What is the difference between radiofrequency and infrared skin treatment?



Superficial tissue heating vs deep tissue heating

Both radiofrequency treatments and infrared treatments (either IPL/intense pulse light, laser or LLLT/low level laser therapy) are used to heat the body for therapeutic reasons.

In aesthetics, intense heating can improve circulation, stimulate the production of collagen and elastin and contract the existing collagen fibres, for an immediate as well as long term rejuvenation and skin tightening/lifting effect.

The main difference between radiofrequency and infrared treatment is that radiofrequency (RF), depending on the equipment used, the products applied and the settings/protocol applied, can selectively heat the deeper layers of the skin (dermis, subdermis), without overheating the epidermis (most superficial layer of the skin).

In contrast, infrared treatment focuses on the epidermis, penetrating very little beyond the uppermost layer of the skin, and as a result it cannot reach the deeper layers of the skin in therapeutic amounts without overheating (burning) the epidermis first.



Bipolar radiofrequency and infrared are quite similar: both heat the skin too superficially

Bipolar radiofrequency treatments are also very superficial and cannot reach the deep skin layers without burning the epidermis first. This depends on the equipment and settings used.

On the other hand, some monopolar radiofrequency treatments (depending on equipment and protocols) can penetrate the skin very deeply to affect the subdermis and the subcutaneous fat for the purposes of lipolysis (fat release from fat cells), adipolysis (fat cell breakdown) and cellulite reduction.



Infrared and tissue healing at low intensities

Infrared treatment is known to stimulate tissue healing, even at the low intensities infrared radiation reaches the dermis and epidermis. So in that respect, infrared still makes some sense, but it far inferior to radiofrequency for skin tightening.

Perhaps monopolar RF combined with some infrared (but not so strong that it can burn the epidermis) would be ideal.

On the other hand, the low intensities used in anti-ageing infrared face masks mean that not much difference is seen in terms of anti-ageing with them. Clearly, higher infrared intensities are needed, and ideally they should be combined with monopolar RF treatment for maximum results.



In conclusion...

...we could say that infrared treatment is largely limited to the epidermis (very superficial treatment), while different RF treatments can work on different skin depths, from superficial to very deep, depending on the design of the treatment.


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