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Limitations and Safety Tips on RF Facial Devices in Domestic Use -CHOICE # 441

  • 2013.07.15

Are home-use radiofrequency (RF) facial devices safe and reliable?

The Consumer Council has received many an enquiry from consumers on this beauty device increasingly being marketed for domestic use.

Professional use of RF devices has been proven by studies and experts that it could improve early signs of ageing with mild-to-moderate rhytides (wrinkles) and skin laxity problem.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, professional radiofrequency treatment is an effective electrical technique for non-surgical skin lifting.

In the view of the experts, RF devices deliver electrical energy deep into the skin, generating heat in the process due to the skin tissue's inherent resistance to the electrical current. Enough heat into a large volume of tissue may cause immediate collagen contraction followed by a wound healing response resulting in gradual tissue tightening over time.

While professional RF application has proven to be effective, domestic use of RF facial devices may not necessarily duplicate the same effect because of lower energy output.

Experts revealed that deep dermal layer of skin should be heated to 60 to 65℃ (for a few seconds) to bring the therapeutic effects, while home use devices could only heat the superficial layer of skin to approximately 40℃.

Consumers contemplating the purchase of such devices should bear in mind their limitations notably:

- It may not be able to tackle the problems of pigmentation, brown spots (e.g. freckles, solar/hormonal/age spots), and blood vascular problems.

- It may not benefit or work on young ladies or people without sagging problem.

- It cannot replace traditional surgical face lifting; it cannot help improve structural problems such as strong muscle under eye areas and broad jaw bone.

Safety is another important area. RF facial devices should not be used by: people implanted with pacemakers or defibrillators or with metal implants (e.g. gold threads); people receiving permanent dermal injections (e.g. liquid silicone) and recent dermal injections (e.g. hyaluronic acid); people with open wounds or undergoing invasive procedures (e.g. optical treatment, chemical peeling); rosacea patients and people not sensitive to heat.

Tips for safe use of such devices: read and follow the instruction to ensure proper usage of the device; use with appropriate amount of designated cream/gel to ensure good contact and even distribution of energy; prevent prolonged contact in the same spot and keep moving the probe slowly to avoid possible localized burn injury; prevent use on skin in eyelids area; proper cleansing after use particularly near the thermo-detecting device.

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