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What is Thermage®?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Thermage® is a cosmetic procedure using radio frequency to treat wrinkled or sun-damaged skin without damaging the outer layer of skin. In the procedure, the skin's surface is showered with intense radio wave pulses of heat, causing collagen to react by thickening, which in turn smooths out wrinkles and makes skin appear tighter. This process has become popular, as it is non-invasive and generally involves little recovery time.

Skin is made up of two layers, the visible epidermis on top and the collagen-rich dermis below. With age and sun exposure, collagen production decreases, causing the dermis to thin and the epidermis to sag or wrinkle. Using Thermage® to boost collagen production temporarily reverses this process, firming and tightening the skin.

In a typical Thermage® session, an anesthetic cream is applied to the face an hour before beginning treatment. Using a patented radio frequency device called ThermaCool TC, the treatment directs intense heat at the designated areas. Skin temperature is monitored during the procedure and a cryogenic cooling spray is applied when necessary, to prevent open burns from developing. Patients may experience a sensation of extreme heat, but some experts say the process is relatively painless. Depending on how large the targeted area, sessions generally take less than one hour.

Thermage® has been approved by the U.S. Food And Drug Association for use, but relatively few studies have been conducted to test the procedure’s effectiveness. Those that have been done suggest that between 50-60% of customers were satisfied with the results. In one study, experts concluded that results last five to six months after the initial treatment. However, it should be noted that results are not instant and may take weeks or months to fully develop, as the collagen thickens.

As with nearly all cosmetic procedures, some side effects can occur with Thermage®. Redness, swelling and facial pain were reported in some cases. In one small trial, 4% of patients had residual scarring after 6 months. Some critics also argue that the claim of “no downtime” is false, and it may take several days to recover from the procedure due to residual pain and persistent side effects.

The needs of budget and the severity of condition may affect your choice of cosmetic procedure. Thermage® is not a permanent cure for sagging skin or wrinkles. While studies do show some improvement in skin tightness, the results are not as dramatic as with a surgical facelift. The procedure is considered ideal for people experiencing mild skin sag and wrinkles, generally those in their late 30s and early 40s.

In terms of price, a single Thermage® session costs between $1000-$1500 US Dollars (USD). A cosmetic facelift is considerably more expensive, averaging approximately $5,900 USD and carrying greater risks due to the use of anesthesia. If you are interested in having the procedure, be sure to consult a doctor and a reputable dermatologist to fully outline any risks and determine if you are a good candidate for Thermage® treatment.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGEEK. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

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Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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