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Pellevé treatment part 1

Pellevé skin tightening system

Reviewed by Marta August 8, 2013 40 Comments

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.

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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

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  • September 18, 2015

    by Rose

    Painfree my foot. This hurt like heck. Maybe if I had expected it to be so searing hot I wouldn't have reacted so much but was painful. Perhaps some have a lower tolerance? I think just blightly claiming this is painless for all is vastly misleading. I can't do it again. I have had fillers and felt discomfort but not this kind of pain. It needs to be said that some people react badly to it!

    Now I understand 40 degrees C isn't hot enough to burn skin in the few seconds it is on the skin and my nurse practitioner was careful to check temps consistently so it was my perception of the heat...I am not claiming it was done poorly or wrong at all. Rather I just feel that clearly a few feel it more intensely and people should be aware that it is NOT ALWAYS painfree.

  • September 18, 2013

    by Imogen

    I have just had my 2nd Pelleve treatment (full face) and I can certainly see results. Overall my face looks much fresher, especially around eyes and jowls have definitely tightened. I actually found the treatment to be quite pleasant, rather like a warm face massage. The doctor did 10 passes. I am due to have my final treatment in 4 weeks.

  • August 9, 2013

    by Susan Bennett

    May 2012, I had one Pelleve treatment at Spago in Punta Gorda, Fla. I received second degree burns, I was was shrink wraped and one year later, I still take Lyrica for temple nerve damage. It has been a nightmare. I have pictures and doctor reports. If any one has had a similar experiene, please contact me at

  • December 8, 2012

    by maria

    hi! I had 2 sessions of IPL. The first went well and I noticed good results after a few weeks. A month after the first, I had a second session, then a month after that I noticed deep grooves around my eyes that were definitely not there before! I remember she did place the wand around my eyes at times to treat some brown spots there. Is it possible that the fat was removed, as with Thermage?? It seems my whole face is a bit thinner and i didn't need that at all. I'm 49 and have taken really good care of my skin since age 21 so I'm so disappointed. I'm hoping by some chance this will turn around. I'm reading a lot of stories online of women with similar problems with IPL - but the MDs all say that IPL doesn't go deep enough to cause these problems. I'm using Psoria Gold because it's recommended and uses turmeric, a potent antiinflammatory, and I do like it. Any feedback please???
    Thank you!

  • June 18, 2012

    by Jane e

    I have had three Pelleve treatments so far and am about to get my forth and last one in a week.

    After reading so many other reviews and being assured there was
    NO pain" I was unpleasently surprised at how HOT it was and how much it hurt.

    There were several times during each treatment that I was in pain, although not thre entire treatment - mostly when the heat when over the thiner skin areas and bone.

    No one has mentioned that you can get a little static shock occasionally too.

    AND YES the first day or two the swelling makes it look as if you have better results...after three treatments and almost 4 months I cannot say I would do it again. Results are just not dramatic enough for the pain and expense

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