One of the biggest current trends in injectables is, somewhat counterintuitively, minimizing their effects. Just open social media and you’ll find that #dissolvingfiller has 30 million views (and counting). While shared stories of botched jobs are a contributing factor, the movement is really part of a universal craving for a less-is-more approach to cosmetic treatments.
“The holy grail we’re looking for in aesthetics is for people to simply look better—and yet you can’t put your finger on what they have had done,” says Melanie Palm, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in San Diego. As a result, alternatives to even minimally invasive procedures like fillers and neurotoxins are becoming more popular. Some provide proven ways to minimize signs of aging while also targeting the face and body’s infrastructure, leading to long-lasting benefits.
One such is Emface. You’ve likely already seen this device on social media: At first glance, skinfluencers look more like they’re kicking back at a spa than receiving a high-tech treatment. But don’t let the images fool you. The thin white applicators placed across the entire forehead and horizontally along both cheeks deliver potent radio frequency that heats the dermis layer to stimulate collagen and elastin, along with HIFES to treat facial muscles and make skin look rejuvenated. After a series of four weekly 20-minute sessions, the natural, visibly sculpted results can be profound.
Carolyn Jacob, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Chicago, says that clients ask her for more low-key solutions to their skin concerns every day. “They say, ‘I want to look like me, but enhanced,’ and before Emface, all I could give them was laser skin resurfacing and some radio frequency,” she says. “Now it’s such an easy discussion—I tell them they don’t have to do anything wild and crazy. They can start with Emface, which remodels their own tissues and gives them back muscle tone that they’ve lost over time. And it’s going to make their face look brighter and give them better collagen.”
Other non-needle skin treatments, such as fractionated lasers, can be painful and require healing time, during which you have to abstain from your favorite skincare and cosmetics. With Emface, the downtime is truly zero—you can reapply moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup right after a treatment and walk out the door. The radio-frequency component “feels like a warm pad on your skin and doesn’t hurt at all,” says Dr. Palm. You may just feel your muscles twitch involuntarily as a result of the HIFES muscle stimulation. “You might look like you’re smiling and winking slightly,” she notes.
In Emface’s clinical trials, “the treatment was administered for 20 minutes, once a week, four times,” explains Dr. Palm. “After the fourth session, there were clinical improvements in brow position, the curvature of the cheek, the depth of the nasal labial fold, and the jawline—so really an overall sculpting effect.” The studies also found that “the amount of volume increase in the cheek area was approximately 1.4 milliliters of volume, which would be like doing almost one and a half syringes of filler,” adds Dr. Jacob.
According to Dr. Palm, some evidence shows that re-treatment is not needed until 12 to 18 months later. “But I tell most patients that it’s similar to other muscle-stimulation devices we use on the body, where you do your original series and there’s going to be some maintenance involved,” she says. “It’s like working out in the gym—you don’t want to get to an amazing place and then decide to couch-potato it for a year.”
She points out that prior to Emface, facial treatments were mostly about improving texture with lasers, smoothing lines with neurotoxins, and restoring volume with injectables. But nothing was treating the muscular infrastructure—literally the foundation of your face. “We’d never been able to help restore some of the muscle physiology,” she says.
That’s what makes Emface a breakthrough, Dr. Jacob explains. “The muscles in your face develop laxity as you get older,” she says. “If you can tone them back up, everything lifts, because you’re restoring the elevator muscles.” There’s also the radio frequency, which is creating new collagen to help increase natural volume, elasticity, and firmness over time.
The bottom line: “My patients want their exterior facade to look and feel as good as they’re feeling inside, because they take great care of themselves,” says Dr. Palm. “So I always love procedures that I think are harnessing the body’s ability to heal and restore. I feel Emface opens up a whole new category for facial nonsurgical rejuvenation.”