Radio frequency (RF) 101: Understanding (RF) Skin Treatments
Radio frequency is not the same as laser, however it is often used in conjunction with laser treatments in a clinical setting. Radio frequency (RF) usually refers to oscillations in electrical circuits. Aesthetic treatments use non-ablative (RF) energy in short intense pulses that oscillate through the skin to heat targeted tissue. Radio frequency (RF) is often used to tighten the skin. The (RF) energy penetrates the skin and stimulates the contraction of collagen and the production of new collagen for skin tightening.
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Radio frequency devices use a variety of delivery systems and penatrate to varying depths. Radio frequency can be monopolar or bipolar. Bipolar devices are often combined with other types of technology such as infrared light.
Monopolar vs Bipolar
For the purpose of aesthetic treatments Monopolar radiofrequency is delivered by applying a single electrode to the treated area and an opposing electrode that is relatively far removed so that the current goes deeply through the body. Unipolar (RF) penetrates deeper and more intensely than bipolar( RF). Thermage uses monopolar radiofrequency (RF) energy to tighten and contour skin.
For the purpose of aesthetic treatments bipolar radiofrequency is delivered by applying two closely positioned electrodes to the treated area. The electric current travels from one electrode through the tissue and back up to the other electrode, the current that goes between the electrodes is small and shallow. As a result, the tissue in the treated area is heated less deeply and less intensely than monopolar (RF). In aesthetic treatments bipolar RF is usually combined with light or energy based sources, including lasers, intense pulsed light, infrared light, or vacuum assisted. Infrared light heats the tissue down to the deep dermis and acts to “pre-heat” tissue, for improved (RF) penatration.
Bipolar Radiofrequency used with Laser and IPL
Unlike laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) energy, radio frequency is not absorbed by a specific chromophore. When RF is combined with other energy sources such as lasers and IPL, the laser or IPL energy will be absorbed by the targeted chromophore (melanin or hemoglobin), resulting in an increased temperature in the target areas. The increases in tempeture lowers the tissue impedance to those areas and the RF energy will stream preferentially to the warmer areas with lowered impedance. Elōs is the first and only technology that simultaneously harnesses the power of bi-polar radio frequency (RF) and optical energy.
Bipolar Radiofrequency(RF) used with Suction
Bipolar radiofrequency can also be combined with negative pressure ( suction), to help improve and control the absorption of the RF energy. The tissue is suctioned into the hand-piece and the RF energy passes through. The Aluma uses a vacuum-assisted and bipolar radio-frequency (RF) handpiece for skin tightening methods.
VelaShape uses a combination of Infrared light, bi-polar radio frequency (RF) and negative pressure (suction) to heat deep adipose (fat) tissue. Infrared light, tissue mobilization, and suction, all work synergistically with RF to reduce cellulite.