What to know about skin-tightening treatment Softwave

softwave skin tightening treatment review
Skin-tightening tweakment Softwave, explainedHarper's Bazaar

Throughout my thirties I’ve taken a triple-pronged approach to my skincare combining the use of products, supplements and treatments. I am diligent with SPF and ‘active’ ingredients (typically applying formulas containing vitamin C in the morning, and vitamin A at night), take a daily collagen formula, and have regular-ish microneedling and radiofrequency facials. Plus, I recently invested in a non-invasive ‘tweakment’ called Softwave.

New to the UK, Softwave is an ultrasound device promising firmer skin and fewer lines without any risks. The technology is fully FDA-cleared for lifting the eyebrows, submental (the area under the chin) and neck, while also reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It works by stimulating new collagen with the principle of controlled injury – that is, telling the body to heal itself. “Sofwave heats the tissues to between 60-70 degrees celsius,” explains Dr Sophie Shotter, skin and aesthetics expert, and founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic where I tried the treatment. “This denatures ­– or damages – the collagen, stimulating the production of new collagen by the fibroblast cells.”

In case you’re unfamiliar, collagen – the protein our body naturally produces, providing plumpness in our skin – begins to deplete from the age of 25 onwards. Ergo, collagen-stimulating treatments are billed as both preventative and corrective in anti-ageing terms. And Softwave is the ultimate example of this.

Who is Softwave for?

“Someone with mild to moderate laxity of the skin will be the best candidate for Softwave,” Dr Shotter tells me. Now, at 38-years-old, I’d been noticing slight sagging of my skin, though I wasn’t looking to counter this with the use of facial fillers, or anything else more invasive.

“I’m not a fan of bracketing people by age in terms of suitability for treatments,” the doctor continues, “because some people in their twenties smoke and have significant UV damage, whereas some people in their seventies have nurtured their skin”. However, she says that professionally she’s seen great results from Softwave on people with more advanced – though not extensive – sagging and laxity. But she adds, when it comes to older patients, “I would never want to guarantee a result from Softwave as their fibroblast cells may no longer be able to produce collagen effectively”.

And at the other end of the scale, “we also use it preventatively in younger patients who want to bank collagen,” Dr Shotter says.

In general, the average patient will usually be between ages 40 and 65, with moderate signs of visible skin ageing such as sagging and wrinkles. (Note that Softwave won’t tackle skin tone, such as hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage.)

What does Softwave involve?

Firstly, a strong numbing cream is applied to the face, which on me caused some redness but worked effectively. Without this, the pain of the ultrasound would be unbearable. Once numb, the handheld device attached to the Softwave machine is placed at specific points on the skin in a grid-like pattern. In turn, each section is heated to a strong peak. For me, this was sometimes entirely painless, while other times it smarted to say the least. However, just as a sharp sting began to overwhelm, the device would beep and be moved to a new section of skin. Dr Shotter says that her patients usually find the 30-45 minute experience comfortable, “although there may be some areas which feel slightly sore”. Whatever your pain threshold, I’d recommend popping a painkiller beforehand.

softwave skin tightening treatment review
Bridget with the numbing cream onBridget March

“The treatment is extremely safe,” she reassured me, “as the energy penetrates to 1.5mm and not through the deeper tissues where fat and nerves maybe found”. Ergo, there's no need to worry about fat loss from the face – something that naturally happens with age leading to a sunken look.

There is no ‘downtime’, either, though immediately afterwards my skin was a little rose and swollen – but not in a bad way. The redness resembled a post-facial flush, while the swelling gave me a youthful-looking plumpness, which lasted a couple of days. “Some people with more sensitive skins find their skin is a little dry for a few days afterwards,” Dr Sophie notes, though this wasn’t the case for me.

What results can you expect from Softwave?

“Results appear anywhere from six weeks onwards, and last for nine-to-12 months,” Dr Shotter confirms. While my immediate boost was temporary, three months afterwards I noticed that my brows seemed more lifted, my jawline felt tighter, and my lower cheeks more taught.

“The average lift to the eyebrow in the clinical studies was three-to-four millimetres, which is quite significant,” she says. “People often notice impressive results in the neck and under chin area as well.”

softwave skin tightening treatment review
Bridget before (left), and three months after trying Softwave (right)Illuminate Skin Clinic

While it may be hard to measure this at home, she says that “the skin should feel firmer and less ‘grabbable’, and you will just look better in the mirror”. It’s this subtlety that appeals to me; personally, I don’t want to change the way I look. Unlike other treatments such as Botox and fillers which can alter, Softwave is here to enhance and ‘prejuvinate’ – by preventing visible signs of ageing and rejuvenating the early ones I have. For an expensive treatment, I'd only recommend it for those serious about collagen banking, not those who want a quick fix.

As Dr Shotter reminds me, “There is no magic bullet when we talk about aesthetic anti-ageing treatments – no one treatment does everything. But Sofwave is a treatment which is almost universally useful in a treatment plan.” And it’s staying in mine.

Softwave costs £3000 for a full face treatment and £1600 for a half face treatment at both Illuminate Skin Clinic and 10 Harley Street where Dr Shotter splits her time.


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