Ultherapy vs HIFU
Many people think that Hifu and Ultherapy are the same treatment. Ultherapy is similar to Hifu, but with the added benefit of real-time imaging. Additionally, while the treatments both use ultrasound to activate natural skin rejuvenation, they use different types of ultrasound beams.
There are two types of ultrasound used in medicine: high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), which is used mainly for medical applications, and micro focused ultrasound (MFU), which uses focused energy to a specific skin layer. Allowing a well-tolerated placement of targeted, precise and consistent treatment.
Ultherapy uses MFU, which is sharply focused, leaving surrounding areas unaffected. Ultherapy® is designed to target and deliver focused energy to a specific skin layer. One of the biggest downsides of other HiFu treatments is that, if they hit fat cells, they can destroy them, leading to fat loss. This can lead to hollow areas on the face, which actually cause more lines and wrinkles rather than providing the desired lifting effect.
Visual Aid used by Ultherapy
“Ultherapy® features DeepSEE technology – a unique visual aid that allows the practitioner to see the areas being treated – achieving a tailored optimal result for the patient. This means they can reach the relevant depths between 1.5 and 4.5mm beneath the skin which helps stimulate new collagen and elastin, this helps deliver ultrasound energy at specific depths at each thermal coagulation point to stimulate natural collagen and result in a facial lifting effect. This makes Ultherapy® both much safer and much more effective.
Difference in treatment areas
Another key difference between Ultherapy and Hifu lies in the treatment areas they work on. Ultherapy lifts and tightens the neck, chin and brow, and improves lines and wrinkles on the chest. It is also the only FDA-approved and CE-marked treatment of its kind. Unlike Hifu, it has been used to treat over 1.75 million patients globally and it is FDA approved to treat a wider range of areas than Hifu. Many Hifu machines available in the UK don’t have both FDA and CE-marked approval for skin tightening and lifting across the face, neck and decolletage. This creates potential risks for patients, which is why Ultherapy is known as the more reliable treatment choice.
Differences in results
Both treatments produce skin tightening and face lifting results. However, as they initiate a cell renewal process in the body, the visual effects are not immediate. Best results take 2-3 months to show through, as collagen and elastin production takes time to build back up. You can expect the results to last between 6 months to 18 months with both treatments.
However, Ultherapy has been around much longer than Hifu treatment machines. This makes it one of the most researched skin enhancement and anti-ageing technologies of its kind. Its results have been independently verified and supported by over 110 studies and research papers (60 peer-renewed papers and 50 clinical studies). This greatly exceeds Hifu products, which have only been studied a small number of times for their efficacy and patient satisfaction.
Different types of HIFU
Ultrasound procedures for lifting should be categorized into two types. HIFUs done by doctors (focused ultrasound), and HIFUs performed by therapists (fractionated ultrasound).
Below is a comparison of Ultraformer vs a micro-fractionated ultrasound:
Need only be done once every 12-18 months.
Only performed by qualified doctors.
Achieve a temperature of up to 72 degrees under the skin due to focused energy.
Penetrates deeper, up to 4.5mm under the skin to effectively target the SMAS layer which is responsible for a non-surgical face lift.
Can be used to reduce excess fats.
Cannot reduce excess fats.
Cost for a full face hifu: about $2000-$2500
4-6 treatments needed
Performed by therapists.
Achieve a temperature range of 38-50 degrees under the skin due to smaller heat concentration.
Does not penetrate as deep as focused ultrasound HIFUs
Cannot reduce excess fats.
Cost of each session: about $300-$600, depending on device.
1. Done by Doctor vs Therapist
Proper HIFU machines are registered medical devices in Singapore and are only done by licensed doctors.
2. Number of Treatments
A proper HIFU face lift procedure is repeated once every 12-18 months. As for fat-melting procedures such as for jowls or double chin reduction, 1-2 sessions might be needed.
A micro-fractionated HIFU or an unbranded HIFU may not omit the same amount of heat or energy as a proper type of HIFU, and may require more sessions to achieve visible results.
3. Pain management
A good HIFU procedure should also NOT be ‘painless’. A HIFU utilizes a high amount of heat to partially damage collagen structure, allowing them to repair over time to become tighter and firmer.
Also, this heat reaches up to 72 degrees under the skin to damage fat cells and can be used to reduce double chins and chubby jowls.
Because of this heat, a HIFU procedure will be slightly uncomfortable as the procedure progresses, as the heat accumulates under the skin. For those who are concerned about the discomfort, I usually perform a nerve-block to reduce sensation.
A nerve-block is the injection of local anesthesia to numb the face, like how a dentist will inject local anesthetic to numb the gums before a tooth extraction. A nerve-block greatly reduces any possible pain, and also allows me to perform the HIFU at a strong power setting for optimum results.
A fractionated ultrasound procedure is ‘painless’, as less heat is generated and energy is spread out. This results in a less ideal outcome as compared to a normal HIFU. It also ends up requiring many more treatments than a normal HIFU.