Monopolar radiofrequency treatments such as Thermage made a huge impact over 15 years ago when they was featured on Oprah. They were one of the first non-ablative (quick healing) skin tightening treatments ever, utilizing monopolar radiofrequency energy to heat and theoretically tighten the skin. This, along with its relatively low price tag, encouraged many doctors to buy them and use them on their patients.
The problem with monopolar radiofrequency treatments was that they were very painful and often didn’t produce any measurable results. One other issue that I noticed back in 2004 was that they could actually scar and burn the underlying fat.
I was the first plastic surgeons to publish in a peer-reviewed, scientific journal that using Thermage can cause people to lose fat in their faces and actually look gaunt and older. After this, I received numerous inquiries from patients complaining of just that.
Then I received a threatening letter from the company that made Thermage at the time. Apparently, they didn’t like that I was publicizing the poor results of the treatment.
Since then, the company has changed hands, and Thermage has undergone many changes and updates. It’s no longer the hot commodity it once was. I also understand that the technology has now significantly improved, and the issues with fat loss have been resolved.
However, for the reasons above, monopolar radiofrequency treatments are on my Holistic Beauty Blacklist.
A funny coda to this story – a facial plastic surgeon in my building moved out a couple years ago, and before leaving he wheeled his old Thermage machine into my office. “Take it,” he said, “I’ve never figured out how to get people happy with it.”
The ancient Thermage machine sat in my storage room for months, until I finally decided to sell it on eBay. I, for one, wasn’t going to use it on my patients. I took the money and used it to put a down payment on a fence around my backyard.
Note: This is based solely on the opinions of Dr. Youn, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of all doctors or the standard of care in your area. Before you undergo any invasive cosmetic treatment, make sure you consult with a real board-certified plastic surgeon.