Medical Beauty Non surgical alternatives

What it’s Like To Get Ultherapy

Beautiful young woman in silver latex costume and glasses with futuristic hairstyle and make-up. Sci-fi style.

I took the plunge and got a full face Ultherapy treatment.

After speaking with a handful of plastic surgeons and dermatologists, I knew that if I was going to get serious about treating the Bermuda Triangle of Sag (those baby jowls, chin dumpling and neck crepe), Ultherapy followed by fillers was in my immediate future.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m encouraged by Ultherapy versus Thermage because of its specific FDA approval for lifting skin on the neck, chin and brow. It also works differently, using ultrasound (sound waves) that penetrate more deeply and precisely than the radio frequency technology used in Thermage.

However, even the most enthusiastic doctors were quick to point out that Ultherapy doesn’t replace a facelift and that results can vary from subtle to substantial.

Still, I’m considered a worthwhile candidate. I’m not quite facelift material, but have just enough mild sag to give Ultherapy a shot. But the cost gives me pause.  Most people only need one treatment to see results, but with starting prices around $2500, Ultherapy isn’t cheap.

Knowing I was writing this series, the Ultherapy team sponsored a treatment so I could share the experience first-hand. You would think this would be an easy yes on my part, but I’m cautious with new technologies even though Ultherapy has an excellent safety profile.

Enter Dr. W. Matthew White.  A facial plastic surgeon from NYU Langone Medical Center and early pioneer of the Ultherapy technology.  Dr. White made me feel especially comfortable about Ultherapy because he knows the ins and outs of the technology, was involved with the clinical trials and has written two white papers as a result.

Bottom line, Dr. White’s treated a lot of patients and knows what he’s doing.

“What’s the chance of me looking a little strange afterwards?” I asked, knowing the results gradually build over a period of 3 to 6 months. “Let’s say I get Botox the following week, will my eyebrows lift up to some unnaturally high place on my forehead by August?”

“There’s very little risk of over correction,” Dr. White assured me.

“What about the pain?”

“I’m going to use the Amplify protocol, which means we treat at a much lower setting that gets the same result,” he said. “I do a few things during the treatment to lower the pain such as using acupressure points and lifting the tissue off the bone in more sensitive areas”

I felt like a beauty astronaut on the verge of discovering a new planet.

Until my appointment when I realized the internet chatter about how much Ultherapy hurts was screaming at me from deep inside my subconscious.

That, and Dr. White didn’t have Xanax.

“I don’t recommend patients take Valium or Xanax because it can make the sensation more startling” said Dr. White. “With the Amplify setting, you’re better off with nothing expect Tylenol afterwards.”

“Ok, let’s do this” I said reminding myself of all the things that probably hurt more, like child-birth and urinary tract infections.  Still, there was something guillotine-like about a man wearing rubber gloves holding a lot of powerful energy over my throat.

Most terrifying selfie ever.

Feeling a little Anne Boleyn

“Do you want to reschedule?” he asked gently.

“No, I’m fine,” I said, eyes closed and teeth clenched tight.

And…beep. 

There was no sensation on my skin, just a small prickle of heat that felt like it was landing on a deeper layer.  Odd yes, painful no.

“Did you feel that?”  he asked.

“Uh…actually, no” I said. “That was it?”

The following 90 minute treatment was a breeze compared to the bottled up anxiety of the imaginary pain. 

The prickling heat sensation culminates after each pass, so Dr. White did one half of my face and gave me a 15 minute break.

Some areas are more sensitive than others, and varies from person to person.  On me there was a gland near the bottom of my cheek that when hit with the Ultherapy pulse, created a hot sensation of wetting my pants inside my mouth.  The outer eye and forehead area can be sensitive for a lot of people, but for me it was fine.

When it was over, I had a mild headache and my jaw felt stiff for a few days, but not unbearable.  I looked fine for public consumption too, just a little redness on my face and no swelling, which I’ve heard is common.

What’s important to know about Ultherapy is that there is a strict map for where it can and can’t be used on the face.  Ultherapy should not be used directly over your windpipe or directly under your eye, only on the outer rim.

Dr. White advised me to avoid ibuprofen before, during and after because there’s some speculation it might interfere with the body’s response to collagen stimulation.

This is where Ultherapy can and can't be used.

This is where Ultherapy can and can’t be used.

The next morning I rolled out bead, marched past the coffee pot and headed straight for the mirror.

I turned my jaw to the left, to the right, then up, then down. Chin pulled in, chin jutting out. I couldn’t keep my hands off my slightly sore neck and jaw, rather enjoying the minor stiffness because it made me believe this just might work, but I won’t know for sure for at least three months, which means August.

Until then, I wait and I hope.  My before plastic surgery mug shots are below.

 

54 Comments

  • Reply
    Michele
    May 31, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    I’m hanging on your every word over here!

  • Reply
    Kirstie
    June 1, 2013 at 6:09 AM

    Great blog, thank you!

    Wow, the Ultherapy carries a big price tage, I’m from South Africa and a mini or lower face lift is cheaper here. Very curious to hear about the results.

    I recently complained to a Dr about my bermuda triangle of sag (love your expression) and he reminded me that my reflection in my iPhone (depressing) is not the face the world sees and to smile a lot until ready for the knife 🙂

    He recons 10 years, I recon 2 max unless your results are fantastic, in which case I’ll go for Ultherapy instead.

    • Reply
      narcissista1
      June 1, 2013 at 7:55 AM

      Hi Kristie – the prices I quoted are NYC, where even the cost of breathing is more expensive than any other place in the world (except London).
      I would imagine it would be less in South Africa.
      I can’t wait to share the outcome of my Ultherapy treatment in August. There will be pictures.
      In the meantime, I’m going to investigate the face lift options in July, because for some patients, that is the better option.

      Becca

  • Reply
    Helen Foster
    June 3, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Now this is a dangerous post. Was put off due to people here in the UK saying how excrutiating it was, now though………mind you would also have to add price of flight to NYC to the cost!

    • Reply
      Becca
      June 5, 2013 at 7:57 AM

      Hi Helen – the big difference is the Amplify protocol which is a much lower setting than previously used. The higher settings hurt like hell I’ve been told. I’m told the Amplify protocol achieves the same results with much less energy. That said, not all of the Ultherapy doctors I spoke were aware of the new protocol, so it pays to ask around. I’ll do some digging on my end as well.

  • Reply
    Yasmine
    June 3, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Way to go! You can get tremendous mileage from Ultherapy, combined with Botox and fillers. In the right hands, Sculptra is truly a miracle product. People are shocked on the rare occasion when they find out how old I am. I have never had a facelift, but at sixty, I can pass for my early forties- no lie. I use sunblock religiously and I have used Retin-A since my early thirties. Obagi Medical products, a bit of lipo around the middle and regular workouts have taken me the rest of the way to a youthful look. Once you get the young looking face, the challenge becomes achieving a younger looking body to go with it. Keeping a semblance of a waist to hip ratio is crucial to an all around youthful look.

    I have a high pain tolerance, but I found Ultherapy EXTREMELY painful– particularly in the forehead and temple area. The lower face and neck was not so bad.

    Good luck, and be patient. It took me at least four months to see my final result. I know you’ll look wonderful!

    • Reply
      Becca
      June 5, 2013 at 8:03 AM

      Thanks for the encouragement Yasmine. You are so right about the body, especially the waist to hip ratio. 10 years ago, I could get away with 10 extra pounds because it at least fell in the right places, but apres baby and premature menopause, I’m the shape of an eraser (with boobs). The body section will come later in the summer where I’ll see exactly what my options are (I have a feeling it’s going to be more diet and exercise than anything else).

      So happy to hear you had great Ultherapy results. Do you know if your doctor used the higher settings or the new Amplify protocol?

      Becca

    • Reply
      Anonymous
      June 5, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      I think that Amplify was rolled out last fall. I had my first treatment last summer. She did double passes at the lower, and then higher settings. I had a small touch up under the chin about a month ago, hoping to improve my platysmal bands. The touch up was much more comfortable. I’m not sure whether it was Amplify. My jawline and neck are really tight now– but I had minimal sagging prior my first treatment.

      • Reply
        narcissista1
        June 6, 2013 at 7:29 AM

        Did you see any improvement on your platysmal bands?

        • Reply
          Anonymous
          June 6, 2013 at 9:13 AM

          The first treatment did not help. I have seen a slight improvement with the second treatment, but it’s only been a month. I’m reserving judgement until another couple of months have passed. I’m not expecting miracles, just a softening of the look of those two pesky bands.

          I’m applying a little extra Retin-A nightly under the chin area. It’s just an experiment to see whether I can boost collagen formation. I figure it couldn’t hurt!

          I’m delighted to know that there is now a less painful protocol. I now plan to keep having these treatments every few years as the aging process continues. Before, I seriously didn’t think that I could ever tolerate having my upper face and forehead treated again.

          • narcissista1
            June 7, 2013 at 8:46 AM

            Please keep us posted. My doctor did something akin to accupressure on the eye area, but I can see how before the Amplify protocol it would hurt because that area is so bony. The Retin A is such a great move — that and suncreen are the two most important skin care items in my medicine cabinet.

    • Reply
      Anonymous
      November 21, 2013 at 7:59 PM

      I had extereme pain in the same spots, woke up today with large bruised areas on both jowls, no one mentioned bruising but im looking for to watching the change evolve in the next three months.

  • Reply
    camparigirl
    June 4, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    You will be posting before and after pics right? Looking forward to seeing the results.

    • Reply
      Becca
      June 5, 2013 at 8:06 AM

      Absolutely. I’m waiting for the photographs from my doctor and will upload them here in a few days. I’m also going to post my weight (gulp) at each measurement because I think plump streak or a bad night of wine and dim sum the night before can bloat a face.

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  • Reply
    Lynn
    July 16, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    Curious as to whether you’ve noticed any changes yet? What was the actual sate of your procedure? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Lynn
      July 16, 2013 at 6:54 PM

      * Date!!

    • Reply
      narcissista1
      July 17, 2013 at 7:51 PM

      I’ll be posting about this in August, once I’ve given this the full 3 months to see a difference, but the short answer is yes, I’ve seen a small lift in my photographs. What’s more interesting (or depressing) is that I gained 5lbs on vacation and my chin dumpling didn’t inflate the way it normally does when my weight fluctuates.

      More to come.

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        September 2, 2013 at 1:42 PM

        any photo updates yet??? Dying to see the results

        • Reply
          narcissista1
          September 3, 2013 at 6:27 AM

          Yes! Photos and post coming next week:)

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    September 4, 2013 at 2:26 AM

    I also had Ultherapy in May, and am very concerned w/my results. I believe I have had significant fat and volume loss. I recently had my after pic’s done and they confirmed my fears. I look much worse and older in my after shots. The few people I have shown the pic’s to agree. The exception being the nurse practitioner who did my treatment. She says what I am seeing is “toning”. My biggest fear was fat atrophy and I was assured multiple times that it was not a possibility. My treatment was done at a doctors office that was an early adopter of Ultherapy and they currently train other practices, so they should know what they are doing. The reason I’m telling you all of this, is in hopes that you can ask your doctor, or the other doctors that you have interviewed about the procedure, what the likelihood is for fat atrophy and what can be done after the fact. Thanks.

    • Reply
      narcissista1
      September 4, 2013 at 3:52 AM

      Thanks so much for sharing. You have no idea how helpful this type of comment is because often, when a technology is new, we just don’t know the nuance of all the downsides until more time and people have tried it. Personally I don’t think I experienced fat atrophy, but it was a question I had going in because i know this had come up with Thermage (which has been around for much longer). I couldn’t find anything about fat atrophy in the literature, but a plastic surgeon I respect out in Beverly Hills told me in general he was concerned about any of these devices causing fat loss (he doesn’t use any of them – Thermage, Ultherapy, Titan – in his practice). That said, out of the handful of doctors I spoke to (many of which weren’t affiliated with Ultherapy), he was the one outlier. This is a great point for me to follow up with next week when I post results. Thanks again!

      Becca

      • Reply
        Jennifer
        September 4, 2013 at 3:30 PM

        Yes, I am also worried about fat atrophy since I have experienced skin thinning with TCA peels. I am very interested to see your results.

        • Reply
          narcissista1
          September 10, 2013 at 9:56 AM

          Update: results will be posted either 9/11 or 9/12

    • Reply
      Jennifer
      September 4, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      Do you have photos?

    • Reply
      mary
      May 16, 2015 at 6:02 PM

      Which clinic did u have it at? Was it Seal Beach ? Same happened to me and they are saying I’m toned. I look awful

  • Reply
    Dee M.
    October 14, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    I went for an Ultherapy treatment today. I have a high pain threshold but this was so painful I had to stop. I managed to grit my teeth to get finished with the neck area. I took 800 mg of ibuprofen before the treatment as they had recommended but could not see any benefit at all
    . I will try again and take a valium and something for pain. Hopefully I’ll make it through the rest. I’m not sure I would have done this if I’d known it would be so painful.

    • Reply
      narcissista1
      October 15, 2013 at 6:49 AM

      Oh Dee I’m so sorry it was painful. Did your doctor use the new Amplify setting? It gets the same results with lower settings so the pain isn’t as bad. I do know the old protocol was very painful. Hope you have a nice outcome at the end of all of this:)

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        October 15, 2013 at 7:35 AM

        They did not use that specific term but did say that “since the new software update” their patients have not been having pain with the treatment. This was done at my dermatologist’s office by an esthetician. She told me that she has performed about 600 procedures and that, aside from 2 patients with fibromyalgia, I am the only one who has had this kind of pain. I don’t get it but I’m going to try to finish up using valium and pain meds of some kind. I hope it’s worth it in the end. Thanks for the encouragement.

      • Reply
        Dee M.
        October 15, 2013 at 3:16 PM

        I wanted to get back to you to let you know that I spoke with the esthetician and my Ultherapy was done with the new Amplify setting. It was excruciating for me. I actually was getting a bit annoyed at the esthetician telling me over and over that no one has pain with this. It was as if she was saying that I made it up. I cancelled the rest of the treatment because I cannot go through another treatment that was as painful and the one on my neck. They only refunded me $2,000 of my $3,000 payment. Oh well. Hopefully the pain management will get worked out better in the near future so I can do the treatment. Thanks for “listening.”

        • Reply
          narcissista1
          October 16, 2013 at 7:22 AM

          Dee I noticed you said you went to see an esthetician.
          Was there any doctor involvement at all?

          It concerns me that so many medi-spas have lasers and energy devices that lack the supervision needed, but the average woman just getting into this stuff doesn’t know what questions to ask (I sure didn’t which is why I started writing this blog).

          For the record, I don’t let anyone near me with an energy device that isn’t a doctor. While perfectly safe in the right hands, there are too many horror stories about what can go wrong.

          I am so sorry your experience was terrible; bad practice management on their part not to refund your money or reapply it elsewhere.

  • Reply
    Caroline
    October 18, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    I’m not trying to disrespect you 😉 but you look like you are 18 years old
    in your BEFORE pictures……….

    • Reply
      narcissista1
      October 23, 2013 at 6:19 AM

      I love you, you’ve made my day. Feel free to disrespect anytime:)

  • Reply
    Carol Harrington
    October 31, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    Really appreciate the blog. Especially addressing the issue of potential fat atrophy. I was scheduled for Ultherapy this next Tuesday then decided to do more research other than the manufacturers and doctors who are advertising….I wanted feedback from people who had actually experienced the procedure. 5 years ago I had Fraxel, and after the third treatment….looked like my face had melted! Eventually it came back -but I’ve had fillers. Overall happy with my face, but thought Ultherapy would enhance what I am now.
    The potential, however slight, of fat atrophy has me reconsidering having it done.
    I live in the Washington DC area and for half face the cost is $3,200. Quite pricey.
    Trust my plastic surgeon explicitly but he does not do this himself, so I think I’ve just talked myself out of having it done!!

    • Reply
      narcissista1
      October 31, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      Carol I had a bad Fraxel incident too a few years ago. More on that in my melasma post coming up.

  • Reply
    annita
    November 13, 2013 at 1:03 AM

    thank you so much for sharing this experience. what are your thoughts thus far? have you seen improvement?

  • Reply
    Nan
    February 25, 2015 at 3:11 PM

    Did you see any improvement ? Do you know any good doctors in LA who offer the service ? Thank you so much for your time! Nan

  • Reply
    Desiree
    April 11, 2015 at 7:42 PM

    Did you ever take after photos? I would be interested to see if there were any differences.

  • Reply
    janice
    April 26, 2015 at 2:51 PM

    DO NOT DO THIS PROCEDURE UNLESS YOU WANT A SKINNY FACE. Aged me 5 years. I was beautiful before. My BIGGEST LIFE REGRET. I look my age now and have not had one compliment . it burns fat. I’m 39. Look stern and old.

    • Reply
      Jonquil
      April 26, 2015 at 4:45 PM

      I had my neck, forehead and jawline done a couple of years ago. Admittedly, I had minimal laxity and no sagging to speak of (good genes)

      I have been thrilled with my results. My jawline and neck remain tight and defined at 62. No jowls and no sagging. In another year or so, I’ll do it again. I felt that doing the eyes was not as effective. I can still see my lids, but omprovement was minimal.

  • Reply
    Angela
    April 27, 2015 at 4:43 PM

    I didn’t need ultherapy, but I jumped on the bandwagon. I’m 42 and looks 35 max. I have modeled my entire life and have fine bone structure and sultry eyes. The first 3 months I was impressed because my brows were lifting and my prominent cheekbones looked even better. Cut to 8 months later and I cannot for the life of me take a good photograph. I can’t place it but my sexy looks are gone. When i tell people my age they don’t gasp as they used to. In fact someone thought i was older. The last years as a sex pot and i look like a skeleton. Please read the reviews on Real Self. The first 3 months everyone is happy. Look at one year and 2 year results ALL negative. Most people don’t see any results, but the poor women like me had their faces destroyed. I am now looking into fat tranfers, etc but I will never have my youthful sexy eyes back. I think this procedure THINS the face. If you want boney model looks, do it. If your face is thin already. DO NOT DO ULTHERAPY. Save your beautiful faces. xoxo

  • Reply
    Angela
    April 29, 2015 at 12:35 AM

    I saw saw my before and after pics! My eyes SHRUNK and are hooded. I look like the mother of the picture of me from only 6 mos ago.

  • Reply
    Jonquil
    April 29, 2015 at 9:04 AM

    Frankly, I think that many women have this procedure far earlier than they need to. It would never have occurred to me to have it done in my thirties or forties or on the skin of my face. Ultherapy is for sagging and laxity. It does not add volume or plump. I can certainly see how it might destroy fat in the soft tissues of the face. IMO it’s only good for the neck and jawline when you have minimal laxity. For that, I can say that in my case it was very effective. No one can believe how old I am. They always assume that I am in my early to mid forties. I have literally no sagging or laxity in the jaw area, and keeping that defined jawline is what it’s about when you’re my age.

    Anyway, I think that this blog is dead. The creator of the blog doesn’t seem to have posted in over a year.

    • Reply
      Anonymous
      August 29, 2015 at 7:06 PM

      Thank you for your remarks- very helpful.

  • Reply
    tbone
    September 22, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    This procedure has been a nightmare. I morphed and melted and pulled for 5 months straight. My eyes shrank and changed color and now I need bilateral ptosis surgery thanks to Aesthetic Laser Care and Ultherapy. I was beautiful and now cannot look in the mirror. I don’t look ANYTHING like myself. My prominent cheekbones are wide and flat
    My big playful eyes are sleepy and small
    My skin looks baggy and awful
    I have hypopigmentation. They say ‘gentle sound waves’ but it’s 160 degrees they are microwaving you with. If anyone wants to be in my documentary about bad ultherapy results, please email me at ultherapysucks@gmail.com
    http://Www.ultherapyruinedmyface.com

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    stacie miller
    January 22, 2016 at 5:31 PM

    I had Ultherapy last year on whole face and neck. It hurt like hell, it also caused significant fat loss and Ladies…we don’t need that as we age…we need all the fat we can get. The representatives of Ultherapy said it didn’t affect fat….IT DOES. My forehead was perfect and smooth before the treatment and now developing wrinkles and have nerve damage above the brows. It also affected the neck and lower face. I did this strictly for collagen maintenance, but that didn’t happen. LORD, I wish I had not done this…it has caused aging way faster than before.

  • Reply
    Trixie
    February 28, 2016 at 8:12 AM

    “Ultherapy should not be used directly over your windpipe or directly under your eye, only on the outer rim.” — Since Ultherapy uses ultrasound instead of radiation or radiofrequency, why can it not be used over the windpipe? I have a sensitive thyroid so I cannot do any of the other tightening procedures. I specifically want to tighten the area directly above my thyroid.

    • Reply
      Becca
      March 4, 2016 at 6:22 AM

      I don’t know but the thyroid is sensitive gland so I wouldn’t risk it. Often, we don’t know the long term impact of new device until years later. But I feel you! That is exactly where I have sag too!

  • Reply
    Chamil
    March 14, 2016 at 5:44 PM

    After reading this article I decided to venture out and do the Ultherapy. After all, the only thing that was holding me back was the uncertainty of the pain. But after enduring child birth for 36 hours, I knew I had a high pain tolerance. Unfortunately, my experience was somewhat different than the Blogger’s. I experienced a VERY painful procedure and thought I was going to pass out during the zaps in the areas with low fat tissue. For anyone that is considering this process I highly suggest you request a numbing/pain medication from your doctor prior to the Ultherapy.
    After my procedure, I discretely asked the receptionist about how other patients react to the pain and her answer was “about 50% walkout during the middle of the treatment because they can’t take the pain”

    • Reply
      Michelle
      March 14, 2016 at 9:53 PM

      I yelped like a howling hyena. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. The technician had to break a couple of times so that I could recover (somewhat). But boy, did it work. At 62, goirmyears later, my jawline is still tight.

      I had my treatment before the new, supposedly less painful protocol. Hmmm. Sounds like it hasn’t improved much.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    March 14, 2016 at 9:54 PM

    TYPO ” …four years later…”

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