Snob Essentials

Thermage: Cut Out the Knife!


Before and After of a woman in her 30s, post-pregnancy

I had Thermage done two weeks ago to get rid of wrinkles and extra skin left after two pregnancies. And I am already seeing results. I’m not going to lie, I am too embarrassed and vain to put up pictures of myself so this isn’t me up here. But I will divulge that I have a serious muffin top that folds over, and below that is scrunched and crumpled up skin like that of an elephant. It’s like my skin collapsed and is now in a pile. Needless to say, this bothers me beyond words. I would never get a tummy tuck because I am too much of a chicken when it comes to knives. So when I heard of Thermage, I immediately knew this was the best option for me. I went to Dr. Alex Liu, who I interviewed for the story on peels. I was very impressed by him so he began consulting me on various potential procedures I needed (well, mostly wanted), including Thermage.

Thermage uses high frequency radio waves that penetrate deep into the skin to stimulate new collagen growth. My wrinkled skin was caused by the breakdown and collapse of the underlying collagen. This radio wave heats up the collagen under the skin. Dr. Liu recommends heating the skin seven degrees Celsius (surface skin temperature is around 31 degrees and during treatment it increases to 38) as 37-38 degrees Celsius is when skin biopsy studies demonstrated noticeable increase in collagen growth. Overheating the skin (up to 41-42 degrees Celsius) can lead to a accidental skin burn. There is no cutting or invasion of the skin or body of any kind. It just heats up the skin to the point where your collagen is stimulated to regenerate but not hot enough to damage any surrounding cells. The radio waves weave around healthy cells because of their frequency patterns, unlike with lasers which zap through everything in their path. I just want to reiterate this point because there is a lot of misconception about Thermage. A handheld wand is held over your skin, emitting radio waves. There are no lasers, cutting or chemicals used. The only thing “cutting” is its cutting edge technology. The procedure is not new, but the medical device used now is 2nd generation and is incredibly high tech.

Because it is stimulating new collagen growth, the final results will not be realized for six months. And the results are subtle. You are not going to be baby smooth and lose five inches. There will be a 50-70% improvement with a one inch reduction due to fat loss from the procedure. Around three months, most of the results should be evident. Maybe I’m the exception, but after only two weeks, a lot of the lines are already gone and instead of my gut flopping over, it is starting to have a smooth transition so I have a nice round pooch instead. I mean, I am not looking for miracles and if I can just have a simple smooth pooch instead of what is currently going on there, I will be ecstatic!!

I was given a painkiller an hour before the procedure. I’ll be perfectly honest, I was very nervous, and it did hurt. The pain is similar to being electrocuted followed by intense heat. Yeah, like I said, it is not fun, but compared to getting 18″ of flesh cut off with a knife followed by a week in the hospital and months of recovering from a tummy tuck, a little shock and heat is NOTHING!! A temporary tattoo of a grid system was placed on the area being treated. This allows the doctor to systematically go over each area the precise number of passes necessary and to avoid skipping or overtreating an area. I tell him how painful each pass is so that I am not being tortured. He constantly checked my skin surface temperature to make sure it is getting hot enough to be effective but not so hot it caused unwanted damage.

Thermage got a bad reputation when it was first introduced because doctors put patients under general anesthesia and powered it on full blast to get maximum results. Patients actually got 3rd degree burns and were permanently scarred. That is why a mild pain killer was used. I had to give constant feedback on my pain level, and the skin temperature was checked after every pass. It got very very hot, and I was all sweaty. The skin sort of feels like it got a sunburn. I cannot say what other doctors are like, and I do not know anyone else who had this done to compare notes with but Dr. Liu was incredibly OCD about monitoring every single emission. He turned up the intensity when he saw fit and when I complained about too much pain, he turned it way down and did multiple passes on that area to make sure the procedure will be effective but most of all, absolutely safe. I have heard the procedure takes an hour but Dr. Liu spent three hours on me. Sure, it’s probably easier on the nerves to get it done quickly, but safety should always come first, and, of course, results are a very close second. You do not want quick and easy when it comes to medical procedures, even one that is non-invasive! I walked out of the office and went straight to work. No downtime at all! No redness, no pain – I put my tight jeans back on, and it was totally fine. The only thing I experienced was nausea from the pain killer, which always happens with me and drugs, so I did have to take a nap in the afternoon. Ummm, not the worst thing in the world, right? I have felt nothing since, no special care required at all.

So now you all want to know, how much did this cost? Considering that a tummy tuck can cost upwards of $10,000 (not to mention the pain and recovery) this is completely affordable. My procedure was $2,500 because the tummy is a larger area. Thermage is very effective for neck and under the chin, sagging knees, surgery scars, botched liposuction procedures, as well as the face for a subtle lift. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend seeing Dr. Alex Liu for a consultation. Email or call him at 310-791-2233. Make sure to tell him Kelly sent you! I have been sending my friends to him, and everyone is in love with him!

I will do an update after my three-month check-up and maybe by then I’ll be less shy about posting a picture of my actual tummy =)



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  1. As if I needed something to scare me out of having children!! Eeek. Well, I guess I’ll be getting this treatment post child birth. Sigh…

  2. Hi Kelly,

    Just wanted to check in to see how your results went. Do you recommend? Did you get the results you wanted/expected?