Celebrities always have some crazy beauty secrets (hello, vampire facials), but this trending trick from actress Ellen Pompeo, 54, is not only purported to be better than Botox to get that ageless glow, you can DIY it for pennies without a TV-star’s budget. The Grey’s Anatomy star has raved about something called high frequency facials for their anti-aging benefits and has said that it’s because of them that she doesn’t even need Botox injections to get rid of her wrinkles, fine lines and sagging skin well into her 50s.
In fact, Pompeo told New Beauty she has been using frequency facials since 2019 to keep her looking youthful. “I don’t love fillers or Botox, so I have to get a lot of facials and drink a ton of water,” she explained. “I feel like the frequency facial makes a difference in my skin — it makes it tighter.” And Pompeo isn’t the only one who can attest to smoother skin due to radiofrequency — studies have also shown positive results and improved skin laxity in 96% of participants.
Unlike Botox, frequency facials are noninvasive, leave virtually no bruising or scarring and have minimal to no downtime. So what exactly is this magic beauty secret that keeps Ellen Pompeo Botox-free and looking so young? Read on to learn more about it and how it can work for you, too!
What exactly is a high frequency facial?
Frequency facials — also known as high-frequency treatments — utilize radiofrequency to tighten the skin non-surgically, says esthetician Nichelle Temple, who has worked with stars like Beth Stern and Irina Shayk. “It uses thermal energy wavelengths of heat to penetrate the dermis and encourage collagen production. This energy, temperature and time spent on each area causes the heat-shocked proteins to generate more collagen fibers,” she explains.
If you book one at a med spa, the service will consist of cleansing, skin analysis and application of a conductive gel. Once the radiofrequency treatment begins, you will feel mild heat as the wand moves about your face, and your provider will check your comfort level. And the results are instant, attests Temple. Immediately during the treatment, “you can expect to feel a plumping effect,” she says. “There may be some temporary redness, but this is a no-downtime treatment where you can resume regular activities immediately.”
What are the benefits of frequency facials?
1. It smooths lines and wrinkles
Radiofrequency uses thermal energy wavelengths to heat the deeper dermis tissue, prompting a controlled injury (similar to the way microneedling works). This stimulates the body’s natural healing response, activating essential skin elements like collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. “As the skin regenerates, it appears firmer, tighter, more lifted and lessens fine lines and wrinkles,” says Temple. That explains why doing these treatments is like Botox for Ellen Pompeo. Radiofrequency can also minimize the signs of sun damage and even deflate those under eye bags.
While some results can be seen immediately, full results can be seen over weeks or months. “Because radiofrequency is targeting the fibroblasts that spark more collagen and elastin production, further results don’t begin to show until weeks or months later as it takes time for the body to synthesize more collagen,” explains Temple. The Cleveland Clinic says you can expect results within two to six months.
2. It tightens saggy skin
As we age, our collagen production decreases, and we lose our collagen bank. Starting in our 20s, we lose about 1% of our collagen reserve yearly. Diet, lifestyle and UV exposure all play a part in aging, but with every decade that passes, we are losing 10% of our collagen reserve. Radiofrequency stimulates collagen and elastin production, which significantly helps to tighten sagging or loose skin, leading to a firmer appearance.
3. It contours the face
Temple says frequency facials can act as a natural contour, redefining facial contours like the sagging skin on the jawline known as jowls and tightening and firming areas like cheekbones and brows.
4. It can sculpt the body
The treatments can also be used to sculpt and treat stubborn areas like love handles because of its ability to tighten the skin and reduce fat cells over time.
Here are some before and after radiofrequency results shown on YouTube so you can see it for yourself:
How much do frequency facials cost?
Depending on where you live, how large of an area you plan to treat, how many treatments you’ll need and whether you opt for a licensed esthetician med spa, a dermatologist or a cosmetic or plastic surgeon, treatments can range anywhere from $300 to $4,000. “There are a variety of machines available, and some combine several modalities to deliver more targeted results,” says Temple.
“Most patients will need a series of six treatments administered weekly, and the cost of the treatment will depend on the treatment area but between $600 to $800 per treatment,” says Jennifer L. Walden, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Skintology Medspa.
The 3 best at-home high-frequency facial wands
Don’t want to splurge on in-office treatments? Luckily, there are DIY options available you can do at home for a lot less. At-home devices might not be as powerful, but there are clinical studies that show they work. The FDA has approved some at-home devices for the treatment of mild to moderate facial wrinkles and rhytides. “I recommend you purchase an FDA-cleared device, and please do not deviate from the directions,” advises Temple. “It is really important to not overheat or use for longer than recommended in the directions pamphlet,” she warns.
NEWA Classic RF Wrinkle Reduction Device (Buy from MyNewa, $278)
The company promises “visible results” after using just four minutes at a time, 3x a week over four weeks, and one reviewer writes, “I’ve been using this product for about two months now, and let me tell you, I’ve already noticed some amazing improvements! My under-eye area is smoother and tighter, my jawline is significantly more contoured and tight and the lines behind my lips and nose have greatly lessened and softened.”
Joanna Vargas Magic Glow Wand At-Home Spa Treatment (Buy from LovelySkin, $222.30)
This wand was created by celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas, the woman responsible for Ellen Pompeo’s Botox-like results. It boasts massaging action plus different heat settings, from cool to hot, to do different things to the skin.
Nebulyft (Buy from Nebulyft, $239)
This has five adjustable levels of frequency energy for deep, effective treatment and says you’ll see results in just a week of use. It’s temperature-controlled, so it can’t get too hot and potentially damage the skin.
If you’re unsure about proper at-home use, you can follow along with this YouTube tutorial from GlowNar Aesthetics:
Are there alternatives to frequency facials?
Dr. Walden is a fan of a newer in-office treatment known as Sofwave. “Sofwave is an FDA-cleared ultrasound treatment that naturally lifts the skin and naturally reduces fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen and elastin. It treats all skin tones safely, and you can return to your daily life and activities immediately. Most patients see results after just one treatment, with results improving for up to 12 weeks,” she says.
Temple prefers microcurrent treatments, which is the concept used in the popular NuFace device (Buy from NuFace, $220). Microcurrent devices deliver tiny currents of electricity to the face to stimulate the muscles and skin.
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