Fractional skin resurfacing can be conducted with lasers or radiofrequency. Radiofrequency fractional resurfacing has advantages over laser as energy levels are concentrated in the deeper layers of the skin- this stimulates collagen, and improves early acne scars. eMatrix fractional RF can also improve skin texture and skin tone, decreasing wrinkles, and sun damage.

Facts on fractional RF

  • Fractional skin resurfacing with radiofrequency is not a laser treatment
  • Radiofrequency uses plates to deliver energy in the form of heat to the deep layers of the skin
  • Unlike laser, fraction skin resurfacing using RF actually ‘spares’ the upper layers of skin
  • Treatment is focused in the deep dermis, breaking down old scars and collagen
  • This treatment can improve skin texture, tone, and improve scarring and even stretch marks
  • 4 treatments 3 to 4 weeks apart are recommended
  • Downtime following RF is only 1-3 days
  • Always choose a RF machine that can deliver consistently high power levels as this will give the best results

How is radiofrequency fractional skin resurfacing different from laser?

fractional skin resurfacing

RF treats below the skin, lasers need to treat the upper layers to get below the skin, this is the fundamental difference between radiofrequency treatments and laser resurfacing.

With this knowledge patients can understand that RF is used to treat conditions that lie under the skin’s surface- this includes early acne scars, and wrinkles. eMatrix is the entry level of my radio frequency devices, meaning it is best used to treat mild acne scars, and early wrinkles. 

What conditions can fractional radiofrequency treat?

acne cysts laser

The energy of fractional radiofrequency is focused below the surface of the skin, and hence this treatment is ideal for-

  • Early acne scars- we use this as part of my Acne Free RF program
  • Collagen remodeling – sun damaged skin, poor skin tone
  • Collagen and elastin stimulation- this tightens skin, diminishes wrinkles, and improves skin tone
  • Anti- ageing maintenance programs. I frequently use this after laser and mini-s face lifts to help maintain skin tone.

How to I implement fractional RF in our clinic?

There is a lot of inaccurate information surrounding RF fractional skin resurfacing, as RF treatment is not regulated by health authorities. This means every cosmetic clinic can buy a RF machine (even from eBay for less than $900) and start making claims on treatments. This ruins a great treatment modality and tarnishes the name of Fractional RadioFrequency.

Here are the facts on RF-

  1. The band of machine is vital in performing correct treatments. Machines such as eMatrix and eTwo deliver consistent power- this is essential as collagen stimulation needs to be achieved with controlled heating. Inconsistent power can cause side effects, too little power will have no effect.
  1. Early acne scars respond best to RF. Late acne scars respond better to CO2 fractional laser resurfacing. Rolling, box car and mixed scars do best with fractional radiofrequency.
  1. I use RF as compounding treatments and rarely as primary treatments. What does this mean? RF works best to supplement treatments such as mini – s- facelifts or laser face lifts.
  1. Primary treatments need high doses for effective results. 80-100 mj per pin is required for success. If the machine cannot deliver this power- chances are this machine is sub-standard in power output and results will not be consistent. RF machines such as Max RF have inconsistent and very low power outputs. They do not work as well. If you are contemplating RF treatments always insist on looking at the power settings, and taking pre and post photos. Never enter a program unless the provider can guarantee a money back refund if treatment do not work. 

Why is the brand of the machine important if you are planning to undertake RF?

Fractional RF

As discussed, power delivery has to be high and consistent if you want consistent and predictable results. Always ask how much power is delivered per pin and you will have an idea of your treatment protocols. If you approach 60mj per pin fractional RF or above you will need local numbing creams. If power is low, you will not get any results following fractional radiofrequency resurfacing. Remember to look and see what power is being delivered, and measured in millijoules per pin.

I use eMatrix Fractional RF for the past 4 years and find this RF machine to be reliable, with consistent and powerful pulses.

If you do not have a specified power output per treatment, consider seeking treatment elsewhere- documented power delivery is essential to delivering results- note that Fractional RF has limitations. This can only be effective in mid and early acne scarring, and unlike specialist procedures it does not carry a Medicare rebate. 

How many treatments are needed?

4-8 sessions.

A minimum of 4 sessions are needed for best results, however patients with very severe early acne scars or very lax skin can elect to undergo a second course of treatments.

RF treatment

Typical results after 4-6 treatments at >80 mj per pin eMatrix RF.

Is radiofrequency fractional resurfacing painful?

No, providing strong numbing cream is used. If you are undertaking RF for old acne scars (not recommended as CO2 is better), or improving skin tone then you WILL need numbing cream as the power delivery has to be between 60 to 100 mj per pin for best results.

How long will I need to recover following Fractional RF?

1-3 days (or longer).

Your recovery will depend on the density or overlap of Fractional RF treatments, and most importantly the POWER of the energy delivered by the pin. We control all of these factors and can give you an accurate downtime prediction. Remember this-

MORE POWER = BETTER RESULTS= LONGER RECOVERY

We use a special ointment after Fractional RF to help you recover quicker. (Our RF secret)

How safe is fractional RF?

Fractional skin resurfacing using radiofrequency is very safe- hence it is not regulated in the cosmetic industry. Providing you follow after treatment instructions side effects are exceedingly uncommon.

  • Grids may occur with high treatment levels. This can be reduced by the use of emollients and avoiding UV exposure for 3 weeks after each treatment
  • Skin infections are rare as we prescribe anti-inflammatory antibiotics with high treatment protocols
  • Darkening of skin and ‘stamping’ occurs more frequently in dark ethnic skin types. The use of sunscreen and bleaching cream can treat this side effect
  • Persistent redness and swelling is uncommon, and seen mainly when treatment power exceeds 85mj per pin. The use of our V BEAM laser can easily decrease redness.

What is the Acne Free RF treatment program?

This program is Internationally recognized as changing the way we manage acne and acne scarring. Fractional RF is utilized very early in the stages of acne scarring associated with active acne. I stared work on this method of scar revision in late 2012, and the results have been proven with over 800 cases. The before and afters tell the story.

Dermatologist prescribe effective methods to control acne, once under control, you then enter the RF program to decrease scars at the same time you undertake acne treatment. Your acne treatment continues throughout the program. 4 treatments are conducted over 4 months.

More on the Acne Free RF program

How much does radiofrequency skin resurfacing cost?

$1500 for 4 treatments

$550 for individual treatments

Fractional RF treatment is not covered by health insurance/ Medicare. Specialist like Dr Davin Lim will always find the best method, not a machine to address your type of acne scars. Remember Fractional RF devices like eMatrix and Max RF are best for early and mild acne scars-not moderate to severe acne scars. Early acne scars are scars less than 3 months old and have a slightly pink colour.

My viewpoint on RF, and fractional skin resurfacing

By Dr Davin Lim
Aesthetic Dermatologist
Dr Davin S. Lim copy

Fractional radiofrequency skin resurfacing is an industry term that is incorrect. It is used as a fancy marketing tool to convey that this treatment is similar to laser fractional treatments. This is because RF is not regulated because it is not a laser! So, the question arises – is it better than laser? The answer is – it depends on what we are treating.

Cosmetic clinics will advertise this as the ‘in treatment’ for acne scars, skin rejuvenation, sun damage treatments, wrinkle improvement, as well as improving skin texture and skin tone.

Over the past 4 years we have conducted over 2000 RF treatments (nearly 800 acne scar patients), and the rest for skin rejuvenation. My conclusion is that this is an excellent treatment for early acne scars (as part of the Acne Free RF Program). If used as a primary treatment for skin rejuvenation, treatment power levels need to be very high, and skin numbing will need to be conducted. Overall CO2 Fractional laser resurfacing will outperform fractional RF as well as Fraxel laser.

I primarily use RF as a ‘compounding’ or ‘synergy’ treatment- this means RF can further stimulate collagen and tighten skin after procedures such as mini-s face lifts and laser face lifts. I also use this as a maintenance treatment after such procedures. Patients may undertake one or two treatments annually to keep collagen stimulation active and maintain skin tone.