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Thermage - Procedure, Uses and Side Effects

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Thermage is an effective and safe non-invasive alternative to treat sagging skin. Read the article to learn about the procedure in detail.

Written by

Dr. Akanksha

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nidhin Varghese

Published At February 7, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 13, 2023


Non-invasive skin or tissue tightening is a popular idea in the 21st century. As people grow older, the body shows signs of aging. Though every part of the body ages, skin gains maximum attention as it is clearly visible. With aging, the production of collagen, a protein that makes the skin firm and plump, slows down, leading to sagging skin. Sagging skin is a major concern, especially on the face and neck area, as it affects self-image and has several emotional and social implications. The signs of aging on the skin include wrinkles, sagging, and uneven skin tone. Everybody tries different ways to delay these visible signs of aging. There are surgical options for skin tightening that show drastic changes, but non-surgical skin tightening methods are most effective for mild cases of skin sagging. This article discusses one such non-surgical skin tightening method called thermage.

What Is Thermage?

Thermage is a non-surgical skin tightening technique that helps reduce and eliminate aging signs. This procedure improves the overall skin appearance, which can last up to a year or even longer. It is a United States FDA (food and drug administration) approved method to contour and tighten the skin in a single sitting without surgery.

Thermage uses radiofrequency (RF) energy to tighten and smooth skin by promoting collagen production. Radiofrequency waves give off heat into the layer of the skin just below the surface. The heat separates the water molecules from collagen in the dermis (inner layer of the skin). This separation causes existing collagen to contract, which tightens the skin. This radiofrequency energy also makes the skin produce more collagen. It accelerates cell turnover so that the skin gets thicker and firmer over time. The results of radiofrequency do last a significant time but not as long as the effects of a surgical facelift.

Who Should Go For Thermage?

Thermage is the best option for middle-aged people who do not want a surgical facelift and need a non-invasive approach. It is performed for those who have mild to moderate skin sagging in areas such as the neck, cheek, brows, jowls, and eyelids. It is also a good option to target large areas such as the abdomen and thighs. Studies have shown that RF-based treatments are appropriate for any skin type. Hence, thermage can be used for all skin tones and types.

What Happens During Thermage?

Since thermage is a non-surgical procedure, not many precautions are required before the procedure. The patient going for the procedure should clean the face properly and be free from makeup or any skin products. Avoiding facial peels and chemical treatment before the treatment is also recommended. A local anesthetic cream may be applied to the targeted area to complete the procedure with no pain and minimal discomfort.

During the procedure, the professional using a handpiece delivers the radiofrequency energy to the skin tissues of the area to be treated. The patient may feel a brief sensation of heat every time it is used. The procedure takes about 30 minutes to two hours. However, the time taken for the procedure depends on the skin being treated.

The results of the thermage depend on the targeted area and may vary. Most patients experience changes two to six months after the first session of thermage. Depending on the skin, the results may last one to two years or even longer.

How Is Thermage Different From Ultherapy?

Thermage and ultherapy are similar in several ways, but there are notable differences that a person should be aware of before deciding on the treatment for them. Both thermage and ultherapy are non-surgical methods approved by the United States FDA to address the signs of aging.

The major difference between thermage and ultherapy is the type of energy used to treat sagging skin. Thermage uses radiofrequency, whereas ultherapy uses ultrasound to restore collagen production. The type of energy makes a difference in the treatment as ultrasound reaches deeper into the skin layers.

Another important difference between the two is the targeted areas. Thermage is an option that works on sagging skin of thighs, abdomen, arms, and buttocks, the areas not approved for treatment with ultherapy. Ultherapy is the best choice to treat sagging skin on the face, neck, and decollete (low neckline) area.

Both thermage and ultherapy, take approximately the same time to perform, but the results can be expected at different times. Results of ultherapy can be seen within two to three months after the first session, whereas the results with thermage can take up to six months to show.

Does Thermage Have Any Side Effects?

Like any other medical procedure, thermage can have potential side effects and complications. However, thermage has a very low risk of developing complications. The possible side effects of thermage include:

  • Tingling.

  • Minor swelling.

  • Temporary redness.

These side effects are temporary and often decrease within 24 hours of the treatment.

Thermage is generally a safe and effective procedure, but some people should avoid getting this procedure done. Such people should always consult a doctor before deciding on a skin tightening procedure. These people include:

  • Those who are on certain medications.

  • Women who are pregnant.

  • Those who suffer from skin infections.


It is natural that the skin shows signs of aging because it loses collagen, making the skin sag. Thermage, a skin tightening procedure, helps to manage aging signs. It is a safe and effective method after one session, and the results last for one to two years. Once the results start to fade, the person can have a follow-up session. Hence, it is a procedure that does not require frequent upkeep.

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Dr. Nidhin Varghese
Dr. Nidhin Varghese



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