What Are the Non-Surgical Skin Tightening Methods to Prevent Laxity?

The next line of therapy to address the problem of sagging skin is to use some form of skin tightening device. There are many on the market and include devices such as Refirme, TITAN, or Thermage. Titan uses infrared light (IR) to tighten the skin, Thermage uses unipolar radiofrequency energy (RF), and Refirme uses IR and bipolar RF. The ReFirme or Polaris-Laser Lift is one of the most popular FDA-approved nonablative procedures for maintaining a youthful appearance by skin tightening. Unlike Thermage, it uses a laser combined with radio-frequency energy and pulsed light. The last method of skin tightening involves laser skin resurfacing. The older methods include the non-fractionalised erbium or CO2 lasers. The newer safer methods include erbium with profractional technology, the Fraxel or the gold standard Active Fx fractionalised CO2 laser. Many doctors, including myself believe a combination of treatments (surgical and nonsurgical) get the best tightening results. The Refirme (used to be called the Polaris) is probably my favourite method as it is not especially painful, has a combination rejuvenation laser, does not cause later skin damage and has a lot of experience in the cosmetic market.

Why do you like the Polaris-Laser Lift over other RF devices?

The box says “this advanced system incorporates three forms of energy to improve skin texture and skin colour”, but I technically like the Polaris RF because it uses bipolar radiofrequency, which has been shown to be safer and more effective than monopolar. Unlike less controllable and less safe monopolar, bipolar RF does not travel through the body and this means each treatment can be customized through the system’s computer to control the depth and degree of the heating process; hence the technology can focus energy to a specific depth of skin for more accurate treatment. Newer tripolar devices may even prove to be better again. I also like it as the RF can cause the collagen to contract and tighten over a period of time and the combination diode laser can help to reduce other problems, such as redness and brown pigmentation blotches. The procedure is also rapid and bloodless. It is usual to have four sessions of treatment are performed separated by three weeks. It is favoured by many celebrities including Madonna and Felicity Kendall.

How does the Polaris RF system actually work?

Nobody really knows how this system works but we assume radio-frequency (RF hereinafter) passes electrical energy through the tissue and resistance produces heat within the deeper dermis. This bundle of thermal energy can be accurately controlled by computer evenly to three-dimensional volumes of collagen tissue at controllable depths. This energy causes immediate collagen denaturation of the triple-helix, which is thought to be the mechanism for immediate tissue contraction. There is also subsequent new collagen formation (neocollagenesis) over the next month, which further tightens the dermal tissue and reduces wrinkles.

What are the benefits of Polaris-Laser Lift over other procedures and surgeries?

For a start, it is totally non-invasive. This means there are no incisions and no evidence to date of later tissue damage. There is no bleeding or bruising and the risk of scarring is minimal. A level of control can be achieved with the Polaris that is difficult with other treatments. It utilizes three different forms of energy to reach multiple skin problems. This means we can see an improvement in wrinkles, sagging and colour. There may be areas of slight swelling or redness that quickly resolves over a few days. Make-up may be applied immediately. You may resume all normal activities immediately. The full effect of your treatment develops over a few months following the procedure and can be expected to last for several months or years. As with any cosmetic procedure, the results can be expected to fade gradually over time, at which time the procedure can be repeated if desired.

Is it painful?

A Polaris-Laser Lift can be performed with topical anaesthetic cream applied about an hour before your treatment. Some patients do not require anaesthetic cream due to the cooling created by the stream of cool air that hits the skin during treatment. When the machine is pulsed, patients feel brief, heat in the treatment site followed by the immediate cooling effect of the air spray. For those patients who are sensitive, the topical anaesthetic cream is recommended.

What kind of results can I expect?

As with all RF devices, this is difficult to estimate. Some patients see results immediately. However, for most patients the results are gradual over a three to six month period as the skin tightens and more new collagen is gradually formed. Depending on the area treated, the skin laxity and your desired results, multiple treatments may be required. Skin will continue to age as it has in the past and eventually you may wish to have another anti-aging procedure. Most patients will see fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes and mouth fill in, while the deeper frown lines and grooves are softened. Facial skin and the skin along the neck can be tightened providing a mild, non-surgical browlift or facelift effect. This tightening effect can be used to firm up loose or sagging tissue in other parts of the body. This same deep Polaris tissue heating may also have benefits for treating acne, acne scarring and stretch marks. Redness and brown blotchiness also gradually improve two to three months after the treatments are complete. The worldwide safety record of this procedure has revealed very few adverse effects thus far.

How much does it cost?

The Polaris is an expensive device (over 100k Euro) and there is only one in Ireland. It is normally costs 350 Euro per treatment and a group of five costs 1250 Euro. However, in recessionary times Ailesbury has now dropped this to 200 Euro per treatment or 4 for 800 Euro.