What is Radiofrequency (RF)?
Technically speaking, Radiofrequency (RF) is the number of oscillations (or waves) per second of the electric and magnetic fields within the radio waves portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
It is lowest of the electromagnetic radiation frequencies within the spectrum, which itself spans from radio waves, microwaves, infrared, optical (visible light), ultraviolet, x-rays, to gamma rays.
By feeding an alternating current (AC) or voltage through an antenna or electrode, electromagnetic waves can be generated that radiate through space at the speed of light; called radio waves. Radiofrequencies, or radio waves, have wavelengths ranging from less than a centimeter to as long as 100 kilometers.
UK domestic electricity which itself is an alternating current could in theory be used for “electrosurgery”, however as most people know, contact with this kind of electric current can cause very undesirable effects such as electrocution and uncontrolled neuromuscular (nerve and muscle) stimulation. However, if the frequency of the alternating current is raised above the response time of neuromuscular structures, we find the radiofrequency range which can safely be used for medical/surgical applications.
By applying RF energy to the human body, which can conduct current and therefore act as part of the electrical circuit, any resistance encountered by the energy flow will cause heat to be produced at the site of maximum resistance, which can also be used to cut or coagulate tissue.
RF energy when used for skin tightening is able to penetrate deep into the skin and affect the deeper dermis and subcutaneous layers, causing tightening and improvements to the underlying tissue structure, but with little change in skin texture or fine lines and wrinkling
What can Radiofrequency (RF) energy treat?
Pure RF energy alone is primarily used to treat skin laxity by facial tightening, and is best suited to patients with mild to moderate sagging of facial tissues, usually those in their mid thirties to fifties, with any skin colour.
It is commonly used to treat the forehead (lift brows and tightens forehead skin), under the eyes (thickens skin and tightens and lifts the upper cheek skin), cheeks (lifts slightly and diminishes enlarged pores), mid-face, jaw line (diminishes jowling and sagging along the jaw line), and the neck (tightens skin and diminishes wrinkling of the neck).
However, if there is a significant amount of redundant or sagging skin, often seen in older patients over sixty, this procedure may not show a significant enough improvement and a traditional mid-face, face or brow lift operation may be recommended in order to remove the excess skin, therefore achieving a better result.
In combination with other modalities, as we have discussed above, RF can be used to enhance a variety of treatments including hair removal, photorejuvenation, pigmented and vascular problems, acne treatment and cellulite treatment.
What happens during a Radiofrequency For Facial Rejuvenation treatment?
Careful discussions regarding your reasons for wanting treatment are very important before you begin the treatment. You must also make sure that this treatment can deliver what you want and how you would like to look afterwards. Your practitioner should be able to answer all these questions.
A medical history should also be taken to make sure that there are no reasons why you shouldn’t undertake treatment. You may be asked to sign a consent form which means that you have understood the potential benefits and risks associated with the procedure.
Photographs may also be taken by the practitioner for a “before and after” comparison at a later date.
You may be required to wash your face with soap and warm water prior to your treatment, in order to remove any makeup and skin oils which could interfere with the application of the RF treatment.
A topical anesthetic cream may then be applied to your skin a short time prior to treatment, to help numb the skin slightly; this will normally be removed using alcohol cleansers immediately before your clinician commences the procedure.
Depending on the device being used and your practitioner, a “treatment grid” ink transfer may then be applied over your face to assist the practitioner in navigating your face whilst delivering the RF energy; helping to assure an even application of the RF and to prevent inadvertent overlapping of treatment.
Again, dependent of the device being used you may be fitted with a single-use, self-adhesive return pad attached to your stomach or back to ground you; normally with monopolar devices.
A coupling gel may then also be applied over your face which acts as an additional barrier between the surface layers of your skin and the handpiece of the device.
Your clinician will then commence the RF treatment working across your face. Once completed a soothing gel or lotion may be applied to your skin.
Immediately following the treatment, your skin will feel tighter, with more tightening improvements appearing gradually over the months after treatment.
Results are said to last up to a couple of years, and a single initial treatment can be enough to produce results in some people (using the Thermage device), depending on skin thickness; however your practitioner will be able to determine a course of treatments specific to you and your needs.