Have you heard of Ultherapy? This non-invasive skin tightening procedure has generated quite some media buzz in recent years, especially after celebs like Kim Kardashian, Courtney Cox, and Kathie Lee Gifford opted for this new procedure that some dubbed "spanx for skin." Suddenly it went cult, and Hollywood types started getting ultrasound facelifts, from Real Housewife of Miami, Adriana De Moura, to

But is it legit? Read on to find out. One thing we can tell you right away: the rumors are true. It can be painful. However, it can also make you look ten years younger. Is it worth it? We think it's a unique modality that seems very effective, based on our research. But we will let you decide. If you're looking to deal with signs of aging such as sagging skin or the appearance of jowls due to age-related collagen loss, be sure consider at all of your options to reset the clock without surgery.

What Is Ultherapy?

Ultherapy is a non-surgical, therapeutic ultrasound treatment that stimulates collagen production (neocollagenesis) to lift and tighten skin in trouble areas such as the face (e.g., forehead, brows, upper lip, and jowls), neck, décolleté, stomach and knees. Collagen production naturally declines as we get older, so stimulating the production of this vital youth "elixir" can do wonders. With this treatment, collagen production is boosted via a process called "thermal injury," where ultrasound enters your skin up to 4.5 millimeters deep.

This is done with a "wand" or transducer that is directed at the "problem" areas.  More collagen means plumper, tighter skin and voila, you have received a non-surgical facelift. This treatment also relies on traditional ultrasound imaging for targeted collagen growth-boosting. Imaging allows the practitioner to visually identify the optimal tissue layers for treatment, so that ultrasound energy can be delivered to where it will be the most beneficial, resulting in targeted collagen growth where it matters most.

According to Dr. Arie Benchetrit, an eminent Canadian plastic surgeon and an authority on non-invasive treatments like Ultherapy, it is “one of the only machines that allow you to see exactly where you are, and what you’re treating.” “It provides feedback via ultrasound of the tissue, so you know when you are at the right place. Other treatments such as Thermage leave you guessing where the energy is actually going,” he says.

Ultherapy Is Ideal For:

  • Crepiness on the chest
  • Beginning signs of turkey neck
  • Sagging chin and double chin
  • Sunken-in eye area and droopy eyes
  • The loose or lax skin on face, chest and elsewhere
  • Lowered brow or shifting brow line
  • Fine wrinkles
  • Looking tired all the time

How Is Ultherapy Different?

How is this treatment different form other modalities, such as radio frequency, lasers, and traditional surgery? Ultherapy, the company behind this treatment explains it like this: Ultherapy “bypasses the surface of the skin to deliver the right amount of ultrasound energy at the right depths and the right temperature. This energy triggers a natural response under the skin, jumpstarting the regenerative process that produces fresh, new collagen. What About the Cost? Ultherapy is not cheap.

An upper lip treatment alone will cost you from $500, while the face and neck will set you back about $5000. Luckily the effects last about 18 months until it's time to book another treatment. For comparison, the average cost of a full facelift starts at $15,000 and a brow lift goes for around  $3,400, according to stats from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2016.

Is It Painful?

Yes, Ultherapy can be quite painful. In fact, some patients have complained of excruciating pain and a sensation they described as their face melting away, while others reported that the pain was on par with that of a bad headache or menstrual cramps. Others reported no pain at all. About 60 percent of patients experience little to moderate discomfort. Note that the pain is not continuous.

It lasts for about four seconds at a time. Doctors are aware, and many prescribe painkillers such as Vicodin to help patients deal with the discomfort during and after the treatment. Another option is numbing cream and anti-inflammatory drugs like Aspirin or Ibuprofen to tackle the swelling that might occur. Some people shun the pain meds and relax via meditation or a stress ball. Others might need Valium to stay calm during "distress.”

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. We are all different. How Long Does a Treatment Take? How about some good news? It is quick. An average procedure takes just about one hour and a half.

Expected Results

Results vary, but generally, people report very positive results. Some lucky candidates experience immediate skin tightening and plumping effects after just a few sessions. These aesthetic improvements may be small but still noticeable. The full effect occurs after circa three to six months when most clients experience a notable improvement in skin tone and elasticity due to the potent ultrasound collagen boost they received. Problem areas appear tighter, more contoured and remodeled.

Immediately after the treatment or for a couple of days to a few weeks, swelling, redness, tenderness, achiness, and bruising can occur. This, too, shall pass, and you reap the benefits of a more contoured jawline, the disappearance of jowls, a lifted brow, a smoother chest or forehead and more after circa 3 months. People say it’s worth the wait.

Since results vary, it’s good to know whom the treatment is recommended for. Older patients with very thin skin might not be great candidates, since the procedure would reach the subcutaneous fat layer, which may not be recommendable. Whereas patients with extra fat-storing adipose tissue on their neck, jowls or the submentum area will see significant improvement. The general recommendation is that it works great for people between the age of 35 and 60 who have mild to moderate skin laxity or skin with some fat content that is not too fragile and thin.

Well, Is It Legit?

Is Ultherapy legit, or should you opt to quit and find another type of non-invasive anti-aging treatment? Ultherapy is an FDA-cleared anti-aging treatment. Many celebs have opted for this treatment and are happy with results. According to the makers behind the procedure, a company owned by German pharmaceutical giant Merz, more than 1 million treatments have been performed worldwide to date, and 95% of patients report satisfaction one year after treatment.

woman with good skin

Despite reports of discomfort, patients opt for Ultherapy as an alternative to surgery because it’s non-invasive and based on ultrasound. Also, there’s no post-treatment downtime. After a session, you can go ahead and resume your normal activities. It also requires no pre-procedure regimens or preparations. And it’s fast, just 1.5 hours per session. Not convinced?

There are plenty of YouTube videos showcasing rather impressive results. Also fun: Check out the “Simulate Your Selfie” functionality at ​www.ultherapy.com. You upload a photo and select a problem area such as eyebrow, neck, under the chin or chest and see for yourself what Ultherapy can do for you.

For full disclosure, one should be aware that there have also been reports of devastating complications and side effects such as loss of skin elasticity and reports of skin looking aged after an Ultherapy treatment, according to a report by the Daily Mail. The company is facing lawsuits from people alleging “hollowed cheeks and eyes, the loss of facial volume, and slackening and thinning of the skin,” and even eye and nerve damage. Merz denies these allegations.


So, what’s the next step? Find a provider and book a one-on-one consultation, where they will talk about your concerns and carefully assess your skin to determine whether the treatment is right for you. Finding a skilled and trustworthy practitioner is key, so we highly recommend investigating doctors carefully. Look for a doctor who has been to an Ulthera "advanced users meeting."

Also keep in mind that certain physicians are naturally more informed about the location of nerves and factors such as bone, tissue and fat, because of their medical specialty and training. These include dermatologists, plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists, and even ear, nose, and throat specialists.

We have also learned that in many cases the pain is due not to the actual ultrasound treatment itself but due to the lack of skill on the part of the provider. In all, after carefully examining this buzzy treatment from all angles, we give it a thumb up for legitimacy and effectiveness. Who doesn’t want to get back the face they’re familiar with? Ultherapy has the benefit of being administered all without needles and problematic post-operative hassles.

And we love the added “bonus” of ultrasound imaging allowing the practitioners to carefully target tissue where the treatment benefits us most. With any anti-aging treatment, from Botox to chemical peels, there’s a risk involved, and everyone should carefully weigh the benefits of any procedure against its potential negative outcomes.

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