No Pain No Gain

Dr. Mark’s Lunchtime “Ulthera Facelift” is Worth the Discomfort

By Heather Bryce

I once asked a friend to be honest: What was my worst beauty flaw? Your neck, she said without hesitation. So, the minute the beauty treatment Ultherapy, touted to firm the neck, remove sagging jowls, and redefine the jawline into a knifelike edge, was introduced I was intrigued. Ultherapy, which uses micro-focused ultrasound energy to stimulate collagen regrowth, penetrates deeper than any laser/energy system on the market to date. There were countless glowing reports from Europe, where it had been used for several years and so, without hesitation, I went to a fancy New York plastic surgeon to try my hand, or should I say face, at it.

I fled the good doctor’s office within minutes. The pain of deeply probing ultrasound waves, alas, was unbearable to this redhead.

Then one evening last fall I ran into Kenneth Mark, M.D., a surgical cosmetic dermatologist with offices in Manhattan, the Hamptons, and Aspen, at a high-end fundraiser in East Hampton. He took one look at my sagging jawline and suggested I come in for Ultherapy. As Dr. Mark is renowned for Mohs surgery, the procedure with the highest cure rate for skin cancer, “Ultherapy is the only device that is FDA approved to lift the skin of the neck, jowl, and eyebrow,” he said, explaining that many machines that claim to stimulate collagen may be doing so only microscopically. “Unlike them, Ultherapy gets clinical results.”

I agreed to meet Cindy, his R.N., whose chair-side manner was so comforting that I was ready to try the treatment again . . . with reservations. She assured me that the office had done all its procedures without putting patients under, and no one had walked out yet. I would give it a shot, but could not guarantee I would stay to the end.

A few zaps later and an intense throbbing-burning sensation deep in my facial tissue was too much to bear, I wimped out, the only patient in the practice to achieve this dubious distinction. That’s the bad news. The good news is that since my original treatment, the folks at Ultherapy have expanded the technology and introduced what I will call Ultherapy lite. Cindy switched to both a lower power and a lower depth, from 4.5 millimeters to 3 millimeters. I was home free. Roughly 500 zaps and an hour and a half later, I left the office with my dignity intact.

“While most people note an immediate improvement, significant results are typically noticed at three months,” said Dr. Mark at my six-week checkup. I hadn’t noticed much improvement, but he stressed that not only had my treatment used less than maximal energy, it is often hard to see results on a face you look at every day. He and Cindy both saw a tightening of the jawline. However, now that I’m nearing the eight-month mark I have seen a vast improvement. The sagging under my chin looks as plump as a baby’s fanny and the formerly crepe-y flesh on my neck is now so firm it feels shrink-wrapped. With costs starting at $750 for upper lip and a typical full face between $3,300 and $4.400, why would anyone go under the knife?