I Tried Sofwave Skin Tightening Treatment — Here's My Honest Review

Find out if it's actually worth the hefty price tag.

Person receiving Sofwave skin tightening treatment at a medical office
Photo: Getty Images/InStyle

When it comes to keeping my skin tight and taut, I'm game to try anything. Sure, I may only be in my thirties, but taking care of my skin now is the best way to prevent — or at least postpone — signs of aging. Not that there's anything wrong with fine lines and wrinkles. They're totally natural (and let's be honest, inevitable) — plus, Pharrell thinks they're cute.

Still, I'm trying to keep my skin looking and feeling its best for as long as possible. To do that, I'm keen on using quality skincare products, adopting the right routine for my skin type, and exploring the world of anti-aging in-office treatments. I've already tried radio-frequency microneedling and Sculptra in my neck (for tech necklines), so when I heard about Sofwave, I knew I had to get in for an appointment.

Keep reading for a full breakdown and honest review of the entire treatment from start to finish.

What Is Sofwave?

Sofwave is the newest FDA-approved skin tightening treatment (it was originally cleared in 2019 for the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles and more recently in November of 2021 for lifting above the eyebrows, under the chin, and the neck tissue).It's getting a lot of buzz for a few reasons: It's non-invasive, there's little to no pain, there's zero downtime, and you only need one treatment to see results — so the pros say.

"It's not common that a device falls into my hands that blows me away," shares Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist at Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York, where she's been offering the treatment for the past year.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Sofwave?

"All skin types and ages are candidates, but patients 60 and younger will have better results," shares Dr. Lorrie Klein, the medical director of OC Dermatology.

If you're someone like me, in their 20s or 30s, Dr. Klein explains that it works as a preventative measure to ward off signs of aging. She says that those in their 40s or 50s, "with mild-to-moderate skin and soft tissue laxity are good candidates as well."

How Does Sofwave Work?

The in-office treatment is a form of ultrasound technology that produces heat below the surface of your skin to naturally create new collagen. "With high-frequency ultrasound, the goal is to cause coagulation of tissue," explains Dr. Murphy-Rose.

Coagulation in the skin can be thought of as a temporary injury. "This temporary injury leads to a contraction of tissues (aka bringing the fibers closer together) and then a powerful stimulation of collagen and elastin production that peaks at around three to six months," she adds.

What Areas Does Sofwave Treat?

"The most popular areas have been the face and neck, including the jawline, and around the eyes," shares Dr. Murphy-Rose. However, she says you can address pretty much any area where you're bothered by laxity and sagging. "I've also treated many parts of the body including hands, abdomens, arms, upper thighs, and above the knee," the MD adds.

VIDEO: This Non-Invasive Treatment Can Give You a Permanently Sculpted Jawline in Just a Few Months

What's the Difference Between Sofwave and Ulthera?

Focused high-intensity ultrasound technology is not new. It's been around in the aesthetic space for a little over a decade, beginning with Ulthera in 2009.But the technology has since imporved. "Sofwave has significant advantages over Ulthera; it's much more comfortable, faster, and safer with reduced risk of side effects," says Dr. Murphy-Rose.

It's also good to note that Sofwave targets the tissue in the mid-dermis (approximately 1.5mm deep), whereas Ultherapy goes deeper (up to 4.5mm). "[With Sofwave] we don't have that increased risk of destroying desirable fat in the face or causing injury to muscles and nerves in deeper tissue," Dr. Murphy-Rose adds.

Serious side effects like atrophy, swelling, and subsequent shrinking of soft tissues, have been known to occur with Ulthera.

My Honest Experience With Sofwave

With prevention in mind, I went to Dr. Lorrie Klein's Laguna Niguel office to test out the lunchtime procedure. "We've been offering Sofwave for only two months, but it has already become a very popular treatment in our office," Dr. Klein revealed when I arrived.

Author before her Sofwave treatment
Before Sofwave treatment. Courtesy

I was asked to come in one-hour prior so I could apply numbing cream to my face and neck. "Like most energy-based aesthetic treatments that achieve significant results, there is a degree of discomfort and numbing makes the treatment much more comfortable," she says.

Once the numbing cream was removed, ultrasound gel was applied to give the skin a little slip. Dr. Klein used the handheld device to do two passes on my face and neck. Each pulse takes six seconds and beeps when done.

Author lying down with a Sofwave wand on her cheek as she receives the treatment
During Sofwave Treatment. Courtesy

In terms of pain and discomfort, for the most part, it felt like nothing. But there were a few spots where I felt a surge of pain that lasted about two seconds — Dr. Klein refers to these as "spicy" spots. For me, it was my chin and forehead, but sensitive areas vary from person to person, and some people feel nothing. Overall, I would say the pain was a six out of 10, but just in those rare moments along those tender areas.

Also, when the pros say that there's zero downtime, they mean it. Immediately post-treatment, my skin was barely red and instantly felt tight, but probably because the numbing cream hadn't completely worn off yet. And I definitely had that dewy post-treatment look, which Dr. Murphy-Rose coins as the "Sofwave glow."

What Are the Long-Term Results of Sofwave?

"The peak of collagen and elastin stimulation occurs between three to six months and best results can be expected around six to eight months after," shares Dr. Murphy-Rose. That being said, both doctors noted that some patients even start to see a difference in as little as one week to a month.

For me, it's been a little over one month since I've had the treatment, and overall my skin feels tighter. I'm already starting to see some slight lifting around my eyebrows and on the area under my chin.

Can You Combine Sofwave With Other Treatments?

"Sofwave works well as a standalone procedure," confirms Dr. Murphy-Rose. However, that doesn't mean it takes the place of all rejuvenation treatments.

"Depending on the desired aesthetic result, combinations with other cosmetic procedures can yield optimal outcomes," she continues.

"We especially like to administer Botox treatments prior to Sofwave, and fillers afterward," Dr. Klein adds.

Dr. Klein also says that light-based treatments, such as photo-facials, are another popular treatment you can do before or after.

How Much Does Sofwave Cost?

The only downside I see to this treatment is its hefty price tag. Treatments range from about $3,500 to $4,500, depending on factors like practice and location. For example, at OC Dermatology where I went, it cost $2,500 for a full face treatment, plus $1,000 to add the neck. Brow lifts alone are $750.

And you should keep in mind that Dr. Klein suggests a second treatment three to four months after your first and then once yearly to maintain.

So, Is Sofwave Actually Worth It?

I'm still waiting to see my full results after six months to make a final decision, but so far so good. I'm admittedly a sucker for anti-aging treatments and I'm glad I did it. If money were no obstacle, I would absolutely do it again.

Author after her Sofwave treatment
One-month post Sofwave treatment. Courtesy

The Splurge is our recurring column dedicated to expensive beauty products that are worth it. This week, why we're thinking of getting a second round of Sofwave, despite the $3500 price tag.

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