Laser Skin Tightening: Everything You Need To Be Aware Of

woman with smooth facial skin had undergone a laser skin tightening

Skin tightening treatments are not generally used for tattoo removal. However, if you are exploring your options for Rejuvenating your skin, this treatment may be something you are interested in.

Are the first signs of aging starting to take a toll on your skin’s appearance? Forget about the scalpel. Skin tightening is an effective and non-invasive way to lift sagging skin, eliminate cellulite, and smooth away wrinkles. And all of this is possible without surgery, downtime, or recovery. So how does skin tightening work? And is this treatment really as amazing as it sounds?

Non-invasive skin tightening has delivered amazing results to countless patients. But you should never undergo a procedure, regardless of how low-risk it is, without doing extensive research. Before visiting your dermatologist, learn about the cost, risks, and potential benefits of this revolutionary skin treatment.

What Is Skin Tightening?

Skin tightening is precisely what it sounds like: tightening loose skin on the face, neck, and body. Sagging and loose skin can occur after extreme weight loss, but for many people, this is just a natural part of aging. As we age, the collagen and elastin in our bodies begin to break down. Since these compounds are what gives skin its elasticity and tautness, without it our skin no longer fits the contours of our face and body.

Most skin tightening treatments work by contracting the skin and stimulating the production of new collagen. This helps bring new life into sagging or loose skin around the face, neck, and body. Skin tightening can help eliminate wrinkles and give your skin a more youthful appearance overall.

Skin tightening is appealing to many people because it is non-invasive. While there are several ways to perform a skin tightening treatment, very few require major surgery or incisions. Instead, skin tightening patients are in and out of their doctor’s office in no time.

However, it’s important to note that skin tightening is not a weight loss procedure. While some skin tightening results can give the appearance of weight loss, these procedures do not affect the fat tissue underneath the skin. Some other non-invasive treatments, like Coolsculpting, combine fat reduction with skin tightening for even more dramatic results.

The Most Popular Types of Skin Tightening

When it comes to non-invasive skin tightening treatments, you have a variety of options. Not only are doctors developing new techniques to improve the treatment process, but brand new technologies also emerge from time to time. Each technique has its own pros and cons, and some dermatologists specialize in one treatment type over the others.

The type of treatment that’s best for you will depend on a variety of personal factors, and only a licensed dermatologist can say which is the right one. Before committing to any one treatment type, make sure to consult with multiple doctors and explore all of your options.


dermatologist treating patient

The most popular brand name for ultrasound skin tightening is Ultherapy. The same ultrasound waves that have been used for decades to create images of fetuses and view internal injuries can now also help tighten your skin. While this treatment method penetrates deeper into the skin than most lasers, it’s currently only used for the face, chin, and decolletage. After Ultherapy or another ultrasound treatment, the skin around your face, brow, and chin will slowly tighten and lift. For the decolletage, or the skin between your neck and breast, this treatment can smooth wrinkles caused by sun damage and aging.

Ultrasound treatments can penetrate deeper into the skin because they use sound waves instead of light. These waves can reach the base layers of the skin to trigger collagen production. While it can take several weeks or even months to see the full results, this procedure generally leaves skin noticeably tighter and lifted.


Radiofrequency treatment

Radiofrequency treatments use the same wavelengths as your radio, television, or even your Wi-Fi network. But radiofrequency, or RF, treatments use a specific set of wavelengths honed to penetrate and heat the inner layers of the skin. This heat helps promote the production of new collagen and elastin underneath the skin’s surface.

Unlike ultrasound skin tightening, which only treats the face and surrounding area, RF treatments can help contour and tighten the entire body. Some patients choose RF therapy to treat cellulite and tighten loose skin on their abdomen or legs. But facial skin tightening is still one of the most popular uses for this treatment. Properly administered RF treatments can deliver results that last for up to two years.

Intense pulsed light

Intense pulsed light process

Sometimes, intense pulse light, frequently called IPL, is combined with radiofrequency techniques to penetrate deeper into the skin. The addition of IPL to this treatment supposedly helps the doctor target certain areas of the skin more specifically than radiofrequency alone. One of the popular brand names for this combination therapy is called Refirme.

With the inclusion of IPL, some patients might also see improvements to their skin’s color, texture, and more. Studies show improvement in elasticity and tone, as well as pigmentation and visible veins following this combination treatment.

Who Is an Ideal Candidate?

old woman

These skin tightening procedures are ideal for patients who have noticeably lost some elasticity and firmness in their skin. This could present itself in a change in skin texture, the appearance of small wrinkles, or sagging skin. Tightening treatments are not ideal for patients who have excess skin following weight loss or more dramatic signs of aging that require cosmetic surgery. A licensed dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon can tell you if you’re a good candidate for these procedures.

While these skin tightening procedures are low-risk for most patients, some conditions can prevent you from getting one of these treatments. Pregnant women will need to wait until after their pregnancy to undergo one of these skin procedures. Plus, certain medications or pre-existing skin conditions may prevent you from qualifying for non-invasive skin tightening. Consult with your doctor to determine if any of these concerns apply to you.

Will skin tightening affect your tattoos?

When it comes to gaining or losing weight, many people worry that their tattoos will warp with their changing skin. This is certainly a potential side effect of extreme weight change. But can the same thing happen to a tattoo through non-invasive skin tightening?

Thankfully, the changes in your skin following this treatment may look dramatic, but the actual movement of the skin is minimal. Tattoos in the treated areas shouldn’t show any noticeable signs of warping, stretching, or other changes. In fact, smoother skin on and around the tattoo might actually improve its appearance.

Before undergoing non-invasive skin tightening, always ask your doctor about any tattoos near the treatable area. The tattoo shouldn’t be harmed by the tightening itself. However, some lasers and other non-invasive treatments can have undesirable effects on the ink itself. Your dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon will be able to determine if this side effect is a concern for you and your chosen treatment type.

How Much Does Skin Tightening Cost?

The price of a skin tightening treatment greatly depends on your geographical location, the size of the treated area, and your chosen treatment method. Many dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons are happy to provide a cost estimate when you visit them for a consultation. Unfortunately, since these procedures are considered cosmetic in nature, insurance won’t cover them. Therefore, you should expect to pay the full cost out-of-pocket.

Ultherapy, the popular ultrasound treatment option, can cost up to $5,500 for a full face and neck treatment in areas with a high cost of living. Smaller treatment areas and geographical locations with lower costs of living can go as low as $750 to $2,500. Refirme, which uses IPL and RF wavelengths, is considerably cheaper. These treatments cost anywhere from $100 to over $1,800, with the average treatment costing around $525.

Where Should You Go for Skin Tightening?

patient consulting a dermatologist

Like any medical procedure, you should always visit a licensed medical doctor for non-invasive skin tightening. The best doctors for a procedure like this include dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons. Even though no surgery is actually involved in skin tightening, proper application is still necessary to prevent burns, scarring, and other negative side effects.

Even if you think you can get a better deal, you should avoid unreputable medi-spas and salons that offer laser or ultrasound treatments. While there’s a chance that your treatment will be overseen or administered by a doctor, you’re more likely to find yourself in the hands of an unlicensed, untrained member of their staff. If something goes wrong during your procedure, this individual doesn’t have the knowledge or expertise to prevent and treat issues as they arise. Don’t put your skin’s health and appearance at risk by going to a cheap spa. Instead, always choose a licensed medical doctor for this and related treatments.

What Are the Side Effects of Skin Tightening?

These skin tightening procedures are non-invasive, meaning they don’t require any type of surgery. However, they are not entirely risk-free. Most negative side effects can be attributed to improper treatment. But they are still potential risks that you should consider when deciding if this procedure is right for you.

Even though most people go right back to their daily life after undergoing non-invasive skin tightening, there are some normal side effects that you can expect. These include swelling, redness, and bruising at the sight of treatment. These side effects are completely normal. However, if they worsen or persist for a long period of time, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor for further information.

Outside of these common side effects, there are some long-term or permanent effects that can result from a skin tightening treatment. If you see any of these side effects after your procedure, contact your doctor immediately. While these side effects can be temporary and harmless, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Skin tightening that utilizes a laser, like Refirme, can result in skin discoloration in the treated area. The same damage that triggers additional collagen production can also trigger melanin, the compound that gives skin its color.

Patients with darker skin have a greater risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) or hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin). Evidence also points to certain post-treatment techniques increasing the risk for this side effect. Potential side effects caused by discoloration may fade over time or be permanent.

Burns and scarring

Some non-invasive laser procedures heat the skin to help encourage collagen and elastin production. However, if these procedures aren’t administered correctly, they can burn the skin. While most burns will heal over time, severe burns could leave behind scarring that will never completely fade.

The best way to prevent this serious side effect is to only go to a licensed dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon for your skin tightening treatments. An experienced doctor or nurse will know how to properly administer the treatment without burning your skin. This might not be true at an unlicensed spa or salon.

Allergic reactions

woman with allergy

In rare cases, patients may experience an allergic reaction following a skin tightening procedure. These reactions might result from topical products used during the treatment or the device itself. Allergic reactions have been reported following tattoo removal and laser hair removal, so this side effect isn’t exclusive to skin tightening procedures.

Luckily, these reactions typically don’t last long and will not return as long as you don’t return for more skin tightening treatments in the future. Ask your doctor about the best over-the-counter medications to take and other recovery instructions you should follow to minimize your symptoms.


Numbness of the treated area can occur following ultrasound, radiofrequency, or laser skin tightening. This side effect isn’t too surprising considering that these tightening treatments work by causing slight damage to the deeper layers of the skin.

Most post-treatment numbness rectifies itself within a few days. If your numbness persists, though, make sure to contact your doctor. Nerve damage could have occurred during the treatment and should be addressed right away. While there are no current studies on this occurring after a skin tightening procedure, it has been documented following other non-invasive cosmetic treatments.

Will You Transform Your Body With Skin Tightening?

The side effects listed above are real risks to consider before undergoing any of these skin tightening procedures. But they pale in comparison to the potential dangers of a surgical facelift. If you have your heart set on treating your sagging or wrinkled skin, then non-invasive skin tightening is generally the safest option. However, you should always consult with a trusted, licensed doctor before choosing to undergo one of these procedures.

Of course, your other option is to simply embrace the aging process. As well as the changes in your skin that come along with it. Society might seem to prefer youthful-looking skin, but beauty is fleeting and subjective. If you choose to feel happy and empowered with your natural skin, this confidence will radiate from within. Whichever path you choose, it is your body and you should do whatever makes you feel best.


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