Is heat good or bad for skin? What about heat from radiofrequency?

Is 'heat' good or bad for skin. It's a bit confusing, that there are devices such as Radio Frequency to tighten skin, when radio frequency from microwaves are supposed to be bad. Then some people say the heat from a steam room can increase skin's elasticity and some say it does the opposite. Some other heat devices for facial tightening, are supposed to tighten skin, but some people say it made them lose fat in their face. It's hard to know if steaming, RF etc is helping your skin or damaging it more. Can you please explain the real facts? I'm confused...

Wow – good questions.  I’ll try to explain so it makes sense:

  • Regular heat from a hot day, exercise, a steam room, a hot yoga class will dilate the blood vessels in the skin as part of our bodies’ protective cooling mechanism, but cannot in any way (that I know of)  affect the deeper structures of the skin like collagen or elastic fibers. An increase in circulation all over the body is thought to be generally beneficial, but doesn’t specifically target skin;
  • Radiofrequency/sound waves aren’t all good or all bad.  They come in all different frequencies so the effect generally depends on the frequency used and the power generated by it, so the waves used in a microwave are very different than than waves used in Thermage, for example;
  •  You can’t lose fat in the face, for example with a radiofrequency device like Thermage, unless the settings are turned up too high.  There should be mild to moderate discomfort with that procedure.  If it’s more than that, ask the nurse or doctor to turn the settings down.  Best to avoid the problem altogether by always seeking well-trained, board certified dermatologists or plastic surgeons to do or supervise these procedures.
  • All radiofrequency devices on the market now, in my opinion, give a subtle lift and induce collagen formation.  None of them are a dramatic result so compare on price, pain, and # of treatments needed.  I still think Thermage is the best on these but am hoping new technology from other companies will improve in the future.  Questions from other readers.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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