Noninvasive radio frequency for skin tightening and body contouring

Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2013 Mar;32(1):9-17.


The medical use of radio frequency (RF) is based on an oscillating electrical current forcing collisions between charged molecules and ions, which are then transformed into heat. RF heating occurs irrespective of chromophore or skin type and is not dependent on selective photothermolysis. RF can be delivered using monopolar, bipolar, and unipolar devices, and each method has theoretical limits of depth penetration. A variant of bipolar delivery is fractional RF delivery. In monopolar configurations, RF will penetrate deeply and return via a grounding electrode. Multiple devices are available and are detailed later in the text. RF thermal stimulation is believed to result in a microinflammatory process that promotes new collagen. By manipulating skin cooling, RF can also be used for heating and reduction of fat. Currently, the most common uses of RF-based devices are to noninvasively manage and treat skin tightening of lax skin (including sagging jowls, abdomen, thighs, and arms), as well as wrinkle reduction, cellulite improvement, and body contouring.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cutis Laxa / radiotherapy*
  • Equipment Design
  • Heating / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Radiofrequency Therapy*
  • Skin Aging / radiation effects*