Definition & Overview

Thermage is a non-invasive cosmetic treatment used to improve the general appearance of ageing skin. It is proven effective in reducing the appearance of wrinkles, tightening loose and sagging skin as well as smoothening its surface. It works by stimulating collagen growth using radiofrequency energy.

Introduced over 10 years ago, Thermage is now being used in about 80 countries around the world and has treated millions of patients who share a single aim: to reduce the signs of ageing skin. The procedure is preferred by many over other cosmetic procedures as it can address a range of issues in just a single treatment and because it is minimally invasive with minimal downtime.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Thermage can be taken advantage of those who are bothered by skin imperfections caused by skin ageing and exposure to environmental elements. These include:

  • Wrinkles
  • Scowl lines
  • Jowls
  • Forehead lines
  • Sagging skin
  • Heavy hoods over the eyes
  • Unsightly bulges
  • Uneven skin
  • Cellulites
  • Crow’s feet
  • Acne scars

As for the expected results, the procedure can achieve the following:

  • Tighter skin texture
  • Smoother skin surface
  • Reduced or softened wrinkles, creases, and fine lines
  • More defined jawline contour

In addition, Thermage offers several key advantages over other cosmetic treatments, including:

  • Offers targeted results - Thermage is a targeted treatment, which means it can treat problem areas precisely, thus ensuring better and more defined results.
  • It is a non-invasive procedure – This makes it safer and less painful than surgical alternatives like surgical facelift
  • Comes with minimal downtime - Patients are able to return to their normal routine shortly after getting the procedure done
  • Works on all skin types and skin colours, and can be used on many parts of face and body

However, Thermage does not guarantee its results to be as dramatic as a surgical facelift.

The results of the procedure are noticeable as early as the day after, but the skin will continue to improve in appearance and contour over a period of six months as collagen regeneration continues. The resulting benefits can then be expected to last for years.

How is the Procedure Performed?

A Thermage treatment typically takes 45 minutes, if performed on the face or around the eyes, or up to 90 minutes, if performed on the body. To start the procedure, the cosmetic specialist presses a handpiece with a flat tip against the targeted area to deliver radiofrequency (RF) energy straight towards the deeper layers of skin. This process heats the skin to tighten existing collagen and stimulate the skin to produce more collagen over time.

Patients can then expect to feel a brief cooling sensation when the specialist presses the handpiece against the skin; the purpose of this cooling effect is to protect the skin from burning when radiofrequency energy is released. This is then followed by a brief heating sensation once the radiofrequency energy is delivered. The heat is a sign that the energy is penetrating through the deeper layers of the skin.

From time to time throughout the procedure, the doctor will ask the patient whether the heat level is tolerable to ensure comfort and safety. It is normal to experience slight reddening of the skin after the procedure, but it is not particularly an issue and does not usually hinder a patient’s ability to return to his or her normal activities after the treatment.

Possible Risks and Complications

Thermage is safe, effective, and does not require major downtime nor long-term maintenance. Patients are also not required to avoid sun exposure, as it does not cause increased skin sensitivity. On top of this, it can be combined with other cosmetic procedures and has very few to no contraindications.

The only side effects that have been associated with the procedure are reddening and swelling of the treatment area. These effects, however, are temporary and resolve on their own a few hours after the treatment. In the most extreme case, the symptoms can persist for up to a few weeks, but they do not cause any serious health issues.

Perhaps the most serious risk associated with the procedure is the risk of skin burning. However, this risk is only present if the doctor performing the treatment did not follow the safety measures that are in place to protect the patient’s skin.


  • Gold M. “Update on tissue tightening.” J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 May; 3(5): 36-41.

  • Gold M. “The increasing use of non-ablative radiofrequency in the rejuvenation of the skin.” Expert Rev Dermatol. 2011;6(2): 139-143.

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