Girlfriend's Guide to Ulthera

  • Written By:Robin Shobin
  • Photography:Ben Ritter
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It’s a treatment worth investing in because it really does rebuild collagen and tighten your face.

Ulth-er-a. Ulth-a what? Maybe the name rings a bell. It’s floating around in your cosmetic treatment vocabulary. You might have heard a girlfriend talk about it. It’s not terribly new, after all. But what is it exactly? What does it do? Well – what does it really do? Here’s the full 411, girlfriend to girlfriend.

Let’s start with the bottom line: Ulthera is a skin tightening treatment. It’s effective. And it hurts. A lot. It’s also not cheap. And you won’t see immediate results. Now, with that in mind, read on. Because it’s a treatment worth knowing about.

Ulthera uses ultrasound technology to help rebuild collagen. When you have plenty of collagen in your face, it looks fuller and tighter, and thus less saggy (for lack of a better word). You’re essentially enhancing the scaffolding that supports your skin, resulting in more lifted skin. Make sense? Ulthera is also completely noninvasive: there are no needles involved. In girlfriend terms, it’s a treatment worth investing in because it really does rebuild collagen and tighten your face.

This is how a treatment goes down: the physician or medical esthetician uses an ultrasound device around the lower half of your face (think cheek area and below). While administering the treatment, they are able to visualize the muscles and deep connective tissue below the skin and then deliver targeted concentrated ultrasound energy to these areas. This is the part that hurts. The energy contracts the muscles and deep tissue, stimulating the body’s own collagen to grow and strengthen. Voila! More collagen. Also…more pain each time the practitioner delivers those short bursts of ultrasound energy to the layers deep under your skin. Be sure to ask for a painkiller, Dr. Jennifer MacGregor says, “For the majority of my patients, I do prescribe a combination of pain medication and mild sedative to relax before the procedure and make it more comfortable.” Trust me, you will need it.

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Charlotte's Book founder and author, Robin Shobin

Non-invasive tightening works, but it isn’t dramatic like surgery.

Unlike laser treatments – like Fraxel or Clear & Brilliant – which target the texture and brightness of your skin, Ulthera penetrates deep to help your body boost its inner collagen production facilities. And also unlike the lasers, the treatment doesn’t involve heat, so you won’t feel burning sensations or experience peeling. So despite the intense pain, at least you won’t have to hide for days afterwards like you may have to do with Fraxel.

The good thing is, once the pain is over, the pain is over. You’ll walk out of your Ulthera session with literally no downtime. Your face may feel sore, like your facial muscles had the most intense personal training session on earth. But you won’t be red and peeling for days, or even hours.

Ulthera is typically done on women 40 and over. Like my impending mammogram, I’ve been waiting for my Ulthera treatment day. Luckily I’ve been doing mini Ulthera treatments to prep myself.

Some physicians offer what I call “Ulthera Diet.” The treatment is done on the same machine, but at a lower level.

Dr. Julie Russak, a Charlotte’s Book expert dermatologist explains, “The ultrasound energy is focused more on the superficial layers, versus traditional Ulthera which goes much deeper.” Personally, I like to think of it as an Ulthera gateway treatment. It’s also less expensive than traditional Ulthera (around $1,200), while a full Ulthera treatment can set you back several thousand.

The best part about Ulthera? Virtually every doctor on Charlotte’s Book is a fan of the treatment. It works. Dr. MacGregor reminds us, “Ulthera was approved in 2010. It has gotten much more effective over time with newer treatment protocols.” But remember to have realistic expectations. Non-invasive tightening works, but it isn’t dramatic like surgery. “Each individual response is different - about 20% of people do not see much the first time (80% see mild tightening),” says Dr. MacGregor.

A disclaimer to my “Girlfriend’s Guide”: This is in no way sponsored by Ulthera. I just wish to share my honest girlfriend advice. I like to keep it real. And so do all of the experts on Charlotte’s Book.

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