Yesterday morning I had a procedure called the Pellevé skin tightening system at the posh (but pleasantly so) Upper East Side practice of Dr. Z Paul Lorenc. It was a fascinating and extremely enjoyable experience (largely due to my smart and funny practitioner, Carissa McCormack). And this non-invasive treatment may even work over time to produce new collagen. Before I tell you more about my experience and the immediate results, I’ll give you some background on Pellevé.

Pellevé Vs. Thermage

The Pellevé Wrinkle Reduction System is, at least according to its manufacturer, the next-generation high frequency radiowave technology.  One way of thinking about Pellevé -- given FDA clearance in May 2009 -- is that it is the next Thermage. By which I mean that it isn’t at all painful (actress Ellen Barkin described Thermage as having burning hot elastic bands snapped across your face) and it might actually work (patients and doctors alike complained that Thermage’s results were inconsistent and disappointing).

Essentially, Thermage and Pellevé work in the same way by delivering gradual energy to the skin, 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.

The advance that Pellevé has made over older systems such as Themage is that the tightening results can be achieved without the searing temperatures used back in the day. According to Carissa McCormack, the denaturation takes place at about 41°C (10 years ago the accepted wisdom was that 65 degrees were required)

For me, this was mostly comfortable. During the Pellevé treatment, Carissa moved the tip of a "wand" over my face with a firm, but not deep pressure. She seemed to be passing several times over the same spot before moving on. By the third pass, I could feel things getting very warm and by the end of the nearly hour-long session I felt as if I’d been sitting in the sun a bit too long. But there was no ouch factor and although I looked a little flushed, I was good to go.

I am not supposed to see any results from the Pellevé skin tighetning for about three months, by which time new collagen should be formed. However, there is certainly some immediate gratification in that my skin feels very much firmer and really looks plumper – more so than I would get from microcurrent or LED.  The effects are supposed to be fairly long lasting – about 18 months. The reason for Pellevé's effectiveness appears to be that it is not the same as stimulating collagen to fill in superficial scars or wrinkles, but a deeper shift in tissue volumes, leading to what one fairly technical paper described as "a remodeling of the entire soft tissue envelope.”

The effects of heating collagen have been known for many years and, based on all the reading I have done, I am fairly confident that I am going to see real results from my Pellevé treatment. The only slightly disquietening thing is that one researcher points out that the "long-term biologic fate of these shrunken tissues is still a matter of debate”.

The cost of Pellevé will depend very much on what part of the country you are in. In pricey Manhatten, it can be from $750 to $1500.  My session at Dr. Lorenc’s clinic was generously free and Carissa McCormack even more generously offered me the recommended top up treatment in 30 days. I will go back in 30 days, but will pay my way, as the litmus test for recommending anything is whether I would pay for it myself.

Read on for Pellevé session number two and then here for the final Pellevé outcome