When I was in my 20s, my skin care regimen was all about treating acne. Now that I’m in my 30s, my frequent zits have become much more sporadic — but, in place of hormonal breakouts, you can find me trying any and all beauty products and treatments that restore my skin’s collagen and elasticity (two things that everyone slowly loses as they age). As such, my beauty cabinet is stacked with retinol serums, peptide-spiked creams, and ceramide-rich elixirs and I have a standing appointment with my dermatologist to get Botox every four months. Then I heard about Sofwave.
More and more of my beauty editor friends began buzzing about the new ultrasound-based treatment that purportedly tightens the crap out of your skin. Then I saw a colleague in the office with the most snatched glow I had ever seen. “I got Sofwave,” she told me. Half an hour later and I had an appointment booked with Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York.
It’s been over eight weeks since I received the treatment, and I can attest to its mind-blowingly good results. Read on for everything you need to know about Sofwave and how it works.
What Is Sofwave?
Sofwave is an FDA-approved treatment that uses high-frequency ultrasound waves to heat the mid-dermal tissue, which is precisely where your collagen fibers live. “The ultrasound waves target one and a half millimeters deep into the skin and cause a very specific, targeted type of injury that very powerfully stimulates your tissue to lay down fresh, new collagen,” Murphy-Rose explains. It also has a tightening effect by bringing your existing collagen fibers closer together, she adds — all while being non-invasive.
Most people get Sofwave to tighten the skin on their face and neck and/or to lift their eyebrows, but Murphy-Rose says it can be used on the back of the hands, abdomen, arms, and above the knees. That’s because it’s generally safe. “One of the most impressive parts of it is that there’s no downtime,” Murphy-Rose tells Bustle. It can also be used on all skin types and skin tones. “Because we’re not treating the surface of the skin where melanin-producing cells are, there’s no [negative] effect whatsoever,” she explains.
Benefits Of Sofwave
The main benefits of Sofwave are an overall healthier, tighter, firmer glow thanks to the intense collagen stimulation of the treatment. Snatched is the best way to describe the results, IMHO. “The improvement in collagen will end up helping the texture of the skin and the overall health of your skin,” says Murphy-Rose. If you're looking for a procedure that addresses acne scars or hyperpigmentation, this isn’t it, FYI. “Fraxel and other resurfacing lasers target the surface of the skin, but Sofwave goes underneath that, so it has no effect,” says Murphy-Rose.
According to Murphy-Rose, Sofwave has similar results to radiofrequency, another popular skin-tightening treatment. “They’re both going to heat the tissue. It’s just a different type of wave that will trigger the heat production,” she says. That said, she’s seen slightly better results with high-frequency ultrasound. It’s a technology you can also experience via a treatment called Ulthera, which launched in 2009. “One of the biggest differences between Ulthera and Sofwave is that Ulthera treats to a depth of four and a half millimeters,” says Murphy-Rose. “There has been press lately about how Ulthera can cause some scarring and fibrosis to occur, and plastic surgeons end up having problems. Sofwave does not have that issue because it’s just up in the dermis.” What’s more, she notes that Ulthera is very uncomfortable, while Sofwave is much more easily tolerated.
What To Expect During A Sofwave Treatment
Before the Sofwave device touches your skin, your dermatologist or technician will cover the area you're treating with numbing cream and let it sit for about 45 minutes. Once you’re nice and numb, the practitioner will remove the cream, slather on a conductive gel, and proceed to pass the device over your face, holding it over each section for six-second intervals. Note that my pain tolerance falls somewhere in the middle — Botox needles don’t bother me at all, neither does filler, and the Clear & Brilliant laser didn’t really make me flinch. As Murphy-Rose glided the Sofwave over my chin at the beginning of the treatment, I didn’t feel a thing... until several seconds in, after which I felt a sharp pain deep underneath my skin. But it was over as quickly as it came. “Sometimes people will feel a little sharp tingling or pins and needles, but it’s very, very brief,” says Murphy-Rose. Some areas of the face are more sensitive than others — for me, it was my chin. Everywhere else, however, was fine. I barely felt any discomfort, and the entire treatment was over in about 15 or 20 minutes.
After finishing the Sofwave treatment, Murphy-Rose wiped away any remaining gel and applied a cooling cream to my skin to keep it calm and hydrated, and I was good to go. My skin actually looked really glowy already, but got increasingly red by the evening, which Murphy-Rose said is completely normal.
The Results & Aftercare
Since Sofwave has no downtime, the aftercare rules are minimal. You’ll basically want to avoid any real heat source, so don’t do an intense workout or hit up a sauna or steam room for the 24 hours following your treatment, says Murphy-Rose. You can proceed with your regular skin care routine, too, so retinol is A-OK.
The ultrasound technology goes to work on your collagen, so it takes time for all that stimulation to come to a (visible) head on the surface of your skin. “Most patients notice results within a month or so, but the peak of this collagen stimulation occurs around the six-month mark,” says Murphy-Rose. “I usually tell my patients to look for the final results at the eight-month mark.” It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
The immediate glow I had post-Sofwave, at the very least, showed major promise. And Murphy-Rose notes that you’ll only continue to see improvements in your skin, which I certainly did. Just one week after my treatment, I was in awe at how even and taut my skin already looked. I wasn’t the only one, either — several of my closest friends complimented me on my glow and asked what I was using. I figured Sofwave had to be the source of that magic since my product regimen hasn’t changed much.
As of today, it’s been over eight weeks since I received the Sofwave treatment, and I can confidently say that the hype is real. My skin feels stronger and plumper than ever. On top of that, it’s brighter and more even. Sometimes I’ll catch myself taking a second glance in the mirror after finishing my skin care routine because my complexion looks so damn good.
Of course, such an effective non-invasive beauty treatment comes with a hefty price tag. The average cost depends on where you are in the country and the practitioner you book with, but Murphy-Rose says the average is about $5,000. In her office, it costs $4,500 for the face and $6,500 for the face and neck. I know — that’s quite expensive. (Note these are New York City rates.) FWIW, you really only need one session to see results. Plus, it lasts about a year, so you’re paying for the efficacy.
The Final Takeaway
I can see why Sofwave has garnered such hype since it launched not too long ago. I’m really happy with my more snatched complexion and would jump at the chance to get the treatment again. It may be expensive, but the long-lasting effects are some of the best I’ve seen from a non-invasive beauty procedure.
If you’re in your 30s and are looking for something that addresses laxity and skin aging — like moi — you’re a good candidate for Sofwave. Murphy-Rose adds that anyone who wants to take preventative measures against sagging skin would also benefit from the treatment.
Note that Sofwave isn’t going to eliminate wrinkles (like Botox) or add volume (à la filler). I’m still going to stick with the latter two injections in my skin care regimen, but throwing Sofwave’s uber-tightening effects into the mix has only helped me achieve the plump glow of my dreams.