If you need proof that gravity is real, just look at your skin. (Sorry, flat-earthers.) Sun exposure, weight loss, and years on this planet can all contribute to loose or sagging skin, and not only on your face. Sagging can appear everywhere and anywhere, including on your body. Fortunately, non-surgical skin tightening treatments can help.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
There are three primary ways to go about skin tightening: ultrasound, radiofrequency, and lasers. “With all the tightening devices, each individual may respond slightly differently to each modality,” says Elliot Weiss, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York® in New York City and Southampton. Basically, these treatments are definitely not universal. The best skin-tightening treatment for you will depend on your concern and an assessment from your doctor, among other factors.
The results of a skin tightening treatment largely depend on a few things, such as the severity and extent of your loose skin, as well as how soon you treat it. Less invasive skin tightening devices like Thermage® will best benefit those who only have mild laxity in their skin. “Patients without significant volume loss and only early [onset] laxity represent the candidates that are most likely to benefit from a [less invasive] tightening treatment,” says Dr. Weiss. “Excessive laxity or volume loss both will diminish the likelihood of a meaningful improvement.”
On top of that, you have to temper your expectations. If you’re looking for a dramatic before-and-after shot or wildly transformative results, you might want to consider more invasive and even surgical options, like a mommy makeover — because less invasive skin-tightening treatments just can’t deliver that sort of result. “Ideally, we like to intervene at the first signs of sagging and loss of elasticity,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Francesca Ortenzio, MD, FAAD. “I rely on [less invasive] tissue tightening technologies such as Ulthera® and laser to achieve a natural, effortless look.” These skin tightening treatments can do the trick from head to toe.
Skin Tightening Treatment #1: Laser Skin Resurfacing
Best For: Face, neck, chest, and hands
Why: For skin tightening on the face and neck, one of the best options is ablative skin resurfacing. That’s why Dr. Weiss considers it a go-to in that area. “Ablative fractional resurfacing generally produces consistent response rates and clinical improvement in laxity and skin quality,” he explains. Ablative fractional resurfacing heats up the water droplets beneath the skin to a level that ablates, or destroys, the surface layer skin cells. (Fractional lasers do this in a fraction of the total surface area, which shortens recovery time.)
That triggers skin’s wound-healing response, which involves churning out collagen — which, in turn, firms and tightens lax skin. “There are several lasers that stimulate collagen production and lead to tightening,” says Dr. Ortenzio, who’s also a fan. Again, this is assuming that your skin laxity is mild, and you don’t have significant volume loss in the treatment area in question.
Skin Tightening Treatment #2: Thermage®
Best For: Around the eyes, neck, and body
Why: Thermage harnesses the power of radiofrequency for skin tightening. As with lasers, this involves inflicting controlled damage to the skin. “Radiofrequency causes water molecules in the deeper tissue layers to become energized,” Dr. Weiss explains. “This generates heat, which results in some tissue contraction.”
In addition to the initial contraction, the heat inflicts damage within the deeper tissues, too. As these deeper injuries heal, the body generates new collagen and other proteins, ultimately leading to overall skin tightening. Another bonus here is that Thermage works to tighten skin on a range of areas on the body, including the neck, arms, and legs.
Skin Tightening Treatment #3: Morpheus8TM
Best For: Face and body, including around the mouth and eyes
Why: Devices that pair microneedling with radiofrequency, such as Morpheus8, can go a long way in terms of skin tightening. “[Treatment] involves the insertion of needles into the dermis — which is the layer below the topmost part of the skin, the epidermis — then the delivery of radiofrequency energy into that layer of skin,” Dr. Ortenzio explains. “The dermis contains fibroblasts, the cells that produce collagen, which can be stimulated to produce new collagen by the heat produced from radiofrequency.”
It also comes with added benefits, since microneedling gives radiofrequency an extra boost in power. “If someone also has acne scars and wrinkles, then needle-based radiofrequency will likely result in more improvement in the scars and wrinkling, as well as tightening,” says Dr. Weiss. On top of that, the downtime associated with it is relatively minimal — think sunburn-like redness for one to three days, if any.
Skin Tightening Treatment #4: Ulthera
Best for: Brow, jawline, neck, and chest
Why: There’s no getting around it: Ultherapy®, which is the treatment delivered by the Ulthera device, can be uncomfortable for some people. But that’s in part because the microfocused ultrasound can get deep beneath the skin. “It allows us to tighten fascia, as well as the skin,” says Dr. Ortenzio.
That’s a big deal, because the fascia is the layer of tissue beneath the skin that supports, defines, and lifts the face. But fascia can weaken with age, which leads to sagging. “In fact, fascia is what plastic surgeons pull on during a facelift to achieve a lift,” she adds. On top of that, Ultherapy also stimulates collagen production, which can further firm and tighten skin.