightening can address these problems effectively. RF treatments revitalize the skin from the inside out, tackling the issues with successful results. You may enjoy youthful-looking skin after just a few sessions.

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Benefit #5: Versatile for different body parts & skin types

Benefits of radio frequency

Another great benefit to radiofrequency treatments is their versatility. You can use the treatment on both the face and body. RF therapy can tighten the loose skin if you have lost a significant amount of weight. The treatments work on the arms, neck, abdomen, or thighs. After just a few sessions, this excess skin will appear firmer.

In addition, radiofrequency is a safe and reliable procedure ideal for any skin type. You will enjoy the benefits of radio frequency therapy regardless of skin colour or texture. The treatment also works wonders for adults of different ages, whether you are young or mature.

Benefit #6: Fast and easy treatment

Benefits of radio frequency

During a radiofrequency session, you can lie back and relax. These sessions are fast, lasting a minimum of one hour. Afterward, you can resume most of your usual daily activities. You may experience minimal pain with the procedure, but it is temporary and won’t feel intrusive.

Benefit #7: Safe and reliable procedure

Benefits of radio frequency

Radiofrequency skin tightening is an entirely safe procedure. It is non-invasive and requires little recovery time. It is safe for every skin type and produces fast results. Some people may experience mild pain, swelling, and redness at the treatment site immediately following a session. Ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications will quickly ease this discomfort. 

For maximum safety, avoid using retinoids or other harsh chemicals on your skin at least one week before treatment. These may affect your skin’s tolerance level to the radio frequencies. They may also minimize the effectiveness of the treatment.

— Update: 10-02-2023 — found an additional article Everything you need to know about radiofrequency from the website for the keyword benefits of radio frequency.

In some ways similar to regular fractional RF resurfacing, radiofrequency microneedling uses tiny needles to deliver pinpoint RF energy to the skin.

The Morpheus 8 device, thanks to a very effective pr campaign featuring Judy Murray (her results weren’t just thanks to Morpheus 8, by the way), has become a byword for radiofrequency skin tightening. But the technology has been around for many years. Intracel, Endymed Intensif, Potenza, Secret RF and Profound are just some names of alternative RF microneedling devices, while Focus Dual is an example of a machine that can combine the technology with ultrasound, another energy-based collagen-booster.

With RF microneedling, the needles are pressed into the skin at pre-set depths to reach the collagen-generating dermis (which sits roughly 2mm under the facial skin), and deliver the radiofrequency heat there. Exactly how deep the needles go depends on the machine, the setting chosen by your doctor, and the thickness of the skin. The jowl area, for example, will require deeper needle penetration than the forehead and the area around the eyes, while body skin (more about that later), is thicker yet.

Unlike with fractional skin resurfacing, the skin surface doesn’t get burned or damaged bar the little ‘entry’ pin pricks. This is because the needles are insulated apart from at their very tip, so the intense heat is primarily shot deep into the dermis to tighten collagen structures and trigger the production of more the stuff and its fellow skin-support protein elastin.

The small (‘fractional’) injuries from the needles themselves set off an additional wound-healing response in the dermis, but also in the epidermis for a skin-resurfacing effect.

So what are the visible results? Radiofrequency microneedling will firm up, tauten and thicken visibly slackened skin all over the face over time – it can even slightly lift hooded eyelids (it is not for very loose skin, though. Listen to your doctor when they advise a face lift instead). But it will also soften pigmentation, crepiness and rough texture. “How dramatically depends on the format and length of the needles of the device used, and the amount of time or pulses it’s held on the skin for,” says Jack.

While the surface of the skin doesn’t get directly burned, “the nearer to the skin surface the heat is injected (with the Morpheus 8, there is an option to inject just 0.5mm deep), the more ‘epidermal ablation’ [resurfacing] there is,” says Dr David Jack, who also notes that this ablation happens on a deeper level than is the case with no-needle fractional resurfacing, meaning the smoothing, skin-evening results last longer.

The skin-tightening effect will take three to six months to show (the smoothing, evening effects should become apparent in 4-6 weeks), with overall results lasting 18-24 months.

Which radiofrequency microneedling treatment is best?

Which machine is ‘best’ is very much a matter of opinion, but the more treatments are advised (some require six initial sessions, others just the one), the less ‘strong’ (and, arguably, traumatic) the treatment is.

The best results are dependent on the skill and experience of your practitioner and on what your skin requires and is able to tolerate. The ‘most powerful’ doesn’t equate to the ‘best’ for everyone.

What is important is precision-delivery of the energy, which RF microneedling is much better at than bipolar or monopolar RF. Precision is important because you don’t want to accidentally heat the skin surface too much and cause burns or excessive downtime. At the same time, you don’t unwittingly want to go too deep either and end up with facial fat cells being destroyed, which could make you look gaunt. Unless of course fat melting, such as under the chin, is what you have booked in for (more of which coming up…)

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As said, there are many good machines that can deliver this treatment – and they will all roughly get you the same results. Without going into too much detail, here are a few facts about the three latest, most written-about, and arguably most advanced devices.

Morpheus 8: the versatile one

A favourite of Dr Jack’s, he likes the machine’s versatility and precise settings in terms of needle depth and energy delivery, allowing the practitioner to determine exactly how much tightening, resurfacing and even fat ‘melting’ can be achieved. “Its fine-tuning minimises the risk of accidentally heating of the deeper subcutaneous (fat) layer, but the Morpheus 8 is also the only machine that can be deliberately set to a ‘fat loss’ mode for the face,” says Jack (other machines can do this more or less accidentally – see below). Treatments cost from £600 upwards for the full face and a minimum of three initial ones are needed, with top-ups roughly every 18 months.

Profound: the most powerful one

Dr Shotter rates the Profound because it is unique in being able to monitor and control the temperatures reached deep inside the skin: “We get it to 67 degrees C [significantly higher than other machines, which stay below 45 degrees C for collagen remodelling], which is where collagen is properly denatured [damaged] but not destroyed, allowing for the most effective healing response and the most dramatic results.” It means only one treatment, which will last you 12-18 months, is needed. It comes at a price: roughly £3000 per face session, and some serious pre-treatment numbing cream action to dampen the ‘discomfort’ (read: pain!).

— Update: 10-02-2023 — found an additional article Radio frequency skin tightening: getting your face lifted even quicker. from the website for the keyword benefits of radio frequency.

Due to the advancements in skin care and esthetic technology, radiofrequency skin tightening is an aesthetic technique that uses radio frequency, shortly called RF energy to heat skin in order to stimulate cutaneous collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid production for reducing the appearance of fine lines wrinkles and loose skin.

Get to know radiofrequency skin tightening

Common skin problems in women usually include sagging skin, wrinkles and fine lines. Over time, collagen and elastin, two important components present within the skin break down and cause the skin to lose its elasticity. Radio frequency (RF) skin tightening is a nonsurgical and noninvasive skin tightening and anti-aging treatment. It is an aesthetic technique that uses radio frequency, shortly called RF energy to heat skin in order to stimulate cutaneous collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid production for reducing the appearance of fine lines wrinkles and loose skin. To deliver heat to the dermis and the subcutis –  the adipose-rich tissue beneath the dermis, devices have different penetration depths depending on the number of electrodes e.g. monopolar, bipolar or unipolar. Currently, Monopolar Capacitive Radiofrequency represents the gold standard of treatments designed to tighten skin in a noninvasive fashion. During RF treatment, current flows from the electrodes of an RF device into the skin, heating the tissues beneath to stimulate collagen and elastin production. The ideal target temperature in the dermis for inducing dermal remodeling and wrinkle and laxity reduction will be delivered. Until this target temperature is attained, clinical outcomes are optimized. This procedure also stimulates fibroplasia, the process in which the body generates new fibrous tissue and stimulates the production of collagen, causing collagen fibers to become shorter and more tense. At the same time, the molecules that make up collagen are left undamaged. As a result, skin elasticity increases and sagging skin is tightened.

Key benefits of radio frequency skin tightening

  • Tightening sagging or loose skin
  • Reduction of fat accumulation under dermis 
  • Lifting face to a V-shaped face
  • Cellulite reduction and skin contouring 
  • Improving skin tone 
  • Promoting collagen production 
  • Less pain
  • Satisfied outcomes could be noticed quickly
  • No downtime or post-treatment skin care is required 
  • High level of safety approved by US FDA. 
  • Long lasting effect up to 1-2 years*

Benefits of radio frequencyBenefits of radio frequency

Specific areas that are recommended for radio frequency skin tightening 

  • Facial area: forehead, cheek, brow line and lips
  • Neck and shin
  • Eyelid: upper and lower eyelids
  • Body: abdomen, arm and tight

Suitable candidates for radio frequency skin tightening

Radio frequency skin tightening is highly suggested in people with skin problems as follows:

  • Sagging facial skin and fat accumulation 
  • Loose skin or poor skin tone
  • A double chin (or submental fat) that makes face become unshaped 
  • Wide face in which facial lifting and shape adjusting are needed
  • Women after giving birth 

In addition, radio frequency skin tightening is an alternative for facelift in people who do not want to undergo facial surgery. The optimal outcomes could be obtained in people aged between 25-70. 

Loose skin and excessive skin laxity can cause wrinkles and sagging skin in the face, neck, abdomen, arms and legs. Getting rid of these undesired skin problems largely helps to enhance self-confidence. Radio frequency skin tightening provides effective results by delivering heat to the tissue below the dermis, stimulating collagen production and contracting fibers to tighten the affected skin. It is considered a safe and effective solution that does not require downtime and post-treatment skin care. More importantly, to obtain the best possible outcome and high degree of safety, this procedure must be performed in the hospital by highly experienced and well-trained dermatologists supported by advanced technology. 


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