Skin-tightening Technology

By Dr. Jennifer Ito
Interviewed by Rasa Fournier
Wednesday - September 07, 2011
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Dr. Jennifer Ito
Internal Medicine Specialist

Where did you receive your schooling and training?

At the University of Hawaii John Burns School of Medicine.

How long have you been practicing?

Ten years in private practice.


You offer Thermage CPT treatments. Can you explain what that is?

Thermage CPT (comfort pulse technology) is the latest technology in skin tightening. It’s been out for more than a year, and it uses radio frequency technology, which is not to be mistaken for laser. Without disturbing the outer layers of the skin, it heats the deeper dermal layers to tighten the existing collagen and to stimulate production of new collagen, resulting in skin tightening. It denatures the collagen or causes injury to it, and that incites inflammation and healing, resulting in new collagen formation. The result is an overall tightening of the skin with reduction in appearance of fine lines and cellulite.

The Thermage CPT utilizes both a face and a body handpiece. The face hand performs a more superficial treatment because the dermal thickness of the face is less than that seen on the body. The body tip aims for a much deeper treatment, so it can actually help with body contouring, cellulite reduction and reshaping.

Dr. Ito using a Thermage CPT to perform a face procedure on a patient. Lawrence Tabudlo photo .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Can you do it on even delicate areas?

Yes, there are eye treatments, whole face and neck treatments. The areas most individuals are concerned about are the crow’s-feet, nasal labial folds and marionette lines around the lips. We do hands, abdomens, arm lifts for women. We do every area except for breasts. Men tend to seek body procedures like love handles, flanks and backs.

How long has Thermage been around?

Thermage technology has been around for almost 10 years. Thermage has been going through different generations. The first one was the TC (thermal cool). This older procedure required anesthesia. Unforeseen results like fat atrophy, dimpling or skin irregularities were not uncommon, given the inconsistent delivery of heat to the dermal layers. In some cases, there was irreversible scarring. As a result, Solta, the originators of Thermage technology, did their research and development on the newer generations of Thermage. The next model was the NXT. That one was a lot better, more tolerable, but still very painful. Taking it a bit further, Solta came out with comfort pulse technology. The tip is cooled, so there’s constant cooling on the upper layer of skin and the way it delivers the radio frequency energy is a lot more consistent. As a result, there was improved tolerability compared to the earlier models. The overall results are better and it’s more predictable. People had dimpling and fat loss and significant discomfort before, but that’s a thing of the past.

How is collagen beneficial to the body?

It’s what babies are born with and by the time we hit 30, we’re not making as much collagen, so it starts to wear. Collagen is what causes springiness and elasticity in the skin and helps it rebound from facial expressions. After 30 - even earlier in some people if they’re smokers or have a history of heavy sun exposure, or even just due to plain genetics we stop making it and the skin stops repairing itself. That’s where this technology comes in and helps the regenerative process.


Are there any other pros and cons compared to other kinds of body treatments?

It’s painless, there are no incisions, there are no scars, no anesthesia and no downtime. You can come in, take your makeup off, and put it right back on after the procedure and go right back to work, and no one will notice a thing.

There’s no mortality risk as there is with surgery or general anesthesia. It’s a one-time treatment. With the new CPT technology, there is no such thing as overcorrection or too much tightening. It is non-invasive and therefore there’s no downtime, healing or disfigurement.

The procedure for the face, as well as for other body parts, will generally take an hour to an hour and a half. But you can see immediate results. We do before and after pictures, and you can definitely appreciate some improvement, but most results are going to come about two to six months after the procedure, as that’s when the body is able to rebuild the collagen. That’s when we bring patients back in for post-procedure pictures, and they will be able to see the changes in skin texture and appearance.

There’s no need for follow-up treatments?

No. Results are permanent. Of course, natural aging will occur from that point on, but it’s not going to undue itself and you don’t need a series of treatments like the previous other technologies. It’s a one-time deal.

It helps reduce fat, gets rid of wrinkles and also removes blemishes?

We call it body contouring because collagen is the substrate in the skin that is responsible for contouring. As our body loses its elasticity, it tends to let things either bulge or sag. Thermage CPT heats the deeper dermal layers, so there is some theory that maybe it’s heating some fat and possibly breaking it down. But my analogy to Thermage is that of a corset: It simply tightens things up. It smoothes everything up by tightening the skin. So it reduces love handles on post-pregnancy “pooches” in the abdomen. It’s just amazing. I can’t say enough about it. I’m excited to be part of this revolutionary skin treatment in Hawaii. I find so much reward in helping patients feel good about themselves and their appearance. That’s half the battle. It gives them that nudge in the right direction.

Note: Thermage CPT is a cosmetic procedure and is not covered by insurance. Standard fees, depending on the body part being treated, range from $1,500 up.

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