How it feels, what it costs, and whether it’s truly worth it.
WHAT IT IS
Ultherapy uses therapeutic ultrasound to inflict thermal injury up to 4.5 millimeters deep in the skin of the face, neck, and décolleté to stimulate collagen production, which tapers off as you get older. If your skin is sagging, this “resets the clock without surgery; it’s the Holy Grail,” says William Kestin, MD, the New York City doctor who performed this procedure on me. Increased collagen causes the skin to tighten, plump, and lift itself back to elasticity levels from some era in your past. Time to full effect? Three to six months, Kestin says. “You’ll wake up one morning and, Wow!”
While the “Hollywood people” do it yearly, he says, the rest of us less financially blessed mortals can get away with waiting 18 months to two years between treatments.
From $500 for the upper lip to $5,000 for the face and neck.
WHAT I EXPECTED
Because I trust Kestin—he’s been called “The Wizard of Eyes” by ELLE Beauty Adventuress Holly Millea; and of several doctors I’ve visited for cosmetic dermatology over the years, he’s done the best work, filler- and Botox-wise, on me—what I expected was what he told me to expect.
WHAT IT’S ACTUALLY LIKE
It hurt like hell (as Kestin told me it would) when he ran the transducer, the wand through which the ultrasound is directed at 1.5-, 3-, and 4.5-millimeter depths, around my jawline and over the jowly parts of my face. Jowls are my family inheritance, alas. The procedure took about an hour, and even though I’d gotten my hands on a Percocet beforehand…did I mention that it hurt?
In the immediate aftermath, my face was a touch flushed and swollen; I looked like I’d just worked out. For two weeks my jawbone ached. And then: no discernible change in my face. I was a little sad at one month, two months, thinking, Holy Grail, Holy Shmail. But one day about three and a half months in, people began to be shocked when I told them I was 51. I had a jawline. No jowls. It really did happen almost overnight.
One piece of advice: All practitioners of Ulthera (that’s the brand name for the equipment and procedure used most commonly) are not equal. “Don’t do ultherapy on a Groupon,” Kestin says. If your doctor has been to an Ulthera “advanced users meeting,” that’s a good sign. Ophthalmology, plastic surgery, dermatology, and ear, nose, and throat specialists will have had the best training to understand the structures of the nerves, fat, bone, and tissue in the face, and thus how to wield the transducer.
Last month, I went back to Kestin and got ultherapy around my eyes, forehead, and upper lip. That hurt even more!