As an aesthetics provider, your priority is to offer therapies that deliver significant enhancement with little discomfort and downtime. Treatments using radio frequency (RF) technology have become a go-to choice because they fulfill these objectives, thrilling patients and generating positive financial returns for practitioners.
But why has RF become such an important part of non-invasive aesthetic medicine for body contouring and skin tightening? And what recent advances make it clear that RF’s role will only grow?
Radio frequency therapies have been used in medicine for more than 70 years. The treatments have become especially popular with patients who are seeking non-surgical tightening, with skin tightening falling in seventh place among the most popular non-surgical procedures in the United States in 2016.
In skin tightening and body contouring aesthetic treatments, RF waves are directed beyond the first layer of skin to the deep dermis and sub-dermal layers without impacting the epidermis. Different RF devices use different numbers and configurations of electrodes and varying electromagnetic fields to deliver RF waves below the skin’s surface and achieve their effects. The number of electrodes and their arrangement contributes to how the device reaches and maintains energy temperature and what patients experience during treatment. Monopolar arrangements, for instance, feature one electrode and require a return pad for the energy, which can cause heat spikes and inconsistent energy delivery. In comparison, more advanced RF systems employ multipolar radio frequency, where RF energy is evenly distributed across a number of electrodes for deeper energy penetration and a more even delivery.
RF isn’t the only non-invasive treatment around for skin tightening. Other methods have been studied, such as mechanical suction, laser, and light, with varying results. Studies that have reviewed clinical results for different therapies found that RF achieved clinical benefits at safer levels of energy than other technologies when used for skin laxity and greater (though still modest) circumferential reduction in body contouring. RF devices also are generally more affordable than many other technologies.
The aesthetics community is constantly striving to drive innovation. Recent research has focused on using RF in novel ways to achieve greater results, including longer treatment sessions and combination therapies.
Before considering longer treatment sessions, researchers first considered what patients wanted. Generally speaking, patients who are looking for non-surgical alternatives for fat reduction evaluate cost, effectiveness, and time commitment, all in comparison to the immediate visibility of their expected results to determine whether a treatment is worth the investment. Because non-invasive treatments would take longer, with less dramatic results, than a surgical intervention like liposuction, researchers wondered whether more noticeable outcomes could be produced with longer, more intense sessions of non-invasive treatments, dubbed “megasessions.” For this study, researchers used two to three two-hour treatments with a bipolar RF device featuring suction and vacuum technology instead of eight weekly sessions. The results were significant enough to warrant further investigation.
Likewise, combining RF and alternative fat reduction treatments is a method that allows treatment providers to better achieve a patient’s desired results via a customized combination treatment plan. Radio frequency skin tightening and body contouring treatments can be used alongside other treatment options to mitigate common side effects of both surgical and non-surgical procedures and enhance results. For example, one recent study found that a combination of cryolipolysis, which freezes and destroys fat cells, and multipolar RF with pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) treatments offered a 20% improvement in skin firmness and a 10% improvement in patient satisfaction.
The future is bright for aesthetic practitioners who embrace radio frequency technology. To learn more about the latest innovations in radio frequency for body contouring and skin tightening and what to look for in a cutting-edge RF treatment system, download our essential report, Advances in Radio Frequency Body Contouring and Skin Tightening.