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