Radiofrequency is a cosmetic treatment that seeks to stimulate collagen production to naturally reverse the signs of aging.

As we enter our twenties, our natural collagen supply begins to diminish by about 1% each year due to a combination of internal and external factors. The remaining option is to encourage the growth of new collagen.

This is precisely what radiofrequency treatments do. Using electromagnetic energy, the treatments gently heat beneath the skin, causing collagen contraction for an immediate lifting effect and stimulating new collagen growth for long-term results.

What is radiofrequency?

Radiofrequency consists of the application of electromagnetic radiation. The rotational movement causes the release of heat, which stimulates the production of collagen, the protein responsible for giving support and structure to the skin. By producing more collagen, it improves skin firmness in the treated area.

The main effects of radiofrequency on the skin are:

  • Collagen tension. Thermal damage: depending on the dosage, radiofrequency produces collagen tension or collagen denaturation, thus being useful for both firming and anti-cellulite treatments.
  • Neocollagen production
  • Increase of HSP47 proteins: an increase of HSP47 heat shock proteins, necessary for the structuring of collagen in triple helix, is generated.
  • Metabolic acceleration. Cellular apoptosis: by accelerating cellular metabolism we increase the production of collagen and elastin, as well as force the death and cellular renewal of fibroblasts in poor condition.
  • Increased vasodilation. And hyperemia, as well as lymphatic drainage.
  • Anti-cellulite effect. With a high intensity dose, cellulite can be combated by denaturing the collagen that makes up the septa.

For whom is radiofrequency indicated?

Radiofrequency is ideal for skin flaccidity. While radiofrequency can treat numerous skin and body problems, it is best known for its skin tightening effects.

For individuals who are concerned about sagging skin and are not considering surgery, radiofrequency offers a non-invasive and relatively gentle facelift alternative. In addition, the results can be quite impressive. After a series of sessions, the skin will appear noticeably smoother.

How does radiofrequency work?

Radiofrequency treatments are fast, simple and virtually painless. The average radiofrequency treatment takes between 20 and 60 minutes to complete, depending on the area treated.

Radiofrequency treatments are not too painful. In fact, some people describe the treatments as relaxing, comparing the sensation to a hot stone massage.

In addition, radiofrequency treatments require absolutely no downtime after application. Although you may experience some redness, you will be able to resume your daily activities immediately after the procedure.

Types of radiofrequency

There are many technical characteristics to evaluate in order to choose the ideal radiofrequency equipment for the treatments we wish to perform.

There are different types on the market, mainly divided into monopolar and bipolar equipment.

Monopolar radiofrequency

This is equipment in which the electrodes are separated, having an “active” electrode (smaller size) and a return electrode.

Two modes are distinguished, capacitive and resistive. The capacitive electrode is coated with an insulating material, while the resistive electrode is steel with direct contact.

The capacitive mode generates a very shallow capacitor effect.

The resistive mode generates a very deep heating, suitable for physiotherapy treatments.

The monopolar has a higher risk of electrical path. The electrical pathway is the route that the energy takes through the body, in this case the radiofrequency. In monopolar mode, the energy passes through the body, passing through sensitive areas.

For medical-aesthetic treatments, the resistive system may be too deep and the capacitive system too superficial, making it a system that is not suitable for aesthetics but for physiotherapy.

Bipolar radiofrequency

In bipolar radiofrequency, both electrodes are on the same applicator, so that the electrical path is confined to the area of application.

There are no risks due to electrical path, since in bipolar mode it is confined to the area under the applicator electrodes.

Depending on the electrode configuration, for marketing reasons, some bipolar electrodes are called tripolar, pentapolar, etc. Although in reality they are all bipolar.

The depth of the bipolar radiofrequency can be modified by means of:

  • Frequency: is the number of times per second that the polarity changes. It is measured in Hertz (Hz).
    As an example, the electrical grid in Spain operates at 220V 50Hz, which means that it changes polarity 50 times per second.
    In radio frequency is usually used between 0.5 Mhz and 5 Mhz. Below 0.4 Mhz electricity is perceived. Above it is no longer perceived and a thermal and metabolic accelerator effect is obtained.
    It has a fundamental effect on the control of the working depth. The higher the frequency, the lower the depth and vice versa. For example, at 0.8 Mhz it reaches 15 mm, at 1.6 Mhz it reaches 8 mm and at 2.5 Mhz it reaches 5 mm.
  • Electrode spacing:the greater the spacing of the electrodes, the greater the depth.
    Si hay una asimetría en las áreas de aplicación, se concentra la energía en el electrodo más pequeño.
  • The voltage / emission power: the applied power also determines the depth. In this case it is controlled by the applied tension, which generates a greater or lesser applied energy and a variation in depth.

The power used, apart from the depth, decisively affects the effect on the tissue. Depending on the power and time of application we will have a stimulation effect or a thermal damage effect.

Thus, it is a very specific typology, being ideal for aesthetic medical treatments.

A good bipolar radiofrequency equipment allows to specifically control the working depth by varying factors such as emission frequency, output amplitude (voltage), electrode separation, ratio between electrode areas… etc.

These characteristics are beyond the reach of monopolar equipment, which, although good for physiotherapy, being able to treat in great depth for muscular treatments, are not as effective in aesthetic treatments.

When we want to apply more power, to work deeper but without seeking thermal damage, we can achieve this by using the pulsed mode.

In pulsed mode we can reach the desired depth while the pauses allow us not to accumulate energy, avoiding thermal damage.

As we have seen, there are many factors to take into account when selecting equipment for our center. Ideally, select equipment that delivers:

  • Bipolar application
  • Various working frequencies
  • Diversity of applicators
  • High emission power
  • Continuous/pulsed mode.

With these features, we will have a powerful tool with which to achieve excellent results in a very wide range of treatments.

It should be kept in mind that a correct application of bipolar radiofrequency can obtain firming results that are difficult to achieve with other technologies.

Tripolar radiofrequency

As you can imagine, tripolar radiofrequency cannot exist, because it would have to have 3 magnetic poles.
It is simply a way of attracting attention or pretending that the machine is better. Three poles will do the same job as two.

Commitment to quality

This text on radiofrequency has been written by professional editors and reviewed by Sisneo’s medical-aesthetic team. In addition, we have relied on experts in medicine, engineering and aesthetics as a source of information, as well as specific studies to maintain the quality of what we publish.

At Sisneo Bioscience we are committed to publish truthful and contrasted information. And to update or correct it as soon as new knowledge becomes available.

Among others, we have used the following references:

  • Jacob CI, Dover JS, Kaminer MS. «Radiofrequency in cosmetic dermatology: a review» en Dermatol Surg. 2013;39(11):1514-1525. doi: 10.1111/dsu.12306.
  • Dayan E, Burns AJ, Rohrich RJ, Theodorou S. «The Use of Radiofrequency in Aesthetic Surgery» en Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2020 Aug 17;8(8):e2861. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000002861. PMID: 32983755; PMCID: PMC7489578.