"I had a facelift today," I told my friend/neighbor when I got home. "Uh huh," he mumbled absentmindedly.
"Ahem!" I cleared my throat. He glanced up at me, and frowned. I guess because I didn't look bloody, bandaged, and bruised, he was unconvinced.
The pictures were persuasive: double chins tightened, jowls lifted, under eye bags unpacked, as it were…
All.without blades, blood, or downtime.
We've been hearing about them for a while. And a whole host of procedures get shoved under this umbrella, from muscle-tightening devices, to laser resurfacing, comprehensive fillers, even facial exercises.
But Ulthera really seems to fits the description the best.
Basically it's ultra sound, said NYC facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Matthew White, when I found myself in his office last week. Dr. White, who was also involved in some of the early testing and research on Ulthera, explained that I would feel little pin-pricks of heat that were going into the deepest layer of the skin to wound it, and the healing process, which creates new collagen, also tightens the treated area.
"I just want to look better."
This is what I hear most often from most women. They don't want to change their appearance, just not look so tired, more like themselves, and how they feel on the inside (like that George Bernard Shaw quote I cited in The Beauty of Older Women).
And of course, almost everyone is concerned about their neck, famously articulated by Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck.
Nora Ephron would probably love Ultherapy.
Does it hurt?
The device pressed up again your skin reminds me of a larger version of the Norelco razors they advertise at Christmas. I was nervous, but the first zap could hardly be called a zap at all. There's a little warmth on the surface, and yes, you feel little pin pricks of heat in a line going deeper, but by the time you start to notice it, it's over.
Dr. White, who looks like Mark Harmon upside down, when you're lying on the table, kept asking me about the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Although there were occasionally jolts from doing it in the same spot again, even those only amounted to a 3.
Of course everyone's pain threshold is different, but Dr. White said in the couple hundred patients he's treated – women and men I might add—only 1 woman "hit the ceiling."
I was especially nervous about under my eyes. But the anticipation was worse than the event. It doesn't go that close because the device is too big, so I do wonder what good it can do at that distance/angle.
I also didn't do my forehead, which seems like it might hurt more since there's less skin and it's closer to the bone. Could this replace Botox? I asked Dr. White. "It could." Hmmm.
In the end, Dr. White said "we laid down 487 lines," which sounds vaguely illegal, but I popped up off the table after about an hour and a half I think, looking a little flushed.
Questions & Concerns
- What about fillers? Because fillers change the natural shape of your face, tightening your natural collagen could cause them to shift. Better to do fillers after you've done Ultherapy if you still need or want them. Dr. White says:
I like to start with the deepest tissue first, in other words, start at the bottom and work my way up! We perform Ultherapy to lift and tighten the deep soft tissue, the very deep layers of the skin. The next step is to add back volume to the fat layer underneath the skin; this is performed with fillers."
- What about vertical lines in the lips? Ulthera can spot treat areas of concern, although most people opt for a full face, says Dr. White.
- What about age spots and uneven skin tone? "When collagen is heated to 65 degrees (Celsius), the immediate effect is an initial tightening of the collagen," so skin surface does look firmer but, "brown or red 'age spots' or fine lines and wrinkles appear in the outer skin layers," Dr. White explains. "The final step would be to treat the surface with laser resurfacing or a chemical peel."
What are the results?
Can you tell? I asked my friend. "You look a little pink. And thinner, but you have lost weight lately." It's true I had, but I felt positively swan-necked after the treatment. And it made me conscious of my posture and holding my head up.
My cheeks were a little tender, but I only noticed it when I learned on them at my desk. But the real results, I'm told, come in 2 to 3 months, after the building of new collagen lifts and tones the skin. It's like I'll be growing younger. Although I breifly wondered if this vs. the natural aging process would cancel each other out.
The cost, depending on where you live, the doctor, and how much surface area you're treating is about $1000 to $4000.
I have to say, it really does sound like a miracle: it's cheaper than the adding up of fillers over time; it doesn't hurt; you're not adding any toxins or foreign substances to the skin; or chemicals that cause reddening or burning; you still look like you.
But it's my job to be skeptical, so I'll keep you informed in the coming months as to whether this is the real miracle everyone's been hoping for – in the meantime, check out the pictures.
More stories about how to look better:
Myths About Botox
Weight Loss Before Cosmetic Work
Finding a Cosmetic Surgeon
Why Do Stars Lie about Plastic Surgery? (This is something they could definitely lie about, and so could you!)