Supposedly, we are now in the third age of radio frequency treatments. First generation treatments, Thermage being the best known and notorious for being as ineffective as it was painful, gave way to newer technologies such as Ulthera and Pellevé. But even they have been trumped by Apollo TriPollar, the newest and most advanced generation of radio frequency, according to the Israeli company that makes it. A week and a half ago, I put it to the test with a free TriPollar treatment at the Madison Avenue offices of Dr Jame Heskett.

Before I relate my experience, I want to explain how radio frequency technology has advanced. The early RF machines use one electrode to deliver electrical energy with a return pad connected to the leg or back to close the circuit. The electric current has to pass through a large part of the body and the vascular system. This means that the technician has little control and very high – think very painful – temperatures are necessary. Burning or damaged skin has to be mitigated with cooling treatments.  The next generation bi-polar technology uses two electrodes, with the current flowing between the two. This allows more focused frequencies.

TriPollar has, as you might by now have guessed, three paths. And I was promised a painless, even pleasant experience with the temperature capped at 41 degrees. Although I can’t say my TriPollar treatment was ever painful, I did find it uncomfortable at times and at least twice during my 30 minute session I found my eyes watering. But then I am a bit of wimp. There is certainly no down time and I headed straight to the office with nothing more than a very flushed face.

As I understand it, radio frequency works 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. Proteins lose structure (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.

My skin did look and feel a little firmer immediately after my TriPollar treatment and markedly so a couple of days later. After three days, I did a couple of double takes when I saw myself in the mirror and began to think I might go back on my own dime. Ten days later, the results seem to have faded away. Now, at this point I should say that the protocol is to have five or six once a week treatments followed by another in six months. Thereafter twice a year should do it.  The reason for the weekly sessions is to encourage the body to become habituated to producing collagen. As Dr Heskett nicely put it, as we get older our bodies aren’t terribly concerned by our wrinkles and put their energy into ensuring our vital organs are functioning. The way things are looking, mine is busy with my liver rather than my complexion.

About a year ago, I had two Pelleve treatments. They were less uncomfortable than TriPollar, each session was more expensive but it wasn’t required to have them weekly – just two spaced a month apart. The short-term effects were very good but I’m not convinced that they really lasted beyond a few months.

At $300-$500 per session (depending on location; the upper end can be expected in New York), TriPollar is a financial commitment. Is it worth it? If you can afford it, then I believe that TriPollar will give results. I share with Dr Heskett a preference for procedures that cause a physiological change, as opposed to Botox or fillers.  That being said, I am still in two minds about whether I want to give my skin a trauma, even if, compared to the first generation treatments, it is a relatively mild one. But if financially and philosophically you are up for it, TriPollar is worth trying out for tightening sagging skin.