The before and after images of Ultherapy.(Photo: Bryce Gruber)
For the past five or so years my mom would come to my house, play with
the grandkids, and make small comments here and there admonishing the
way she looked. Sometimes she didn’t like the texture of her skin,
sometimes she didn’t like the hyperpigmentation popping up on her
once porcelain face, and sometimes the grooves and wrinkles just got her
annoyed. It was frustrating to see and hear. No one wants to see their
own mother, only 66 years old, feeling less than but also I knew she was
inching closer and closer to the point of getting a facelift. I have no
judgment for facelifts, in fact, I know several people who look and feel
better for them— I just didn’t love the idea of my mom being
under a knife she didn’t need. But my mom is and was beautiful,
and I knew she just wanted a little pick me up. I also knew there were
After countless chats with dermatologists and plastic surgeons, it seemed
that only a procedure called Ultherapy could effectively re-tone and tighten
both the skin and muscular tissue responsible for keeping my mom’s
face youthful and vibrant— without knives or sedation. As any good
daughter would, I lied to my mom and told her I was sending her for a
really special facial, and told her to come over and plan to take the
night off. I knew it would be much more than a typical facial, but I worried
that my mom being hypercritical over their lines and skin texture would
do much more research on Ultherapy and maybe back out at the last minute.
I wanted her to have this and keep the possibility of a facelift far out
of her reality. I took her to one of the top face-reviving practices in
NYC, The Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Group, specifically because they
focus on combining the practices of conventional dermatology with plastic
surgery to give the appearance of turning back time— exactly what
my mom wanted.
“Ultherapy uses the power of ultrasound to stimulate our bodies own
natural pathways to generate collagen. Generating collagen deeper under
the skin over muscle, lifts and tightens saggy areas of our face and neck.
In addition, Ultherapy also generates superficial collagen that tones
the skin and softens fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Arash Akhavan,
Director of Dermatology, The Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Group.
My plan went smoothly at first— my mom took some before photos, her
face was cleaned and prepped, and little white lines were drawn around
the areas of “concern” on her face.
“I guess I just hate the way my skin looks and feels here…
and here… and there,” my beautiful mom said as she pointed
to her crowsfeet, the area under her chin, and jowels.
And then Dr. Akhavan offered her the option of either an over the counter
painkiller like Advil or a stronger dose, like Percocet. My mom knew then
that this would not be an ordinary facial. She was also handed a little
stress ball to squeeze if things felt too intense, and within a few minutes
of that a series of mapped, methodical pulses began on my mom’s face.
“It’s hurting a little, but not too bad. I’m somewhere
between a sunburn and a slap. I’m not in serious pain, but it’s
not my idea of a relaxing facial” she told
Dr. Ulysses H. Scarpidis. MD, Director of Plastic Surgery, The Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Group, after the first of three rounds
of pulses. She glared at me, and I reminded her that I would be her favorite
daughter again by the time she started to see results.
As she took a one minute break between treatments, she asked the doctor
how exactly the therapy works.
“At its deepest, Ultherapy targets the muscles of the face creating
tiny pinpoint wounds. As these tiny wounds heal and contract, the muscles
tighten resulting in a lift that improves jowls and the jawline contour.
This has revolutionized our ability to apply the same muscle lift we incorporate
in a surgical facelift, without any scars, albeit to a lesser degree.
When set at an intermediate depth, Ulthera can target and melt fat under
the chin and jowls which further improves the cosmetic result. At the
most superficial depth, Ulthera stimulates cells in the skin to produce
more collagen thus improving fine wrinkles and tightening the skin further.
Immediately after the procedure, patients can see early signs of fat destruction
and mild tightening of the skin produced by the direct effects of the
ultrasound energy. However it takes time for the muscles to tighten and
the collagen to be generated under the skin. The majority of the tightening
and collagen remodeling begins around the three month mark with maximal
results achieved around six months. Most patients couple Ulthera with
other procedures such as fillers that provide instantaneous results until
the full results from Ulthera can be better appreciated.”
It took about ninety minutes to treat her entire face and upper neck areas,
and by the time we left the doctors’ office, my mom was tired, red,
and annoyed with me. “I better look really good, because I just
missed my regular dinner salad, I didn’t get a relaxing facial,
and now I’m looking like a tomato,” she told me as we headed
home, but I could already see that the texture of her skin was changing.
By the next day the more delicate areas of her face like her jowls had
bruised mildly. She moved from annoyed with me to “I’m not
babysitting your kids this week, Bryce.” But I knew it was just
the process and it would pay off. The doctors told us both clearly that
it would take 6 months for the ultimate results, and then those results
would essentially be permanent, so a week of mild bruising was a small
price to pay for such big results. By the end of the second week the bruises
were totally gone, and there was a noticeable difference in the texture
of my mom’s skin around her jawline and cheekbones. The skin looked
less textured, if anything. The very tiny lines that existed there were
somehow almost invisible. The more major areas hadn’t yet changed
dramatically, but you could start to see little pieces of a youth jigsaw
puzzle being filled in.
It is now about one month later, and the full results have yet to come.
My mom’s muscle tone regeneration is obviously not complete, but
the upper and outer layers of her skin have certainly been impacted for
the better. The deep lines below her jawline have lessened significantly
and the area around her jowls and radiating down from her crowsfeet have
softened in texture and seem mildly lifted. We are only a few weeks out
from the treatment, but feel really enthused about the results yet to come.
Dr. Akhavan mentioned that many women in their 30s even try the treatment
a few months before their weddings, as a way of having their absolute
best looking faces for their big day. After seeing how the treatment works
and how the results build up gradually, I can understand why. My mom has
been happy with her results so far, telling me recently: “It’s
definitely not the same as a facelift, but if you put it on a scale of
1-10, with 10 being a facelift and 1 being doing nothing, this is like
a 6. It’s enough to see and feel a difference but you don’t
really change the way your face looks to most people. I don’t think
anyone but me knows I did something significant, and I’m glad.”
Originally featured on Yahoo! Beauty