The success of radiofrequency for fat reduction depends on a number of factors. Follow this guide and ensure your chosen treatment is effective.
Aside from non-invasive fat freezing and ultrasonic cavitation, radiofrequency for fat reduction is fast becoming one of the most popular non-surgical body treatments available.
The Science Behind Radiofrequency For Fat Reduction
Radiofrequency waves are an electric current which, in aesthetic medicine, generate a thermal response deep within the skin. When fat cells are targeted, RF energy causes them to burst and release their contents, which are then removed by the body’s lymphatic drainage system.
Continuous waves rather than pulsed (intermittent) RF waves are delivered in radiofrequency fat reduction treatments, although fatty tissue is heated up safely and gradually.
Different Types Of Radiofrequency (RF)
Choosing the right machine for you
Bipolar radiofrequency waves are delivered into the skin by two electrodes. The RF electrical current travels underneath the skin as it passes from one electrode to another.
Monopolar (unipolar) radiofrequency treatments involve the use of one electrode that passes energy deep into the soft tissue. A separate electrode in the form of a grounding pad is put in contact with the body, which enables the current to travel at a greater depth.
The latest bipolar, monopolar, and multipolar radiofrequency machines all have different functions and capabilities. It is advisable to ensure the following:
- Check your chosen machine’s power (usually measured in Watts). In general, the higher the power, the more effective the machine is – although choosing a skilled practitioner is of paramount importance.
- The machine’s energy output (usually measured in Joules per cm2) refers to how much energy the machine is capable of emitting into the skin through the handpiece. The energy output should be adjustable rather than fixed, so that treatments can be tailored to your concerns.
- Ensure that your chosen machine has an inbuilt cooling mechanism. This will make the treatment more comfortable and ensure that the skin’s surface does not overheat.
- Look into the machine’s manufacturer and ensure that they uphold rigorous quality control standards. In general, it is wise to stick to clinically-backed brands.
- Some machines allow the operator to adjust radiofrequency wavelengths, which typically range from 1mhz-6mhz. On some machines, these values will be fixed.
- You will also need to establish what type of radiofrequency waves are emitted during fat reduction treatments.
Bipolar radiofrequency machines
Some specialists claim that bipolar radiofrequency treatments for fat reduction such as the Velashape, Aluma, and Viora are effective. However, others are unconvinced that bipolar radiofrequency waves penetrate deep enough to remove fat without surgery:
“Bipolar RF is more superficial than monopolar RF. Clearly, for effective treatment of fat, deeper penetration of heat is needed.” (Joely Kaufman MD, Dermatology Times)
While bipolar RF waves can improve the appearance of loose skin and cellulite, they typically penetrate less than 6mm into the skin, which is well above the subcutaneous fatty tissue layer. They are therefore best for promoting circulation, collagen production, lymphatic drainage and superficial skin tightening as opposed to fat atrophy.
Some of the newer bipolar radiofrequency machines such as Reaction by Viora have incorporated additional technologies in order to overcome the limitations of standard bipolar RF treatments. The Reaction’s operator interface allows practitioners to adjust the heat and depth of bipolar radiofrequency waves, making it capable of heating the tissue right down to the hypodermis, where the superficial fat layer is located. Like the Velashape, the Reaction uses a vacuum to disrupt fibrous fat cells and enhance the delivery of radiofrequency waves.
Monopolar radiofrequency machines
Monopolar radiofrequency waves, are utilized by many of the second generation RF machines that claim to reduce fat non-surgically. Machines which emit monopolar RF waves include the Accent – which also includes a bipolar handpiece for skin tightening – and Thermage CPT. Monopolar RF waves penetrate up to 20mm beneath the skin’s surface, and while they are often used for skin tightening, they are much more effective than bipolar waves at reducing fat.
Monopolar RF machines often carry a second body handpiece or incorporate adjustable energy settings so as to allow fat emulsification of deep adipose tissue.
Unlike bipolar RF, monopolar RF waves require a closed circuit environment to work. Prior to treatment, you should receive a grounding pad for this purpose.
Combined ultrasonic and RF energy
In an effort to take non-invasive fat reduction with radiofrequency to the next level, some machine manufacturers have combined the benefits of high frequency ultrasonic waves with monopolar RF. One of the most prominent of these is the Exilis Elite, which – for body treatments – combines 2 Mhz RF with ultrasonic waves.
The Alma VShape emits both bipolar and monopolar waves at the same time – making it an ideal treatment for cellulite, as well as a powerful radiofrequency for fat reduction treatment.
Other types of radiofrequency machines
Other radiofrequency for fat reduction machines have been released onto the market. One of the most common ‘new’ types of radiofrequency for fat reduction is tripolar radiofrequency. However, as Inna Belenky from Viora explains, “There is only monopolar or bipolar current delivery… The tripolar system has three electrodes: one acts as a positive electrode while the other two act as negative electrodes creating two pairs of a bipolar system.” Tripolar radiofrequency waves therefore generate the same degree of thermal response as bipolar RF waves do.
Maintaining your results at home
Currently, no home use machines are powerful enough to effectively reduce fat, although there are a number of options available to enhance the results of professional radiofrequency for fat reduction treatments. One option is to use cellulite cream on a daily basis. Whereas many of the older cellulite cream ingredients contain caffeine, the newer cellulite creams contain a variety of advanced delivery vehicles such as retinol, enabling powerful topical fat emulsifiers such as lecithin to penetrate deeper into the skin.
Body brushing is the most economical option. Using a natural body brush involves making gentle, upward strokes on the thighs, stomach, arms and back on a daily basis. Body brushing helps to exfoliate the skin and enhance blood circulation, which may help preclude the development of cellulite.