RF vs HIFU: What’s the Difference?

by THEA Home Beauty | Feb 2, 2023

Tell-tale signs of aging can range from subtle to downright severe, and the latter can be disheartening in our eternal quest to keep youthful-looking skin. The hard truth is, after the age of 25, our skin drastically loses its ability to produce collagen like it used to by 1-2% every year. Combined with outside factors like sun damage and gravity, the skin’s loss of elasticity leads to common signs of aging like sagging skin and wrinkles.

The good news is, there are safe and effective treatments you can try to achieve the youthful, firm, and tightened skin of your dreams. No longer are painful, time-consuming, and costly surgical facelifts the only antiaging remedy around, because now, the power of modern technology affords us the choice of highly effective at-home treatments like RF and HIFU.

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RF vs HIFU- What’s the Difference? 2


Related: Retinol for Wrinkles: the Miracle Anti-aging Ingredient



What is RF?

RF is a tissue-tightening procedure that uses monopolar radiofrequency energy to deliver heat into the epidermal skin layers. The hand-held device uses a bulk heating technique across larger areas to tighten sagging skin, smooth out wrinkles, and stimulate collagen and elastin production. Not only does RF provide visible skin-tightening benefits from immediate collagen contraction, it also provides long-term antiaging benefits by triggering the skin’s wound-healing response and encouraging cell turnover. This gives the skin a firmer, plumper and more youthful-looking appearance, reducing fine lines, shrinking enlarged pores, and even improving skin conditions like acne.

The at-home RF device will generally deliver lower levels of energy that can be used comfortably every day for optimal results, while clinical-grade machines will require administration by a board-certified cosmetic surgeon, physician’s assistant, or registered nurse. Since it only reaches epidermal layers without penetrating the deep dermis, RF is a better choice for addressing volume loss and for concerns on more delicate areas, like drooping eyelids.



What is HIFU? 

HIFU, or high-intensity focused ultrasound, delivers a precise and intensive ultrasonic energy to stimulates collagen production and tissue remodelling deep within the skin layers. HIFU reaches deeper into the skin than RF, and the fractional heat encourages deep dermal tissue to produce new compact collagen fibres. An added benefit of HIFU is its ability to melt fat, especially for those concerned about facial or body fat, and lower face and neck sagging.

With consistent use once every 28 days, home-use HIFU devices can deliver miraculous salon-grade skin lifting results. While you’ll be able to see visible results from the first treatment, the skin-tightening effect continue to develop over the weeks following the treatment.



The 3 types of aging

RF vs HIFU What’s the Difference? 2

Once you can identify the type of ‘ager’ you are, the easier it will be to pick the right rejuvenation therapy for your skin. Sinkers lose volume on key areas of their faces, resulting in a gaunt and bony appearance. RF is the recommended treatment for plumping and restoring youthful volume to the skin, as HIFU may induce further volume loss by melting fat.

Saggers typically experience loosened tissue and excess skin, caused by a loss of elasticity and collagen. For sagging concerns like jowls or drooping cheeks, we recommend HIFU to stimulate collagen production in the deeper layers for a powerful lifting effect, and to also melt fat in targeted areas.

Finally, the Wrinkler is susceptible to fine lines and deeper-set wrinkles that can appear on the neck and forehead. For smoothing superficial fine lines, RF is the recommended treatment to plump skin and improve texture, while wrinkles caused by sagging skin would respond best to HIFU. HIFU is able to penetrate deeper into the skin and strengthen foundational skin layers to lift and improve the appearance of wrinkles. While it is often recommended to use both treatments together, we would also suggest alternating the treatments to better assess the effectiveness of each one on your skin.


Aside from being non-invasive and more cost-effective than surgical treatments, the best thing about HIFU and RF therapies is that the results are permanent because they harness the body’s natural mechanisms to produce collagen. While results aren’t as immediate as Botox or fillers, HIFU and RF won’t melt or dissolve away like the former treatments. Sagging skin and wrinkles can creep up at any age, but you can tackle them easily with some basic knowledge and options of self-care devices at home.


Related: Top 5 Anti-aging Skincare Ingredients to Know about before You Turn 20





Suitable for 

Skin Sagging
Wrinkles & pigmentations

Volume loss

Wrinkles & pigmentations


Completely genuine and permanent (unlike fillers or threads, which can “dissolve” away) – this is because they stimulate your body’s own mechanisms of collagen production.

Non-surgical, non-invasive skin tightening 

Beauty Technology


Monopolar radio frequency 


delivers more precise and more intense fractional ultrasound energy heating from “inside-out”. HIFU can tighten deep tissues in addition to the skin,  makes HIFU systems very efficient in lifting 

saggy lower face and neck tissues. This thermal-coagulation effect achieved is able to induce volume reduction of selected target areas (read: melt fats!). This is especially so in the lower face such as the jowls. This makes HIFU systems a good choice for those with excess tissue and saggy areas

bulk heating
Hearting from “top-down”, treat superficial skin problems well – such as very fine early wrinkles, enlarged pores, superficial scars and even acne. Thermage is hence useful for improving skin texture too.


Goes much deeper into and beyond the dermis, being able to reach the SMAS layer

Focuses on epidermal layers and does not go beyond the deep dermis

Home Use Device Frequency 

Avg once a month

Avg 3-4 times a week (varies depending on specific machines) 

Commonly Known Brand used in Beauty Salons 

Ultrapy, Ulthera®, Doublo®

Pellevé®, THERMI RF®, Exilis®, Thermage®

Best area 

Best choice for tightening loose skin around the jowls, improve the appearance of a double chin or “lifting” the brows, and deep wrinkles 

Better choice for addressing volume loss or treating delicate areas such as lower and upper eyelids; and for improving fine lines in delicate areas like eyes. 


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