An ultrasonic facial treatment is used to increase the production of collagen, firm the skin, and help skin cells to cycle more quickly, leading to clearer, more youthful looking skin. This type of treatment is safe for most people to use, though its effectiveness has not been well-studied. Ultrasound is often used on the skin after another type of skin facial, such as microdermabrasion, because it can relieve the swelling and soreness associated with this treatment. On its own, an ultrasonic facial does not cause pain or discomfort but may not improve the condition of the skin as many claim. People who use this treatment regularly may benefit from the relaxation associated with having a skincare treatment and the placebo effect that creates a perceived improvement even when no measurable improvement exists.
A handheld ultrasonic emitter is used to provide an ultrasonic facial treatment. This device is moved slowly across the surface of the person's skin as it emits high-frequency sound waves that are absorbed into the person's body. The frequency of the sound waves determines how deeply they are able to penetrate, with lower, 1 megahertz (MHz) frequencies penetrating to a depth of no more than 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) and higher frequencies of 3 or even 5 MHz disappearing at a much lower depth. Ideally, an ultrasonic treatment uses frequencies of 3 MHz or higher so that the sound waves do not reach the muscles, connective tissues, and bones beneath the skin. When used around the eyes, where the skin is extremely thin, the emitter should be set at its 5 MHz setting.
There are a few different reasons that patients may receive an ultrasonic facial treatment. It is often used after other procedures, such as chemical peels or facial abrasions, that damage the outer layer of skin. In these cases, ultrasonic treatment has been shown to help decrease pain and swelling. An ultrasonic facial can also be used alone in the hopes that it will eliminate dark spots and fine lines, treat acne and rosacea, and help the skin shed dead cells. If the treatment is able to do these things, it would improve the overall quality of the skin, creating a more youthful appearance.
Ultrasound is frequently used in medicine to penetrate the tissues of the body and give doctors a sonic picture of the inside of a patient's body. This procedure is considered safe, but it does have an effect on a patient's tissues and can alter blood flow, interrupt the electrical communication between cells, and produce additional heat. It is unlikely that an ultrasonic facial treatment could harm an unborn baby or disrupt a patient's pacemaker, but patients with these conditions should only use ultrasonic devices under medical supervision.
Most patients who are given an ultrasonic facial treatments tolerate the procedure well. Some ultrasound devices emit heat, but it is never so intense that it will harm the patient. If the device does become hot, the treatment should be discontinued and started again after it has had a chance to cool. The sound waves produced by the device cannot be heard or felt, so the treatment feels, for the most part, like a light facial massage.