WHY ARE THERE SO MANY RADIOFREQUENCY DEVICES?
Are you interested in skin tightening? Are you confused by all the different options of radiofrequency (RF) devices on the market? The reason so many devices exist is because radiofrequency skin tightening technology has advanced rapidly in the past 20 years, with new and improved devices being released every few years. Read below for a quick overview of all the types of RF microneedling devices on the market right now:
1. FIRST GENERATION RADIOFREQUENCY DEVICES
FDA approval: Early 2000s
Cons: Pain, poor skin penetration, very shallow treatment depths
In the early 2000s, the very first RF skin tightening technology was monopolar based. What does that mean? Monopolar energy uses a grounding pad and an electrode placed on the skin. The energy travels from the electrode through the skin to generate heat within, and back to the grounding pad. High levels of energy (100 watts or more) are needed to complete the circuit because skin is resistant to electrical current. Unfortunately, these high wattages cause a significant level of pain. Additionally, these devices are limited to only treating the superficial dermis and upper epidermis.
2. SECOND GENERATION RADIOFREQUENCY DEVICES
FDA approval: 2005
Cons: Still painful. When an electrode loses contact with the skin, an arc is created resulting in burns and blisters.
To combat issues with the pain from first-generation RF devices, bipolar technology was developed. This new concept used a positive and negative electrode which are placed on the skin simultaneously. The energy between the two points then completes the circuit. A gliding handpiece was also implemented so that patient pain could be minimized while achieving higher temperatures.
3. THIRD GENERATION RADIOFREQUENCY DEVICES
FDA approval: 2011
The third generation of RF based technology is tri-polar RF. Tri-polar circuits have two negative and one positive electrode to complete the circuit. RF currents can thus be applied to the body without discomfort as the current change is too quick to depolarize a nerve. This technology also allows for theoretically a deeper penetration of RF energy as the poles are spaced farther out than that of bipolar RF. This device is much more comfortable, however the tightening results were inconsistent due to the poor penetration of energy beneath the skin.
4. FOURTH GENERATION RADIOFREQUENCY DEVICES
FDA approval: 2011-2013
Devices: Venus Freeze and Venus Legacy
The fourth generation of RF is multipolar radiofrequency. These treatments are designed to change the direction of the electromagnetic field while the practitioner moves the hand piece. Some handpieces also include a vacuum to manipulate lymphatic drainage. This device penetrates deeper to target both fat and collagen. This is a great option to use on the body or for patients post-liposuction.
5. FIFTH GENERATION RADIOFREQUENCY TIGHTENING DEVICES
FDA approval: 2016
Cons: The depth of penetration is too superficial to be effective for fat reduction. Certain manufacturers’ RF microneedling devices are still quite painful.Price is more expensive because this is the latest technology.
One challenge that has remained in the use of radiofrequency is the consistency of results. This is largely due to the resistance of radiofrequency in different types and densities of skin. Theories range from skin hydration, sun damage, age, to collagen and elastin densities. As a response to this challenge, radiofrequency combined with microneedling has been the most recent development in RF technology. With the addition of needles to the radiofrequency device, energy waves are now able to bypass the resistant skin surface, transmitting high levels of heat into the deeper layers of skin without the need for high power wattages. This results in a much less painful patient experience, and much more predictable results from patient to patient.
RADIOFREQUENCY MICRONEEDLING INDICATIONS:
Primary hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)