As reported by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), non-surgical skin tightening procedures are among the top ten most common non-surgical cosmetic treatments in the US.
LED light therapy and radiofrequency (RF) therapy are two non-surgical skin treatments that promote skin rejuvenation and fight the signs of aging. Both are quick treatments with virtually no recovery time.
RF treatments combat skin laxity by sending heat into the deep layers of the skin to tighten underlying tissues.
LED therapy treats a variety of aging concerns by stimulating fibroblast cells to produce collagen and elastin.
LED Light Therapy/ Red Light Therapy
LED (light-emitting diode) light therapy was originally designed to speed the healing process for post-surgery scars and other wounds. Today, clinicians use it to rejuvenate the skin and minimize the visual signs of aging.
During LED therapy, the skin cells in the dermis layer convert the light energy into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which can be thought of as a cell’s “fuel.”
The cells use this “fuel” to produce elastin and collagen, substances that promote skin fullness and elasticity. There are multiple types/colors of LED therapy. Red light therapy is aimed to help patients achieve the following:
- Wrinkle and pore reduction
- Improvements in skin tone
- Skin brightening
The overall result is a plumped up complexion with fewer wrinkles and tighter skin.
LED is a great option for men and women getting ready for a vacation or wedding. For best results, doctors recommend 2-3 treatments per week for 4-6 weeks.
Each session is painless and takes about 20 minutes.
LED is commonly used after exfoliation during professional facials. As a standalone treatment, it generally costs between $60 and $80. DIY devices are available for as little as $30.
LED has no contra-indications. In other words, it is appropriate for anyone looking to correct the signs of aging mentioned above.
LED therapy is a painless, relaxing procedure. All you’ll need to do beforehand is make sure your face is freshly cleaned and dried. There are no restrictions to tanning/sun exposure.
There is no burning, stinging, or discomfort associated with red light therapy.
During the treatment, your clinician will sweep a hand-held device across the face by sections for about 20 minutes. You may be asked to wear eye protection.
There is no down time, and you can return to work/ apply makeup directly afterwards.
You can find LED light therapy at spas and similar facilities. There are also DIY machines available for between $100-$300.
Radiofrequency Facial Tightening Treatment
Radiofrequency (RF) energy treatment is a non-surgical facial rejuvenation procedure aimed to correct sagging skin and early signs of aging. It’s a great option for people who might think they are too young to have a surgical procedure.
Current RF technology allows for minimal risk and little downtime. RF is appropriate for all skin tones and is commonly used to treat the following areas:
- Forehead (lifts brows/forehead skin)
- Under the eyes (lifts upper cheek skin/thickens skin)
- Jaw line (improves sagging jowls)
- Cheeks/mid-face (diminishes pores/ lifts cheeks)
- Neck (diminishes wrinkles/tightens skin)
RF surgery has been around for more than 70 years, but non-surgical RF facial rejuvenation is relatively new. With recent advances in cryogenics, we are now able to send pure RF energy deep into the skin without damaging the outer layer.
Heating the deeper dermis and subcutaneous layers without damaging the epidermis produces a tightening effect in underlying tissues. RF has little effect on wrinkles and skin texture.
There are two types of radiofrequency delivery: monopolar/unipolar and bipolar. The first category refers to devices that have a single pole or electrode, while the second category refers to devices that have two poles or electrodes.
A grounding “return pad” is used in monopolar delivery to complete the electrical circuit. No return pad is needed with bipolar delivery, as the electrical current flows from one electrode, through skin tissue, and to the second electrode.
In both cases, resistance to the current flow in the skin tissue – not the electrode(s) – is what generates the heat.
As mentioned above, RF is used primarily to treat skin laxity. Ideal candidates have mild-moderate sagging and are typically in their mid-30s to 50s.
Individuals with heavy sagging should consider alternative procedures such as a traditional facelift or brow lift.
Individuals with metal implants or electrical devices (pacemakers, etc.) should avoid RF therapy.
RF treatment should only be performed by a qualified physician; look for it in medi-spas and other skin care facilities.
The cost RF treatments varies from $1,000-$4,000. Cost depends on the device used, condition of the skin, and region. It’s important to avoid irritating your skin before RF treatment. Patients should avoid sunbathing/tanning (established tans are okay).
If your skin is more sensitive during/before your menstrual cycle, you should take this into account when scheduling an appointment.
What to expect
It’s important to meet with a practitioner to discuss your condition and ensure you have realistic expectations before you begin.
You may be asked to wash your face before the treatment. Your clinician will apply a topical anesthetic to help numb the skin. Depending on the doctor and the device, he or she may apply a “treatment grid” in ink.
An adhesive return pad will be fitted to your stomach or back if your doctor is using a monopolar device. The practitioner may apply a coupling gel to your face before he/she begins.
Next, the clinician will begin RF treatment by working a handheld device across the face.
You will feel a heating sensation each time the RF energy is delivered to the skin. Many devices have built in cooling capabilities to ease discomfort.
Your clinician will likely apply a soothing lotion after treatment.
Results may last up to a few years, with skin tightening improvements developing during the months following treatment. For some patients, a single treatment is enough to produce results.
There is no real “recovery time” after RF treatment. Some patients experience redness (like a sunburn), which typically dissipates quickly.
Side effects include swelling, bumps, redness, and blisters.
No special care is necessary after treatment, but your doctor may suggest cooling mists, ice packs, or soothing lotions.
If you’re not willing to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for the therapies mentioned above, we recommend looking into DIY microdermabrasion machines and at-home IPL devices.
RF therapy and LED light therapy are dramatically different procedures. RF is more expensive and involves some pain. LED is relaxing, painless, and treats different issues.
As always, the treatment(s) you select should depend entirely on your condition, your goals, your budget, and your dermatologist’s advice.