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Ulthera ultrasound treatments

Is a Solution for:
Sagging Skin
June 11, 2010 Reviewed by Marta 21 Comments
Yesterday I attended a presentation about a new, non-invasive "skin lifting" treatment called Ulthera. Although I haven't seen a live demonstration of it, the description of the technology behind it and the before and after pictures were compelling. Plus, the Ulthera System has been FDA cleared and has been approved to use the word "lift". So how does this facelift without a scalpel work?

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.

However, contracted tissues aren't the body's only response. It also produces more elastin and collagen. Fun fact, 70% of us (by which I mean, the part that is not water) is collagen. Now you know. The before and after images, including one of a woman over the age of 70, were impressive. Ninety days after treatment, brows were visibly lifted. And I mean strikingly so. As were jaw lines.

In these days of digital retouching, few of us really believe in before/after pictures. Nevertheless, I was mostly willing to take Ulthera's at face value. This was largely because the scientist behind the system is Rox Anderson MD, professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and director the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (the world's largest laboratory dedicated to biomedical uses of light). Dr Rox came across as though he didn't have an inauthentic bone in his body.

I asked him how long he expected the results of an Ulthera System treatment to last. He replied that he was "confident that it is permanent". Which makes the likely cost of a full face treatment - in the region of $2,500 to $3,000 - more acceptable. Actually, I almost feel tempted to start saving. There are only 30 of these relatively new systems in the US so far. To locate them contact
  • August 17, 2017

    by Julie

    Went to check out Ulthera and I can not have it done due to Bell's palsy, any suggestions of what might be a good choice?

  • May 27, 2015

    by Connie

    I bought the HIFU ultherapy for home use. I'm a little frightened to use it, and hoping that it is not as painful as getting ultherapy done in a salon. Do you know anything about the HIFU (High Intensity Focus Ultrasound) for home use?

  • March 23, 2015

    by Jean

    I opted for ultherapy for baggy eyes, after it was decided I wasn't a good candidate for my jawline-where I really need it. It was much more residual pain than had been explained - I had it 2 weeks ago, and my cheek bones still are very sore. Also, I can't get anything done lower down, as I had Bell's palsy, and apparently for your jaw, they have to zap your whole check area, not just on the jaw line, like I had hoped.
    Anyway, the numbness and temporary paralysis I had on my facial nerve after just the eye therapy, has convinced me not to go back for touch-ups! I have a very high tolerance to pain, but you expect it to go away, and having that nerve reaction was scary! But, that was just my experience - I got the Bell's palsy from Shingles I had in 2008 - stuff stays in you!

  • December 30, 2014

    by cheri

    I had Ultherapy done 3 wks ago. It was by FAR the most painful procedure I've had done. (And I've had quite a few.) I did it with no sedation or local anesthesia. If anyone is considering it, I would ask for both! It's too early to see if I get any results.
    They say it takes 3 months. Sure hope I get something in reward for my pain.

  • August 10, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Penny, can you post a link to the information on Thermage and fat degradation? I haven't seen it. I wrote what I have learned so far about Ultherapy and fat reduction here: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

  • August 9, 2012

    by Penny

    Hi Marta,
    Information regarding facial fat degradation from Thermage therapy has become available. Do you have the scoop on Ultherapy? What good is skin tightening, collagen production and jowl lifting (even if it's subtle) for the mature woman if facial fat, which decreases with age, will be compromised by this treatment. I look forward to reading your informative response. Thank you

  • July 9, 2012

    by Cindy

    I had thermage doen 2 years ago and was very satisfied with the results. it's been two years and my skin still feel tighter than before the procedure was done! I want to do something again only because I did not have it done around my eyes and now my eyelids are sagging. I called the clinic which I had the procedure done, unfortunately they stop doing thermage and they introduced me for ultherapy. While everyone says ultherapy is newer and better, I saw people commented that result only last 8 months to 1 year which is shorter than my thermage result..... so I was kinda worried.... afterall, it is a very expensive treatment

  • January 1, 2012

    by maria

    i tried injection of collagen last Aug. 30,2011 in my face to repair my sagging face. but i deciced to go with ultherapy last Nov 29,2011. I notice my face did not have a lift as expected. what happen to the collagen that was injected? Is the ultherapy did not work?

  • December 30, 2011

    by Brenda

    I had the ultherapy nine months ago. I did notice improvement - 30 - 35% -- but not enough to do this again. I would like to know which of the at-home treatment options would be best for "lifting" at the jawline - LED or fraxel.

  • December 13, 2011

    by nancy

    how is dioite laser different than ultherapy?
    Please help! Thanks so much! nancy

  • October 27, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Alana, when I met the company, they claimed that it lasts at least 2 years. But I don't personally know of anyone who has had the treatment.

  • October 27, 2011

    by Alana

    Hi Marta,
    I have read quite a bit about Ultherapy. I have seen people complain that with a cost of about 3,000- 4,000 for full face, the effect lasts only about 8 months. Do you have any information on the longevity of this treatment?

  • December 19, 2010

    by interested

    I´d like to request you add Novabel to your list and do a review on it. I know it´s off the shelves now, but sounded interesting and I guess will be back at some point. Please give us your insight on it!

  • December 18, 2010

    by marta

    Thanks for the Sculptra reminder Danny, I'll add that to my glossary of treatments

  • December 18, 2010

    by Dannyengland

    Wow , it sounds to good to be true . I wonder if I should start saving . Then again it probably won't come to the uk until 2020 lol. For now Sculptra has had an amazing effect on my face and even though the initial cost of this is high a yearly little top up can make this permanent .

  • July 26, 2010

    by maria r. lewan

    BTW-have not had my consult yet-the Dr I'd found offering Ultherapy had a $300 consult fee which would NOT be applied towards the procedure & which was NOT refundable should I not be a candidate. In this day & age-who has an extra $300 to spare just for a consult! Still looking for another Dr to go to for an opinion!

  • July 26, 2010

    by maria r. lewan

    I did not find Thermage painful at all-my Dr was very cautious in her technique & made several passes at a lower intensity, rather than fewer passes at the higher pulse!

  • July 12, 2010

    by marta

    Hi Maria, I'm super excited to hear how you get on. Good luck and do come back and let us know how it works. By the way, I'm curious, did you find Thermage painfu?

  • July 11, 2010

    by maria

    I am planning to go for a consult for Ulthera in the DC area-was pleased to see your post regarding this relatively new treatment-esp in regards to Thermage-which I'd had done about 3 yrs ago with very good results. Now I'm ready to go for more intense treatment, but still not ready for the knife. Will keep you updated!

  • June 13, 2010

    by marta

    Hi Amy and thank you for the kind words. Thermage, Fraxel and Ulthera are all light therapies, but they use different wavelengths. Ulthera is ultrasound and Thermage is radio frequency. 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. It is supposed to be a lot less painful than Thermage. Not only is Thermage painful, but the results are described as subtle. You can check out our <a href="" rel="nofollow">post on Thermage and Fraxel</a>. Ulthera differs in three ways, as I understand it: the doctor has imaging of what's going on in the dermis, it can be microtargeted and, as far as I know, it doesn't hurt.

    I did ask Dr Rox about the Hayflick Limit. Cells only divide and produce a new cell a limited number of times (healthy cells, that is). For more on this, <a href="" rel="nofollow">read our post on the Hayflick Limit</a>. Injuring or traumatizing the cells with these light therapies forces them to make a new cell and, theoretically I suggested, speeds up the time it takes to reach the Hayflick Limit. Dr Rox agreed that this was theoretically possible, but that there are repositories of new/younger cells in our bodies and that a wounded cell recruits a new one to replace it and typically recruits a younger one. I am paraphrasing ad condensing a fairly long conversation so I hope it makes sense and that I have done his response justice.

  • June 12, 2010

    by Amy Henderson

    Hi Marta - as always, thank you so much for providing such good information :) It's a difficult to effectively evaluate new products and treatments. Having a resource to turn to (Truth In Aging) makes the process just that much easier. Since logging on and reading through the postings (about 6 months ago), I've really started to take care of my skin (with very happy results!). I do have one quick question - not sure what kind of information is out there....What is the difference in this treatment to Thermage (not well rated)? Also, do you have any information on this treatment with regards to the Hayflick Limit? Again, thanks!

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