- Skin tightening machines, or beauty machines, use radio frequency energy, infrared light and intense pulsed light to tighten skin.
- Beauty devices intended for home use demonstrate some efficacy in tightening loose skin but are less effective than their professional counterparts.
- All skin types and areas of the body can be treated by a skin tightening machine, although individuals with darker skin tones should use lower energy settings.
- Consistent use of at-home machines is required for results to become apparent.
Skin laxity is a cosmetic concern that can negatively impact an individual’s appearance. Loose skin, wrinkles and fine lines may give away one’s age or make one appear older than they are. Fortunately, skin elasticity can be restored through a variety of means, including at-home skin tightening machines.
Beauty devices, such as skin tightening machines for home use, are intended to reduce skin laxity without the need to visit a dermatologist. However, while these devices make skin rejuvenation convenient and affordable, their efficacy is limited.
Do At-Home Skin Tightening Machines Work?
Aging, genetics and excessive exposure to the sun all contribute to the gradual degradation of collagen and elastin, two proteins responsible for giving skin its elasticity. Similarly, collagen production slows during the aging process. As a result, skin starts to loosen and develop wrinkles, fine lines and crow’s feet.
Skin tightening machines improve skin elasticity and enhance skin rejuvenation. However, the efficacy and side effects of a given machine depends on the specific type of device used, such as those that function by using heat, infrared light or intense pulsed light (IPL) to tighten the skin and stimulate collagen production.
Unlike certain professional tools, at-home skin tightening machines don’t require a license to operate. “No special training is needed for these tools because they are not very powerful,” says Dr. Steven Goldman, MD, a plastic surgeon who specializes in skin tightening procedures. In fact, these devices have a significantly lower maximum power settings than devices found in a dermatologist’s office.
In contrast to professional devices, few scientific studies have been conducted into the efficacy of at-home devices. Additionally, many research studies have been directly sponsored by device manufacturers or sample sizes used were too small.
Dr. Goldman is also skeptical of these devices purported benefits. “I don’t think at-home energy- based devices can do much,” explains Dr. Goldman. “They may be cost-effective and more convenient than professional treatment, but they offer significantly fewer benefits.”
Radiofrequency Skin Tightening Machines
Radio frequency (RF) skin tightening machines use RF energy to heat the tissue beneath the epidermis, or outer layer of skin. The heat causes an immediate contraction of collagen fibers and tightening of the skin. Fibroplasia, the body’s wound-healing process, is also triggered by the heat, leading to increased production of new collagen.
At-home RF skin tightening machines operate at lower power settings and do not offer the same level of precision as professional options. “These tools lack many of the settings and features that allow professionals to control the depth of the treatments,” explains Dr. Goldman.
Consistent home treatment is required for any visible results when using an at-home RF machine.
Infrared Skin Tightening Machines
Infrared (IR) skin tightening machines emit small pulses of energy from an LED light in infrared wavelengths. This energy penetrates beneath the epidermis into the dermal layers, the layer of skin immediately beneath the outer layer, and begins to shrink collagen fibers.
At the same time, a process called photobiomodulation takes place; growth factors, a type of protein, are stimulated to encourage new collagen production.
IR skin tightening machines are safe and well-tolerated and cool the epidermis before, during and after treatment to reduce or outright eliminate any associated pain or skin redness.
Much like at-home RF machines, home IR devices are more limited than their clinical counterparts. “As a simple and basic at-home technology, these devices are not only less powerful, they also can’t achieve the same depth as professional tools,” says Dr. Goldman.
As with other at-home skin care devices, improvement of skin laxity following treatment with an IR machine requires consistent use. Results may take up to 12 weeks to become visible.
Intense Pulsed Light Skin Tightening Machine
IPL uses high-intensity light to heat collagen fibers, tighten skin and smooth skin texture. At the same time, water in the dermis absorbs wavelengths generated by the machine to trigger growth factors and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin.
Some IPL machines simultaneously cool the epidermis to avoid the sensation of burning skin. Still, some patients may experience some skin redness, blistering or temporary changes to skin pigmentation following IPL light therapy.
Considering IPL devices intended for home use are less powerful than their professional counterparts, repeated and consistent use is required to improve skin elasticity.
Which Skin Tightening Machine Is Best?
The best skin tightening machine to use depends on your specific needs, preferences and budget. You should also consult a dermatologist prior to using an at-home device to ensure a specific machine is safe for your skin type and any skin conditions you may have.
In some cases, alternating treatments with different types of devices lead to the best and most dramatic results.
Radio frequency machines cost between $30 and $1,000. Home RF treatments have been shown to be effective at tightening skin on the face, the periorbital region (around the eyes) and the thighs and abdomen. Because RF energy bypasses the melanin present in the skin, it’s a safe treatment for people of all skin types.
Infrared skin tightening machines cost about the same as RF devices. Infrared technology has been proven to be effective at tightening skin in the face, neck, eye area and jawline. Some devices may also be used on the legs, arms and abdomen. IR devices are safe for use on all skin types.
Intense pulsed light skin tightening machines range in cost from $200 to $450. At-home IPL devices can be used to tighten skin on all areas of the body with the exception of the periorbital region, as IPL may cause damage to the eyes. In addition, those with darker skin tones should use lower energy settings to avoid potential hyperpigmentation.
Skin tightening machines represent an alternative to costly procedures and surgeries and can serve as a stopgap measure for improving skin elasticity.
However, their lack of power and precision may lead to less than ideal results. Dr. Goldman instead suggests improving your skin care routine using topical products. “An aggressive skin care regimen that includes retinoids, antioxidants, and sunblock is more effective than at-home energy-based devices,” states Dr. Goldman.
You can invest in over-the-counter or prescription beauty products made with ingredients shown to stimulate collagen production and improve skin firmness. Ingredients to look for include:
- Retinoids, such as retinol and tretinoin
- Hyaluronic acid
- Alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acid, also called glycolic and salicylic acid
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Cosmetic procedures and surgeries offer more dramatic, immediate and long-lasting skin tightening results at the expense of possible side effects, downtime and monetary cost.
DIY home remedies are another alternative to using at-home skin tightening devices. However, home remedies lack the efficacy of more proven and heavily researched options, and are at best, only effective at mildly improving skin laxity.
Dr. Goldman advocates for a broader approach to skin care that can provide more long-term benefits than at-home devices. “Be holistic. A healthy lifestyle—no smoking or tanning, a proper diet, good hydration and consistent exercise—is critical for anti-aging effects on the skin, body and brain,” says Dr. Goldman.
Although at-home skin tightening machines are less powerful than those found in your dermatologist’s office, they provide an effective and convenient anti-aging method. Skin tightening machines serve as a stopgap measure between other beauty products and the more expensive and intense procedures and surgeries.
The choice between radio frequency, infrared and intense pulsed light machines depends largely on your budget, tolerance for mild pain and, to a lesser extent, skin type. Each machine is capable of tightening the skin on all areas of the body, although facial skin is often the area most intended to be treated by these devices.
With consistent use of at-home skin tightening devices, skin elasticity can gradually improve while wrinkles and fine lines are reduced – all from the comfort of your own home.
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