Bettina's Take: Ultherapy With Dr. Mark Schwartz

It all began at an editorial meeting. FashionEtc's publisher, Andrea Greeven, had seen a TV segment on women undergoing non-invasive procedures to stave off surgery. Many were starting in their 30's. Thermage, Ulthera, Zerona, these women were doing everything not to have to go under the knife, and they were impressed with the outcome. "Does anyone want to try this?" she asked.

I raised my hand.

I wasn't about to go to just any doctor, mind you. I did my research, online and through friends. Several women I spoke to had been to see Dr Mark Schwartz. They raved about him, and about the Ulthera treatment they had done in his office.

I was impressed with Dr. Schwartz's office and the friendliness of his staff. They answered all my questions patiently, even the wackiest ones. I have a fear of pain, and they promised me they would make me as comfortable as possible.

As for Dr. Schwartz, if every doctor was like him, this would be a better world. Smart, patient, kind, funny, he walked me through the procedure and gave me all the information I needed.

"Ulthera is a relatively new treatment that's been FDA approved for about a year and a half now," said Dr. Schwartz. "It harnesses ultrasound energy to target the muscle layer under the skin. The energy from the ultrasound heats the muscle, the muscle shrinks, and what happens in turn is the skin lifts up. There is very little downtime—you can have it in the afternoon and host a dinner party for 50 people at night and no one's really going to know.

"The other thing to consider—it's not the most pleasant sensation, it does sting as you're having it done—but it's the kind of thing that comes and goes very quickly. You feel it while you're being treated, but an hour later you won't be in pain.

"Because of the science, it takes about three or four months to see the final results. It's not a quick fix. It's the kind of thing where you'll see gradual results, which I think is a positive thing because it ends up looking more natural."

How long will it last? I wanted to know.

"The studies tell us that it lasts about two years, because even though this will help to mildly lift your skin up, we're not going to cure gravity. I've had the machine for about a year, so in my anecdotal experience it will last at least a year," he continued.

Is it better than Thermage?

"Ulthera is better than Thermage because it works from the inside out and it really works at the muscle layer which is what we treat when we are doing surgery. We're tightening up this layer. The thing with Thermage is that it works from the outside in and works on the skin and tries to get it to shrink. In my personal experience, it's not as effective.

"While Ulthera does help most patients, it's really not for everyone. There are some patients that come in and have a lot of loose hanging skin, and surgery is a better option for them. This treatment is for a specific patient population, men and women in their mid 30's to mid 50's, who have some laxity, but not enough to require surgery.

"The nice thing about this is that it uses ultrasound therapy which has been around in medicine, in obstetrics and gynecology, for over 50 years, so we know that it's safe. Most women that have been pregnant have had an ultrasound, so we know that it doesn't do any harm."

A week later, I was ready for my appointment. Dr. Schwartz took my "before" pictures. I was given a low dose of valium and some Advil, and he applied numbing cream to my face. Once the medication had taken effect, it was time to begin. It hurt a little, a stinging sensation, but it wasn't unbearable, and it was over in forty minutes.

The day after the procedure, I had some swelling, and a little bruising. Five days later I'm still a little swollen, but it's not really noticeable. My skin feels smoother and tighter.

I know I have to be patient to see the full results, in four months, to be fair, but judging by others who have done Ulthera, it will make just the subtle difference I'm looking for. I'll be sure to post an update.

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Photo: The Ulthera machine