Monopolar vs bipolar radiofrequency for skin tightening/cellulite

For body skin toning and for cellulite reduction, monopolar radiofrequency treatment is preferred to bipolar RF

In another article we analysed the factors that determine RF treatment effectiveness. Here we take a look at the difference between monopolar, bipolar and other "multipolar" radiofrequency treatments for cellulite and skin laxity.

As we explained before, treating the subdermis (i.e. the innermost layer of the skin) is essential if skin tightening and cellulite. Monopolar radiofrequency treatment penetrates deeper into the skin and reaches the subcutis better, while unipolar, bipolar, tripolar, octipolar and other multipolar treatments are too superficial (they mainly affect the upper/middle layers of the skin, i.e. dermis and epidermis) to have any significant effect on skin firming and cellulite reduction.

Furthermore, monopolar treatment is typically of a higher intensity than unipolar, bipolar, tripolar etc. treatments, leading to better therapeutic outcomes for the body. Even for the face, monopolar treatment offers the best results, as opposed to bipolar treatment.


Resistive versus capacitive RF treatment

Similarly to monopolar treatment affecting the "right" layer of the skin (the subdermis / subcutis), "resistive radiofrequency" treatment is ideal for cellulite reduction and deep skin firming, as it affects the same layer. "Capacitive radiofrequency" treatment on the other hand is more superficial and not very effective for those applications.

Furthermore, resistive treatment prevents the damage of heat-sensitive active ingredients, such as vitamins, that are contained in contact gels and creams used for RF treatment. With capacitive treatment, and especially in the absence of a cooling mechanism, the cream can "burn" and evaporate due to the high temperatures developed on the surface of the treatment handpiece.


The importance of RF frequency range

The frequency of radiofrequency treatment affects penetration depth, with lower frequencies working better on deeper layers of the skin and higher frequencies affecting more superficial layers. Having the opportunity to select the frequency of the radiofrequency treatment allows the therapist to direct treatment where it is needed. Unfortunately, most machines offer this facility, thereby limiting treatment flexibility and accuracy.


In summary

Monopolar, resistive radiofrequency is the the most powerful skin firming and anti-cellulite technology today, but it must clearly differentiated to bipolar, multipolar and "capacitive" treatments, which as much weaker and much less effective.