Urged by Hannah, I’ve put together a comparison of various anti-aging treatments that one way or another use electric pulses or light waves. Please consider this a work in progress that I will keep adding to. Requests for inclusion will be gratefully received.

Fractional laser resurfacing: Also known as fractional photothermolysis, targets areas of the skin that are precisely spaced out at a microscopic level and heats some skin zones while others are left undisturbed. Instead of emitting a solid beam, the laser puts out clusters of minuscule beams that punch invisible holes in the skin. In creating a grid-like pattern of micro-wounds, it stimulates fresh collagen production beneath the skin’s surface and allows the untreated areas of tissue to remain stable for quicker recovery.

Fraxel is a kind of laser treatment that, instead of putting out a solid beam, it puts out lots of very tiny beams that punch microscopic holes in the skin. This approach means that damaged tissue can be targeted, leaving healthy tissue unscathed. Three to five sessions are required about two weeks apart. Sufferers from acne generally give it very good reviews. Even Fraxel’s proponents say it cannot treat lines around the eyes or lips, anything beyond the mildest age lines, rosacea or red capillaries, nor will it tighten the skin.

PaloVia is the first-ever FDA-cleared laser for reducing fine lines around the eyes that can be used at home. PaloVia uses fractional technology to employ the intense energy of ablative skin-resurfacing lasers without requiring the same amount of recovery time. According to a 2010 study published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. Out of 124 subjects who were treated with the laser (presumably a first-generation PaloVia) every day during the first month’s “active phase” and twice weekly during the “maintenance phase” of the ensuing five months, 90% revealed improvement in wrinkle reduction post-active phase and 79% post-maintenance phase. Read more on PaloVia

LED Light Therapy (LLT). For skin plumping and help against sagging. How about this description from Nasa: “Low-energy photon irradiation by light in the far-red to near-IR spectral range with low-energy (LLT) lasers or LED arrays”. Roughly translated, LED uses red light and infra-red (which you can’t see). It doesn’t get very hot and is basically a gentle treatment that lasts about 20 minutes. For a time no one really knew how it worked including NASA. But it now seems that it works “by targeting water layers on elastin, facial wrinkle levels could be significantly reduced by irradiation of the skin with visible light”. Salon treatments can cost around $130 per session. At home devices are useful if used regularly. Read more on LED

Microcurrent: Microcurrent uses a subsensory electric current that delivers a pulse to the facial muscles and stimulates them and the surrounding tissue. The esthetician’s skill is in manipulating two probes to massage the muscles whilst the current is being delivered to them. This stimulates the muscle fibers and they can be gently (this is not something you can really feel happening) toned or shortened. The theory is that microcurrent improves the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical in muscles that provides energy. However, there only seems to be one study backing this up and it goes back to the late 1980s – however, the results were an impressive 500% increase in ATP. Anyway, ATP is stored and so the effects of microcurrent treatments over time are cumulative. Read more on microcurrent.

Radio frequency: High frequency radiowave technology used to be best known as systems such as Thermage. These used high temperatures, were very painful and not terribly effective. New versions of this technology include the Pellevé Wrinkle Reduction System. causing heat to build up where the skin and fat layer come together. The increasing heat modifies the collagen bundles deep inside the skin. This part of the process is called denaturation, which means the loss of structure of a protein (collagen is a chain of proteins) due to, amongst other things, the application of heat. The denaturation of collagen fibers causes them to contract and, because they believe they are undergoing a trauma, they start stimulating the growth of new collagen. This results in firmer, tighter skin that can last up t 18 months. Treatments range from about $700 to $1,000. Read more on Pelleve

Ultrasound: An FDA approved system called Ulthera uses ultrasound, a technology that most of us are familiar with as medical imaging when pregnant or having a breast exam. This means that a dermatologist using Ulthera can see an image deep into the dermis of the fibro muscular layer or connective tissue. At the same time, the ultrasound delivers a focused beam of heat (about 60 degrees celsius) for 20 mili-seconds. This micro-targeted and very fast heating of the tissue causes it to be “injured” and the tissue’s response is to contract. The result is tighter skin and may last for at least two years or indefinitely (the system is fairly new so there’s no longterm data). Cost is around $2,000. Read more on Ulthera