The buzziest body skin-tightening treatment right now is called Morpheus8, a device that combines radio frequency with microneedling to boost collagen production. When Kim Kardashian called it her “favourite laser,” revealing her abs to her 330 million followers on Instagram after treating her stomach area, the procedure only increased in popularity.
It works best in a series of three to four sessions, spaced four to six weeks apart. “It is not a one-and-done treatment,” says Ava Shamban, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Ava MD. “But the combination of radio frequency with the microneedling pins, which hit at 4 mm in depth, can lead to tissue tightening, [with] results dependent on age, level of skin laxity, and the amounts of collagen and elastin in the skin. While it might not be like getting a surgical lift, the results can be surprisingly effective.” 1064nm Laser Diode
Having had a negative experience with a radio-frequency microneedling device called SylfirmX, which caused my face to break out for weeks and worsened my melasma, I decided to move my attention to body treatments. First I tried out lymphatic massage and even got butt injections of Radiesse to treat my hip dips. Then I was curious to test out Morpheus8 to tighten my upper thighs and just below my butt, where I have a little banana roll and some unwanted texture.
At Ava MD, Elizabeth Apostolou, RN BSN, says the most common treatment areas for Morpheus8 on the body are for sagging skin above the knees, creping skin of the inner arms, and tightening the skin over the abs. “Morpheus8 is incredibly popular – people actually come in asking for it by name,” she says. When used on the body, Morpheus8 comes with its own separate handpiece to cover greater surface area (i.e., 40 needles as opposed to 24) with the option of a deeper depth of up to seven mm). “Face and neck treatments are still the most sought-after, but after [Kim Kardashian] posted about Morpheus8, the number of new clients requesting body treatments increased,” says Rana Jaffari, an aesthetic nurse at Dripology in Santa Monica.
Treatment goals determine which tip is used, with microneedles targeting fat cells as opposed to the resurfacing tip targeting texture. It is also effective as a combined therapy. For instance, she often alternates treatment with Morpheus8 using the resurfacing tip with treatments of the biostimulant filler Sculptra to improve crepey texture on the inside of the arms in menopausal and perimenopausal women. My goal with Morpheus8 was essentially to tighten up the skin on my upper thighs and address a little “banana roll” of fat just beneath my bum, so we went with the regular microneedles rather than the resurfacing tip.
The thing about Morpehus8 is that the depth of the heat it delivers can impart some mild fat “melting,” but do not let this fact fool you as they are adamant that it is not cost-effective when used for contouring. It is useful for tightening the skin after a fat-remodelling or body-contouring treatment, however. At Le Jolie Medi Spa, Parvaneh Rafaeloff, MD, recommends treatments with the strengthening and toning EmSculpt Neo to contour and strengthen before tightening up the skin with Morpheus8; at Ava MD, patients opt for CoolSculpting for cryolipolysis or the brand-new Ultimate Contour followed by the device. After my initial consultation, it was determined that I was not a good candidate for CoolSculpting because I am already quite petite, but I was approved to try out Ultimate Contour on my upper thighs and banana roll.
I booked an appointment at Ava MD for a combined treatment: some mild slimming of the upper inner-thigh and under-butt region using Ultimate Contour followed by tightening via Morpheus8. Ultimate Contour used low-frequency ultrasound to target fat cells, which are then flushed out of the body via the lymphatic system. The sessions were completely painless aside from a weird buzzing in my ears. Some results were noticeable immediately, with more to come over time, and I could definitely feel a difference when I put on my favourite pair of shorts. Then it was time for the tightening.
On the day of my Morpheus8 treatment, I personally applied numbing cream to my upper thighs that Ava MD had sent me home with in preparation. I applied it more than an hour before my appointment and made sure to wear old tights in case the numbing cream caused the staining. Once there, Apostolou marked the treatment areas on my thighs with a white pencil. Because it was such a small surface area, she decided to use the regular handpiece (i.e., 4 mm depth and 24 pins) rather than the body handpiece. She also pointed out that I was a good candidate for the treatment because I am in shape, noting that this use of the device is more for subtle improvements.
The main complaint with Morpheus8 is pain, so the greater the depth of the needles, the “spicier” the treatment becomes. Even numbed, I could feel each pass of the device. At first, it simply felt like a quick zap of mild discomfort, while the sound of the device reminded me of a sewing machine’s mechanical movements. But as she completed multiple passes over the small area, it became more and more sensitive. I noticed that my left side was more sensitive than my right (and its healing was slower, as well), and I could discern that some of the discomfort was caused by the heat. The most sensitive areas were on the outer thigh and the banana roll under my butt, but I stuck through it, and she kept me distracted with conversation.
I can confirm that the rumors are true: Morpheus8 is one of the more painful treatments as opposed to a laser or conventional microneedling.
The entire process lasted 40 minutes. In all, I weathered approximately 1,200 passes, which is just about the same number as the face. Keep in mind that I am someone who frequently experiences these devices and am well-acquainted with radiofrequency microneedling and skin lasers. I can confirm that the rumours are true: Morpheus8 is one of the more painful treatments as opposed to a laser-like Clear and Brilliant or conventional microneedling. As far as the other RF microneedling devices go, I would say that it is more painful than Vivace or SylfirmX and on par (or slightly less painful) than Potenza. (That being said, I also found Morpheus8 and Potenza to be much more effective than the others.) Some patients opt to also have laughing gas during the treatment, and at other practices, there are machines to blow chilled air (which are immensely helpful).
Immediately after, she applied a U.sk Under Skin Firming Serum ($49) that helped to cool the red, raised areas that had been treated. The entire area felt sensitive, and I noticed the irritation and discomfort – mild feelings of stinging and rawness – during my hour-long drive home (thanks, Los Angeles traffic). I could not wait to change into some flowy pyjama pants or shorts. I also showed a picture to one of my best friends, who joked that I had a “wind-chapped ass.”
Apostolou explained to me that the body heals more slowly than the face, so downtime could be three to four weeks of redness, scabbing, and itching. This is because there is more healing oxygen distributed to the tissue of the face thanks to its proximity to the brain as opposed to the body. She advised that I not exercise for 24 to 48 hours and recommended that I take an antihistamine and apply hydrocortisone for itchiness. It is not advised to use products your skin is not already familiar with during the delicate healing process when the protective skin barrier is compromised and temporary micro channels exist in the skin.
By the next day, I felt comfortable working out. By day two, I felt better, but the red, speckled marks remained. By day three, I could have forgotten about it; the area only felt like I had a mild sunburn if I brushed against it. The marks remained at day four – like speckled red dots on the outer thigh but with more of an overall red hue on the inner thigh – but it ceased to feel as sensitive as it looked. This is when the itchiness began, however. I spritzed on the new SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Essence Mist ($67) to help with the redness and itching and went on with my day unfazed. The itching and mildly scabbing texture continued for a week, but it was not very noticeable; I would equate it to a mild sunburn.
From this point on, the “downtime” was negligible. I wouldn’t want to wear a bikini, but I also had no plans to. Really, all that was left to do was wait.
Whether or not getting Morpheus8 for the body comes down to the intensity of results you seek. “For significant weight loss? Not so much. It will never approximate surgery,” says Boston-based dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, MD. “For mild tightening? Potentially.” She also points out that celebrities and influencers like Kardashian do not have to pay for these treatments, making it easy to complete the recommended series for the best results.
The best use of Morpheus8 seems to be as a combined therapy. I really enjoyed the effects of combining the Morpheus8 with the Ultimate Contour treatment, whose aftercare calls for lots of water, movement, and lymphatic drainage to facilitate its results. Not only am I tightening what I have, but it is also mitigating any skin laxity that results from the sculpting.
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