Radiofrequency: the ultimate skin tightening / anti-cellulite technology
Radiofrequency is widely accepted as being the most effective cellulite reduction and skin tightening technology available today, for both face and body. It is far superior to lasers, which do not penetrate anywhere near as deep as radiofrequency does.
By applying intensive heat on collagen and fat cells, radiofrequency helps increase skin tightness and reduce fat, thereby improving the contour and texture of body and face.
However, not all radiofrequency treatments are the same: effectiveness can range from almost zero to amazing. There are hundreds of radiofrequency machines on the market, for both home and professional use.
With such variability in technology (in addition to the variability in therapist training and treatment creams / gels - which also play a very important role), the following question arises: how can a customer know which treatment is the best?
This is a very common question I hear from prospective clients, as they are confused by conflicting information from both the press and clinics / salons. Predictably, everyone claims their treatment or machine is the best.
If aesthetic practitioners and doctors don't know, then how are customers supposed to know?
Unfortunately, as a simple customer you can't know what is the best machine - not at least without technical knowledge. Most therapists, including most doctors, do not know how to choose a good machine. They just go according to the sales pitch or how famous the machine is. But fame and sales blurb are not accurate ways to judge a piece of equipment.
For example, the most famous cellulite machine on the market simply "doesn't work", yet it still keeps selling like hot cakes - both in terms of machine sales and treatment sales. I go to professional exhibitions and I see that 95% of sales people cannot even give me any technical specs on the equipment they sell. And of course 95% of buyers do not ask any technical questions, because they do not have much technical knowledge. They just follow the herd, to put it bluntly.
Most salon and clinic buyers cannot even understand the specifications. They depend on popularity/fame, "what the competition does", dodgy "evidence" and pathetically fake "before and after photos" (I was shown some blatantly fake before and after photos the other day by a sales rep for one of the top selling RF machines, and could not hide my anger for his attempt to con me and my clients).
So, if therapists / doctors do not know how to choose, how can you? Well, you may not become an expert in radiofrequency, but with the guide I am going to offer you below you will know all the right questions to ask before booking a session.
But first, a few words about our radiofrequency story, here at LipoTherapeia.
My story: choosing and improving the ultimate rf skin tightening machine
The obvious question is, how do I think I know what's best? Well, I didn't always know, but at least before I bought a machine I researched the industry for three years. Having university training in Physics helped a lot, as it allowed me to know what the specifications of different machines mean.
It was a successful choice and after I bought the machine I studied further the Physics of radiofrequency and it's practical application in detail for several months. This allowed me to develop my own treatment protocols with different settings and treatment creams / gels (believe me, treatment creams / gels play a huge role) in order to maximise the results for my clients. This also helped me make the treatment comfortable and pleasant - in contrast to most RF treatments which need to be painful to be effective.
Within a year I upgraded to a better machine adapted with the exact settings I needed for my protocols and used that equipment for another rewarding four years. Four years later, I researched the market again and concluded that there is still nothing better than the equipment / protocol I use (just "variations on a theme" of existing technologies and gimmicks, with no major breakthroughs happening). So I bought the same machine again with the same adaptations, as my old one was getting older after 5,000 sessions performed with it.
I may be totally wrong - and we never promise miracles at our clinic - but based on physics, specifications and all this experience, I believe that at LipoTherapeia we currently offer the strongest yet most comfortable RF treatment for cellulite reduction and skin tightening (face/body).
But now let's look at how different specifications affect the effectiveness of radiofrequency treatment, so that you make your own informed decision and choose the ideal treatment for yourself.
What determines the efficacy of a radiofrequency treatment?
There are hundreds of RF machines in the market today, and they all vary in power and other specifications, so not all radiofrequency treatments are the same. Radio frequency treatment effectiveness for cellulite reduction and skin tightening/lifting depends on the following very important factors:
Bipolar, tripolar, tetrapolar, octapolar, multipolar, unipolar or monopolar radiofrequency function
This mainly determines the penetration depth of the treatment. Bipolar radiofrequency is very superficial, while monopolar radiofrequency may be able to target deeper tissues, depending on other settings.
There are also machines that offer so-called tripolar, quadripolar, octapolar or other multipolar options. However all these machines are in essence bipolar machines and thereby very superficial, contrary to all the marketing hype. As you may remember from school physics, there are only two electrical poles, plus (+) and minus(-)!
However, a lot depends on all the other settings on this list, and ultimately on the knowledge of the person that will design your treatment protocols.
(Please note that unipolar radiofrequency is not the same as monopolar and offers a quite superficial treatment too)
Radiofrequency current frequency, in kHz or MHz
This mainly has to do with what kind of tissues the treatment affects. Higher frequencies tend to affect more superficial tissues.
Resistive or capacitive radiofrequency
Resistive/capacitive RF function primarily determines if the treatment is deep or superficial. Resistive RF is generally deeper than capacitive RF, which is usually very superficial.
Maximum radiofrequency power, in watts
Higher intensity means better treatment, but too high intensity may also cause irritation. A good therapist will be able to treat at just the right intensity maintaining a fine balance between both effectiveness and comfort/safety.
Most machines, however, have such low settings that for a treatment that would normally require 40', one or even two hours are needed...
Radiofrequency with power modulation, in Hz
This allows high intensities to be used without overheating the tissues
radiofrequency with cooling mechanism
This allows the surface of the skin to remain unaffected while deeper tissues are heated intensely. It can be indispensable with more superficial technologies (i.e. the majority of RF technologies) to avoid skin burning,
Radiofrequency treatment contact gel/cream used
This allows the current to pass through the skin but also affects the quality of the treatment itself by altering the characteristics of the current as it passes though the cream/gel and into the skin.
Adjustable RF equipment settings
Some machines allow the operator to adjust many different parameters. Others have very simplistic controls - which is not very helpful and leads to crude treatment.
Simultaneous combination of radiofrequency with other effective modalities...
...such as ultrasound cavitation, as opposed to either RF-only treatment, or combination with ineffective modalities . Example of ineffective modalities are LED/laser phototherapy or vacuum suction.
Radiofrequency treatment protocol design by the head therapist at the clinic/salon
Usually the head therapist of the salon/clinic creates the basic protocol to be followed for each client or for all clients. Even the best machine in the world will not be put to good use if the person that sets the parameters and designs the treatment does not have a good knowledge of the biophysics of radiofrequency treatment (unfortunately this is non-existent in the beauty industry)...
Furthermore, customised protocols for each client will be more effective than one-size-fits all protocols.
Usually the operator does not necessarily need to have a good knowledge of the biophysics of the treatment, as the protocols are designed by the head therapist, but experience is very important.
A very busy clinic where hundreds of RF treatments are provided every month allows it's staff to gain more experience on the treatment and provide better results.
Also, specialisation on a specific type of RF treatment (e.g. face, body, bipolar, monopolar, resistive, capacitive etc.) can play an important role.
To sum it up, for cellulite reduction and body skin tightening, the RF equipment should ideally have a high power capability, should utilise monopolar function, and should offer simultaneous ultrasound cavitation treatment and skin cooling.
Other, secondary features can be resistive and capacitive function selection, frequency selection power modulation, while vacuum suction, LED/laser infrared therapy seem to be pointless, especially when compared with the therapeutic results that RF and ultrasound offers.
Protocols, operator skill and the use of a skin tightening / anti-cellulite gel or cream rich in active ingredients are also very important.
Get the best possible radiofrequency treatment by asking the right questions
If done properly, radiofrequency is the single most effective skin tightening and anti-cellulite technology available today.
However, RF treatments come in all shapes and sizes and can range from anything between mildly effective to impressively effective, given that there are more than ten different factors that affect treatment effectiveness and efficiency.
Furthermore, there are hundreds of radiofrequency/cavitation machines on the market with varying levels of specification and there are thousands of such treatment providers (typically beauty therapists), also with very different levels of expertise, training and experience.
Even with the same machine, each operator provides a different treatment, according to their knowledge, experience and limitations of the equipment, therefore it can be said that there are thousands of different radiofrequency/cavitation treatments available today.
Depending on reviews in the press or on the internet is not advised, as most such reviews are fake and/or written by ignorant people with no knowledge of the technology, so these reviews will usually mislead you instead of enlightening you...
And before and after photos are frequently faked with photoshop or lighting tricks, so these are not always to be trusted either.
So it is important to ask a few questions, based on the above information, to the person who is selling you the treatment. This will offer you important clues about the quality of the treatment you are about to receive and help you decide by the answers you receive whether you would like to invest your head-earned cash in them or not.
What to look for
Generally speaking, you will want to have:
- deeper treatment, as it tends to be more comfortable, safer and more effective
- high power equipment for better effectiveness
- and most importantly, a well-trained, experienced, knowledgeable therapist
It is easy to assess the expertise available at salon/clinic by judging the answers you receive to the above questions: if nobody at the clinic/salon has a clue about how to answer those questions, then you know that the clinic or salon you visited are not worth spending your money on. And the same applies if treatment specifications (according to the notes in the brackets) are poor...
On the other hand, if your therapist can answer those questions confidently, and propose a treatment based on the above specifications, then it is most probably worth committing to a course of treatments, always combining it with lifestyle changes (healthy eating, exercise, smoking cessation, reduced alcohol consumption etc) and a good cellulite cream in order to achieve maximum results.