Thermage Versus Ultherapy: What is the difference?

By Dr. TRACY MOUNTFORD, MBBS MBCAM

When patients search for leading non-surgical treatments to tighten and lift the skin, two notable procedures often crop up on people’s beauty radar: Thermage® CPT and Ultherapy®. Both treatments deliver skin tightening and skin lifting benefits without the need for invasive surgery or downtime.

However, on closer inspection, there is a range of significant differences between the two. These range from which areas they treat, to which technologies they use to enhance sagging, aged or wrinkled skin. In this article, we explore these similarities and differences to help you decide which one to pick when it comes to Thermage versus Ultherapy. Here is our detailed comparison:

Skin Lifting and Tightening with Thermage and Ultherapy

Thermage and Ultherapy are two leading non-surgical technologies. As two of the world’s best skin tightening and lifting treatments, they give patients the ability to lift and tighten sagging or loose skin across the body while smoothing the skin’s texture and strength, without the need for any injections, surgery or scalpels. This means zero downtime or recovery. The treatments have also both received an official seal of approval from the FDA for their clinically proven results.

Benefits of Thermage and Ultherapy

Both treatments are one of the most popular anti-ageing procedures. Traditionally, a surgical facelift was the go-to solution. But thanks to smart innovations in skincare technology, Ultherapy and Thermage can tackle the symptoms of ageing head-on, without the arduous recovery time of plastic surgery.

As we age, our skin gradually loses its ability to reproduce collagen and elastin proteins. These two essential structural proteins are crucial components that connect our inner skin tissues. They help to keep them taut, hydrated and firm. But after the age of 20, we lose elastin and collagen at a rate of 1% per year. This means that by the time we hit our 30s and 40s, our skin is on a downward natural path towards wrinkles, looseness, sagging.

Thankfully, these procedures stimulate the production of collagen and elastin over time to give us tighter and firmer skin that is youthfully remodelled. Their dual benefits are outlined below:

  • Minimally invasive treatments
  • Reduces signs of wrinkles
  • Boosts natural collagen and elastin production
  • Lifts sagging and drooping skin
  • Improves skin texture
  • Smooths out fine lines and wrinkles
  • No injections, needles or surgical procedures needed
  • Instant recovery
  • No downtime needed
  • Long-lasting results
thermagev-ultherapy-benefits

Thermage Vs Ultherapy: What do they do?

While the two treatments stimulate the natural reproduction of collagen to tighten and lift the skin, they do so using different technologies. Both technologies use heat energy as a way to encourage our skin cells to replenish and remodel. Whereas Ultherapy utilises ultrasound heat to stimulate collagen renewal deep within the skin, Thermage uses radiofrequency energy to kickstart collagen production in superficial skin layers. The primary goal of each technique is slightly different, but collagen renewal is their simultaneous raison d’etre.

The purpose of each treatment

  • Thermage: contours, lifts and smooths skin. while working on superficial skin layers

Thermage tightens and re-contours the skin using radiofrequency (RF) energy. It has become a firm favourite with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow thanks to its ability to create flawlessly understated results that refresh, lift and tighten the skin. The radiofrequency heat that Thermage delivers works to three-dimensionally contract existing collagen proteins. At the very same time, it stimulates new ones to form. This collagen rejuvenation process makes Thermage a game-changing treatment when it comes to lifting the structure of sagging skin across the body, while also enhancing the visual texture and appearance of wrinkled and crepey skin. It can even smooth out the appearance of cellulite!

  • Ultherapy: strengthens and lifts skin layers from deep within

Ultherapy uses cutting-edge ultrasound technology to strengthen and lift the skin from deep inside. It utilises micro-focused ultrasound with visualisation (MFU-V) energy to reach the same depths that plastic surgeons can reach when they perform a surgical facelift. This has made Ultherapy the go-to treatment for patients who require a non-surgical facelift without any side effects or downtime. By heating deep skin tissues with ultrasound, the skin responds by reproducing fresh collagen stores over time. This helps patients to achieve tighter skin that withstands the downward effects of gravity while keeping the skin toned, firm and youthful. Use it across the face, neck and decolletage to revitalise and uplift the skin.

Thermage Vs Ultherapy: How do they work?

Radiofrequency and ultrasound energies work in slightly different ways to reboot and encourage collagen production in our skin.

Thermage: Radiofrequency (RF) energy

Using a highly advanced radiofrequency laser, Thermage uses a smooth-tip handpiece to instantly heat up the dermis layer of the skin to 40-55 degrees Celsius. This stimulating heat energy contracts collagen proteins in a three-dimensional way within the collagen-rich dermis layer of the skin. This heat energy refreshes the skin in the same way as a deep skin chemical peel, but without damaging the outer epidermis. The RF heat energy also accelerates the regeneration of damaged skin cells, which is why Thermage is so effective at revitalising and smoothing crepey ‘orange peel’ skin and cellulite.

thermage-how-it-works

Ultherapy: Ultrasound (MFU-V) energy

Ultherapy uses highly targeted micro-focused ultrasound energy to stimulate collagen renewal in the deepest layer of the skin, called the SMAS layer. This unique process creates a momentary heatwave in the targeted treatment area by transmitting high-intensity frequency ultrasound waves. The Ultherapy device instantly heats up skin to 60-70 degrees Celsius, resulting in the regeneration of collagen and elastin proteins. The technology also utilises 3D visualisation, giving practitioners the ability to visually detect depleted areas of collagen in the SMAS layer with their own eyes. This facilitates a highly targeted and accurate skin regeneration treatment.

Thermage Vs Ultherapy: How deep do they penetrate the skin?

Thermage – the dermis to the subcutaneous fat layer

A Thermage treatment only penetrates into shallower areas of skin tissues, from the dermis, just below the surface of the skin, to the layer of subcutaneous fat tissues. However, it covers a wider area of the body and delivers a greater volume of energy in one session when compared to Ultherapy.

Ultherapy – deep penetration to the SMAS layer

Ultrasound stimulates deeper layers of skin tissue, enabling it to reach the fibromuscular layer or ‘SMAS’ layer that sits just above a person’s muscle tissue. This layer of skin becomes thinner as we age, allowing wrinkles and sagging skin to form.  The technology therefore penetrates deeper than Thermage and is able to target multiple layers of the skin for a longer-lasting effect.

ultherapy-how-it-works

Thermage Vs Ultherapy: Treatment areas

Thermage leads the way when it comes to the number of body areas that it can target. It can treat the face, eyes, neck and stomach as well as problem issues like ‘bingo wings’ on the arms. Thermage has the ability to treat:

  • Upper Face (forehead, eyelids)
  • Lower Face (jowls, jawline area)
  • Eye area (with Thermage Eyes)
  • Neck
  • Décolletage
  • Stomach
  • Arms
  • Bingo wings
  • Turkey neck
  • Buttocks
  • Knees
  • Thighs
  • Hands

The FDA has approved Ultherapy for use across a smaller range of areas like the brow line, chin and chest. But it stands out thanks to its ability to treat the muscle fascia area like a standard surgical facelift does. This is why Ultherapy is so famed for its non-surgical facelift and non-surgical brow lift. It can treat:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Cheeks and mouth area
  • Jawline
  • Décolletage
  • Chin
  • Chest
  • Brow
  • Under-eye area

Thermage Vs Ultherapy: Treatment Sessions

A typical Thermage treatment session takes from 30-90 minutes to complete, depending on the areas being treated. Unlike many other body contouring treatments, Thermage can be delivered in a single session, with results that can last for years.

Ultherapy is a quick and easy treatment that patients can fit into a busy schedule. It takes between 60-90 minutes for a facial treatment, while a chest treatment is delivered more quickly in approximately 30 minutes. In the vast majority of cases, only one treatment is required to produce noticeable lifting and skin tightening results.

Thermage Vs Ultherapy: Candidates

Both Thermage and Ultherapy are suitable for patients who want to tighten and lift sagging or loose skin. However, Thermage can treat skin laxity issues across a wider range of body areas, putting it into the realm of classic body contouring techniques like EMSculpt, which are designed to reshape and recontour the body. It is particularly suited to patients who are interested in contouring sagging areas of skin across the thighs or abdomen. We have had much success in using Thermage to treat cellulite and crepey skin across the abdomen and neck area for example, in addition to the thighs. It is the ideal treatment for patients who suffer from an uneven skin texture.

Ultherapy leads the way when it comes skin tightening across the face. It is ideal to lift sagging jowls and brows while improving the appearance of lines and wrinkles across the face. Thermage can also minimise the appearance of wrinkles across the face. But Ultherapy has the edge at skin tightening in areas like the brow and jowls. This is thanks to its deeper penetrating technology, which rebuilds collagen and elastin proteins from deep inside.

We have also noticed that Ultherapy tends to have more dramatic results on thinner areas of the skin. Men are great candidates for Thermage because of this as they have thicker skin layers than women. Thermage has also stood out when treating patients with oily skin. Although officially, both procedures are suited to candidates with a range of different skin types.

Thermage Vs Ultherapy: Results

Both treatments have the potential to transform the visible appearance of a patient’s skin by making it look fresher, more lifted and rejuvenated. However, it takes a different amount of time for optimal results to show through for each treatment, and each procedure has slightly different benefits when it comes to skin correction.

Thermage CPT results in an immediate tightening effect thanks to its 3D collagen contraction. However, it can take up to 6 months for the best results to show through. A single treatment session can generate lifting and tightening results for 1-2 years after treatment, but this depends on the texture and quality of a patient’s skin before they have the treatment.

Ultherapy also has an immediate revitalising result. But best results tend to show through more quickly than Thermage, peaking at around 3-4 months post-treatment. Evidence has also shown that results are long-lasting with Ultherapy. Many of our patients have enjoyed lifted and tightened skin for 1-2 years after a single treatment session.

Both techniques improve the appearance of sagging and wrinkled skin thanks to their collagen regeneration effects, which give the skin a healthier and firmer texture while smoothing out fine lines in the process. They also reduce the appearance of large pores, helping patients to enjoy skin with a more balanced and even texture.

However, Thermage has the edge when it comes to contouring, helping patients to directly address skin issues like crepey, uneven and cellulite-marked skin, while also lifting droopy fat bulges. As Ultherapy uses a more intense thermal technology to boost collagen and elastin renewal in the deeper SMAS layer of the skin, it produces more impressive results for patients who suffer from deeper wrinkles and severe cases of skin sagging.

Thermage V Ultherapy Results

Are Thermage and Ultherapy results permanent?

These non-surgical treatments often work in a similar way to surgical lifts. However, they do not offer permanent skin lifting and tightening results. It is therefore advisable for patients to seek out maintenance or “touch up” treatments to maximise long-term results.

Which One to Choose?

Both treatments offer clear advantages for patients who are suffering issues like skin laxity, sagging skin tissues and fine lines and wrinkles. They are both FDA-approved to make skin tighter and younger-looking without the detrimental side effects and lengthy recovery times of surgical treatments like liposuction or facelifts.

When it comes to making the right choice between the two treatments, we advise seeking out a consultation with our trained clinicians. Thanks to their specialised medical training, they can assess your body and recommend the most suitable approach for your unique needs.

Thermage is better for patients who care more about addressing the texture and quality of sagging skin. It has the power to tackle problematic issues like cellulite or drooping fat thanks to its emphasis on contouring. However, Ultherapy is generally more effective when it comes to stimulating deeper skin layers. It also has longer-lasting results, particularly when it comes to correcting key facial issues like sagging jowls or drooping brows. By speaking to one of our qualified practitioners, we can confirm the best approach to suit your own body goals and cosmetic needs.

Thermage and Ultherapy at The Cosmetic Skin Clinic

At The Cosmetic Skin Clinic, we are industry leaders when it comes to offering transformational skin tightening and lifting treatments. We are the UK’s No 1 Ultherapy Premier Treatment Provider, having been voted as such for 7 years in a row. We have also been recognised as an Ultherapy Centre of Excellence by Merz Aesthetics thanks to our impeccable treatment standards and our technical expertise.

Dr Tracy Mountford, our clinic’s founder, has been awarded the official Thermage Black Diamond Award to recognise her consistent delivery of exceptional treatment results. View these in our Thermage before and after photos for further details.

To find out more about which of these treatments is best suited to your own body goals, contact our London and Buckinghamshire clinics directly by phone: 0203 319 3637 (London) or 01753 646 660 (Bucks). Alternatively, fill out our enquiry form and we will be happy to get in touch.

Awards

Book a

Consultation