What Is HIFU & Why Are People Choosing It Over Botox & Filler?

hifu review

As far as non-invasive procedures go, HIFU hadn’t crossed my radar until Body Catalyst reached out. Botox? Sure. Fillers? I’ve dabbled. But HIFU, touted as a non-surgical facelift offering a more long-term solution than either Botox or fillers, hadn’t come up.

More fool me. HIFU – which stands for high-intensity focused ultrasound – is a newish procedure that claims to achieve the same results as a face lift without the surgical risks, the downtime, and for roughly 1/10th of the cost.

It uses ultrasound energy to lift the face, define the jawline, plump the cheeks, improve collagen production, and tighten the skin. In other words, it does a lot of what people aim to achieve with fillers and Botox, but by stimulating your own collagen fibres rather than by injecting a foreign substance.

“When you do Botox or fillers, that’s a chemical you inject, that’s not your own beauty,” Jurate Medelinkskaite, a therapist at Body Catalyst’s Bondi Junction clinic, told me.

“That’s very important, because with HIFU, it brings out your own features of the skull. Everything is yours.”

You see some results straight away, but you won’t see the full effect for 12 weeks, meaning some forward planning is needed if you want the treatment for a certain date.

“It’s really popular with brides,” Jurate said. I’m not a bride, but I am a person in the endless pursuit of Looking Hot With Minimal Effort. So, of course, I gave it a go.

So how does HIFU actually work?

It uses something called “ultrasound energy” (which is apparently just another word for sound waves at a frequency beyond human ears) to get deep into your skin and heat up the cells.

Once the cells increase to a certain temperature, they experience cellular damage. (This is basically the same theory but opposite direction used in the fat-freezing treatment CoolSculpting.)

If it sounds painful, then that’s because it can be. Sorry! Some of the treatment – when it’s targeting the shallow dermal layer – is perfectly fine. But beauty is pain, as Jurate said, and the parts of the 90-minute treatment that focus on the deepest level of skin (the superficial muscular aponeutoric system, or SMAS) is a whole lot of beauty.

At certain points, it took all of my self-control not to throw the instrument out the window. But I got through, and so will you. And now my cheekbones are snatched.

Bonus points: Body Catalyst has a TV in the treatment room, so you can throw on Bridgerton while you suffer the slings and allows of the outrageous good fortune to be getting this treatment in the first place. Nothing like the Duke of Hastings to remind you that a little pain is worth a lot of gain, no?

So do you have to avoid fillers and Botox before HIFU?

Nope! You can still get those, if your heart desires – although Body Catalyst recommends waiting two weeks after having fillers or Botox to undergo a HIFU treatment.

You can also get HIFU on places other that your face. It’s suitable for pretty much anywhere on your body, with the treatment particularly effective for your décollatage, stomach, hands, thighs and knees.

How much does it cost?

Look, it’s not cheap. One round of treatment costs a little north of $2,000, and if you want a second or third round to keep the anti-aging train going (not everyone does!), then it can add up pretty quick. (And here’s where I disclose that Body Catalyst comped my treatment.)

That being said, it’s much, much cheaper than a facelift (which can start from $6,500 and go all the way up to $30,000), so if you are looking for the more dramatic change three rounds of HIFU would bring, then you’re still saving money. (Please don’t tell my accountant or my dad how I justify ‘saving money’.)

So how much does it work really?

There’s no hiding from the harsh glare of a ring light, so I can examine each of my before and after photos to give you a very (very) honest assessment.

Quite genuinely, I look three-to-five years younger. It’s like someone took my face and just inched it up a lil bit. My cheekbones are more defined, my jawline is tighter, and for some reason my nose looks straighter but surely that’s just a coincidence.

Importantly, the bags under my eyes have devolved from “could pack for a two-week vacay” levels to “weekender-only”. My skin – which has never been that much of a problem, if I’m honest – also looks clearer and less pigmented, which is something I’m only noticing now I’m in my 30s.

It’s not the drastic change that, say, lip or cheek fillers will bring. But it does feel like someone managed to turn back the clock.

Would I get it again? If I can afford it, in a heart beat. Luckily it lasts 12 months, so I don’t need to be racing back to the HIFU bed anytime soon.

If you want to suss the treatment for yourself, Body Catalyst has all the details.