Ultherapy Reviews - Does It Really Work?

By Lydia Noyes
HighYa Staff
Updated on: Apr 19, 2019

Ultherapy is an FDA-cleared, non-invasive procedure designed to tighten the skin around your neck, chin, brow or chest to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. This in-office procedure relies on ultrasound energy to nonsurgically tighten your skin. It’s the goal of Ultherapy to give you the results of a minor facelift without the recovery time.

According to a press release from Market Wired, Ultherapy was first cleared by the FDA in 2009 for noninvasive skin treatments around the eyebrows, neck, chin, and chest.

“FDA cleared” means that the Ulthera device is allowed to be legally sold and marketed in the United States because it uses technology (ultrasound) that has been used in other products without a problem.

But can a nonsurgical skin procedure succeed when it comes to giving you younger looking skin and long lasting results? We’ll help you decide by sifting through the facts.

How Does Ultherapy Work?

The central focus of Ultherapy is collagen production. According to Medical News Today, this natural protein keeps your skin looking firm and toned in youth, but as you age, it begins to break down, leaving you with looser, weaker skin.

From what we learned on the company website, Ultherapy’s premise is that delivering ultrasonic sound energy to the deepest layers of skin damages the existing collagen and consequently triggers new collagen production.

During an Ultratherapy session, this inaudible sound energy overheats the dermis layer of the skin and pushes it to repair itself. This a regenerative process that leads to new collagen production without hurting the surface of the skin.

The device also relies on ultrasound imaging, which allows practitioners to look deeper at your skin tissue and determine the spots that will most benefit from treatment so that they can focus there.

What an Ultherapy Appointment Looks Like

So, what’s it like to undergo Ultherapy? We learned that this in-office procedure typically takes just one treatment (usually 30 minutes for the chest and 60–90 minutes for the face), though some people might benefit from more based on the initial condition of their skin.

During the procedure, the treatment provider will draw on your skin to indicate the places that need to be treated and then gently run the Ulthera device across the treatment area. Many people find the process painful, so it’s recommended that you take painkillers or use a topical anesthetic.

Redness and swelling around the treatment area are normal immediately after Ultherapy, though the company indicates that there is typically no downtime after the procedure. You may start seeing results over the next few days, and your skin should continue to improve for up to three months as your body restores its collagen supply.

After three months, your dermatologist can help you determine whether another round could be beneficial.

Will Ultherapy give you facelift quality results? The company says that the effects will be more subtle. Saying that, they suggest the therapy as a non-invasive alternative for those who don’t want to commit to surgery or those who want to make their surgical results last longer. Says

Lauren Lee, a physician assistant at Tribeca MedSpa, told us these types of treatments are great if you want to avoid a facelift.

“It's ideal for people who either don’t want a surgical facelift or who don’t need one and just want to prevent sagging,” she said.

How long do Ultherapy results last? That depends on many factors, including your age, the speed of your skin’s natural aging process, how you treat your skin, and even your diet and exercise habits.

Many specialists we consulted recommend repeating the treatment every few years to keep boosting your collagen production.

Are There Any Ultherapy Side Effects?

According to the company website, Ultherapy isn’t without risks. Many people find the procedure painful, and it can lead to irritation and bruising immediately after. Some people also experience temporary nerve damage or even scarring.

At the time of writing, the company reports that there is no record of permanent injuries to facial nerves from Ultherapy.

The Ulthera device can also damage your eyes if they are exposed to it, so it’s essential to keep yourself protected and only undergo the procedure when it is performed by a professional.

“The results one gets from Ultherapy is entirely dependent upon who is administering the treatment,” says dermatologist Heather Downes, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Lake Forest Dermatology. “I recommend seeking out only a board-certified dermatologist to perform Ultherapy.”

Some people shouldn’t consider Ultherapy at all, including those who have open wounds, cystic acne or implants like pacemakers or defibrillators at the sight of the treatment area.

Does the Science Support Ultherapy?

It sounds far fetched that ultrasound frequency can make much difference in your skin’s perceived age. Does it deliver what it promises? We looked at the science and talked with some experts to find out.

The product website links a study that looks at ultrasound technology and skincare. Posted in a 2014 copy of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, this study looked at the results from 125 women who underwent ultrasound therapy on their chest. Their findings reveal that the women showed overall wrinkle improvements 90 days and 180 days after treatment.

We received a range of opinions from the experts we spoke with about Ultherapy. Some, like Downes, think it’s a smart option. “Ultherapy is clinically proven to tighten existing collagen and promote the growth of new collagen,” She said. “I have performed over a hundred Ultherapy treatments and estimate that 90% of patients get clinically noticeable results.”

Jan Goldberg, a skincare expert at Laurice Skin Care & Cosmetics, doesn’t approve of the treatment. She told us, “if ultrasounding the skin has any effects, it is short term at best.” She instead suggests committing to preventative care to keep your skin healthy by using a daily cleanser and moisturizer.

Aesthetic Laser Specialist for Cosmetic Care Tannaz Razavi shares the sentiment. “I have experienced ultrasound therapy for skin tightening and have not seen visible results. In my experience, it’s a very painful procedure with minimal to no improvements.”

Our findings show that Ultherapy won’t work well for everyone. The procedure isn’t a replacement for surgical facelifts, and those seeking more pronounced results should go the traditional surgical route.

What Does Ultherapy Cost?

Because Ultherapy is offered in different skincare clinics across the world, the cost per session can vary considerably.

According to Surgery.org, the average cost for Ultherapy and similar procedures in 2016 came to $1802.

We found prices that ranged from $2,500-$5,000 for full face and neck treatments and $500-$1,000 for smaller areas like the chin or forehead.

The best way to determine what the costs will be for you is to look for clinics that offer the procedure near you and call them to request their pricing information.

If you have questions that only the company that developed Ultherapy can answer, you can contact them at mymerzsolutions@merz.com.

What Do Customers Think of Ultherapy?

We like to look at customer reviews to see what the consensus is on the products we research, and Ultherapy is no exception.

According to the reviews left on Real Patient Ratings, the procedure earned 4.5 stars out of five after more than 300 reviews.

Many of these reviewers’ positive comments dealt with the friendly, professional ways that Ultherapy technicians treated them and how happy they were with their results. A significant number of people mentioned that they planned to repeat the procedure once they thought the effects were fading.

One person wrote that she was initially disappointed with how flushed and swollen her face looked after treatment and didn’t notice much improvement for close to two months. But seemingly overnight, she reported that her face suddenly looked smoother and tighter to the point that people were remarking on it.

There are also other places online with reviews on Ultherapy, including Reddit forums and the comments sections in YouTube videos about the procedure. These comments tended to be less favorable.

One Youtube commenter stated that she regretted the treatment because it left her with saggy cheeks and a ringing in her ears and that she believed she looked five years older than her real age once it was done.

Others reported that their faces did look younger after Ultherapy but that their overall subtle changes, the delay before results were visible, and the painful procedure experience meant they weren’t interested in doing it again.

Are There Ultherapy Alternatives?

If you’re looking for a non-surgical way to boost your collagen production for a younger looking face, Ultherapy isn’t the only option. Thermage is a similarly priced procedure that promises a non-invasive skin boost, though it relies on radiofrequency rather than ultrasound technology.

We found on the cosmetic doctor forum Zwivel that there are several key differences between the two. Both are FDA- cleared for treating the face, but Thermage has also been approved for use on the abdomen, arms, thighs, and rear, while Ultherapy can be used on the neck and chest.

One advantage of Ultherapy is that it allows for more precision. Because the technician gets feedback from your tissue in real time, it’s immediately apparent where the energy is going. Treatments like Thermage tend to have more guesswork.

Some skincare experts we spoke with prefer radiofrequency.

Says Tannaz Razavi, aesthetic laser specialist at CosmetiCare, “Treatments like microneedling with radiofrequency are more effective because they stimulate an electrical pulse to tighten the tissue but cause controlled wounds to stimulate collagen.”

Atlanta-based reconstructive surgeon Inessa Fishman agrees.

“My experience with Ultherapy is that it is a hit-or-miss treatment; some patients benefit from it and others don’t see much change,” Fishman said.

Should you consider a full facelift instead? We learned from Surgery.org that you’ll pay significantly more (usually around $15,000) for this procedure, but the results tend to be more pronounced and long-lasting. Saying that, you’ll need to plan for a longer recovery time.

Our view is to consider Ultherapy if you’re looking for a something quick and more affordable but to save for a facelift if you want to invest in the treatment that’s both more effective and longer lasting.

Our View: Is Ultherapy Worthwhile?

From what we’ve found, Ultherapy is a viable treatment for achieving younger looking skin without going under the knife.

A full procedure costs just a quarter of what you’ll pay for a facelift and it boasts little downtime.

However, you pay a penalty for committing to this less invasive skincare option compared to going the traditional route, as the results tend to be subtle (shaving five years off your perceived appearance is realistic).

The experts we spoke with offered a range of opinions on Ultherapy. Some use it in their practices and believe it delivered clinically significant improvements for their clients, while others thought other procedures—including ones that relied on radiofrequency—produced better results.

Overall, we think the research shows that Ultherapy does what it promises for most people, meaning that it can boost collagen production in your skin. You’ll need to decide whether the subtle results and three-month waiting period still make it worthwhile for you.

If you’re looking for a more dramatic update to your appearance, there are many reasons to consider a facelift. While the higher price and longer recovery time make it less attractive than Ultherapy, you’ll get a more significant, potentially longer-lasting change.

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Read 3 Ultherapy Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 1.0
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 0 4 star: 0 3 star: 0 2 star: 0 1 star:  3
Bottom Line: 0% would recommend it to a friend
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  • 15 out 16 people found this review helpful

    Ultherapy Ruined My Face and Life.

    • Denver,
    • Aug 30, 2016
    • Verified Reviewer

    Ultherapy ruined my face: mass fat loss, significant vision loss, sunken eyes, tight eyelids, dry eye, lacrimal tear, muscle atrophy, jaw and cheek bone loss, ringing in ears.

    The doctor used 900 lines on me, full face and I was 'possibly' a candidate for 200 lines, if at all, as I am very slender, small boned with minimal facial fat, it was overdose. It burned all my underlying tissues. I will never be the same. I look 20 years older then I am, a skeleton.

    Ladies, please beware, this device is not FDA cleared for the face, Ulthera, Inc is scamming the cosmetic industry. It burns the face.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 18 out 19 people found this review helpful

    Ultherapy made me ugly

    • Los Angeles, CA,
    • Oct 6, 2015

    This has been a horror movie. I lost all the fat and my face tightened so much that at month 5 my eyes shrank. They were gorgeous. This went on for 6 months. Now I have nerve damage on my head, an ugly face with small eyes, and I may be having vision issues. This is literally THE biggest regret of my life. Beauty to Beast! Plus the company lies and won't report bad reviews. Disgraceful.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 12 out 13 people found this review helpful

    Business owners beware before you buy Ultherapy machine

    • Los Angeles, CA,
    • Jul 7, 2015

    This is for any business owner, physician, or Nurse practitioner planning on buying the Ultherapy machine for their practice. This company will sell you the unit, give you a one day training, even though they tell you before you buy the machine, that you will be getting 2 full days training session! THEN, they just forget about you.

    Another very important thing they leave out when selling you the machine is that if for any reason, you decide to sell the machine later, or sell your practice to anyone else, the new practitioner will have to pay them a whopping $30,000 "certification fee", or they will not sell them the transducers!

    So, before you buy this machine, Think long and hard, if you want to risk blowing over $100,000 into this thing, and god forbid you have to sell it or your practice later, for ANY reason, no one will want the damn machine!!!! Consider yourselves warned.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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