Whilst many people would give their hind leg to have unlimited Fab treatments (well at least the excess fat and cellulite on their hind leg), the husband of the owner gets reluctantly dragged into treatment sessions to be experimented on like a guinea pig.
This particular treatment was approached with further trepidation when it was announced that they have to tell me there is a very slight risk of temporary nerve damage! Oh - and it will be painful!
The treatment I was receiving is called HIFU or High Intensity Focussed Ultrasound. Whats more, I was told I wouldn't see the full benefits for some weeks to come.
“Don't worry, we are just going to make you even more fabulous” my wife stated, paraphrasing the business start line.
For the first half of the treatment, I felt like a model in an art class, while lots of lines were drawn on my face with a pencil that needed sharpening every few minutes. Then lines were erased and redrawn. Apparently the lines determine the no go zones around the nerves and bone and also identify the main areas that the treatment should focus on. Each side of the face needs to be symmetrical and that is where my artist was particular in erasing and redrawing until she was finally satisfied with her work.
A quick look in the mirror and I resembled a Mauri warrior. Took a quick selfie before being laid down on the couch for the main treatment.
A thought occurred to me in panic “has anyone ever been permanently disfigured by this treatment?” Barbara, our highly experienced supervisor replied “not to my knowledge at all, although I am aware of some pretty shoddy practices out in the field by unqualified people. Temporary nerve damage can give a droopy lip in the corner but it heals in weeks. Dont worry, there is no danger of that happening to you. You are in safe, qualified hands”
The HIFU treatment is a way of tricking your skin to become more youthful. As we age the level of collagen in the skin reduces and the regeneration rates of collagen slow down. Nature hasn't learned that we have relatively unlimited resources and treats our body as if the next meal is our last. So it distributes resources where it thinks we need them most. Sadly, it doesn't prioritise beauty as an important feature for people with late teen and grown up children, so collagen production is focussed more in the bones and organs and less in the skin.
By creating microscopic trauma, the process tells the skin that collagen is required to heal the skin and it stimulates the production of collagen in the skin. This technique is used with radio frequency, micro-needling and laser treatments, but HIFU is the only process that reaches the smas (superficial musculo aponeurotic system) layer of the skin, which is the deepest part of the skin before it joins the muscle.
It is this layer that cosmetic surgeons reach with the scalpel in order to do face lifts. The revolutionary feature of HIFU is now the same layer can be accessed and influenced with non invasive treatments.
Once some protective gel is painted on my face, the skin is stretched by hand and the two and a half centimetre treatment head is applied. Each blast of treatment lasts just over one second where a pulse of energy goes from one end of the treatment head to another creating twelve little pin pricks in a line one after the other.
“On a scale of 1-10 how much did that hurt? was the question. “Zero” I answered and so they notched up the power. The head was moved sideways on my face by a millimetre and another pulse applied. “Ok I felt that now, it feels like very tiny pin pricks, pain level 2” (For all the pulses on different parts of my face and neck, the pain level did not exceed 3, which could not really be described as discomfort) Of course everyone is different and different parts of the face have different sensitivity so it is an important part of the treatment that feedback is received after each pulse and the power is adjusted accordingly.
As the treatment head was slid sideways for the 8th time, I started to feel a new sensation along with the tiny pin pricks. I am sure all boys have had that trick played on them when the close their eyes and put their tongue out, only to have both terminals of the little square 9 volt battery applied to the tongue. The electric shock gives a tugging sensation in the tongue. A fully charged battery can leave a bit of pain behind but a weak battery is perfectly bearable. I informed my therapist that I could feel this slight tugging sensation. One more zap and the sensation was stronger. That was the last zap in that area and it indicated that the head was getting closer to the nerve. It wasn't particularly uncomfortable, but it did leave behind a slight ache for about a minute. The feedback was important to inform the therapist that this was enough, but the lines drawn on the skin and the stretching of the skin away from the nerve, ensured that the limit of the treatment was still well in the safety zone.
I had each side of my face and neck zapped and then the same area was repeated twice more with different treatment heads. Having started at the deepest layer (4.5mm smas layer) the next repetition was in the mid layer (3mm, sub dermal tissue) and finally close to the surface (1.5mm, dermis). Finally, they gave me two zaps below my eye bags with a smaller treatment head.
Walking away from the treatment I felt no lasting pain whatsoever. When I looked in the mirror to see the new me, I simply saw the same me with white lines drawn on my face. I have seen photos of some who have an immediate improvement, but that is not the main intent of the treatment. It takes six to eight weeks before the effects start to show as the increased levels of collagen kick in. The healing process that closes the microscopic holes that have been created, serves to tighten the skin and assist it to defy gravity once again. Then the effects continue for another two to three months and it is not recommended to have any further HIFU treatments for a minimum of six months.
The healed skin with its increased collagen takes on a tighter and more youthful appearance and effectively takes you back in the aging process to a more youthful you. Sadly, gravity and the aging process continues, but from a more youthful basis.
Many clients will continue to have radio frequency in the meantime which works to tighten the the surface layers of the skin.
Combined treatments can be very effective depending on the skin and its condition and the Alumier range of cosmeceuticals are raved about by those that try them. These cosmeceuticals can only be prescribed by qualified therapists and have much more potent and effective active ingredients than high street offerings.
So whilst it was not an unpleasant experience, I am happy that I cant be dragged back to be HIFU operated on for at least six months. I wonder what other “pleasures” they have in store for me?
If you would like to see if this treatment may be suitable for you, please give us a ring on 01509 400 444 to arrange a free consultation or book it online here
(1) FREE SKIN SCAN for readers of this article. The skin scan will tell you the physical age of your skin
(2) HIFU suitability skin assessment