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Ultherapy vs. Sofwave: HIFU Treatments Compared

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Ultherapy has long been one of the top-awarded non-surgical facelift treatment options. It’s often credited by celebrities (Jennifer Aniston, Christie Brinkley, and Kim Kardashian-West, just to name a few) as their secret to looking naturally youthful, and yet, many say it’s just too painful and it risks disrupting the fat layer in the face, which is a sure-fire way to look older! So is Ultherapy the fountain of youth, or is its new competition, Sofwave, a better choice?

Having been in aesthetics for over 20 years, one of the most important thing we’ve learned, is that there is no one treatment that’s best for everyone. That’s why you’ll find our offices filled with over 70 different lasers and technologies, including both Sofwave and Ulthera.

What’s the real difference between Sofwave and Ulthera?

Both Ulthera and Sofwave make use of Ultrasound energy to stimulate the body to make new collagen, and most importantly – to tighten and firm by creating new collagen. The real difference between the two treatments is the depths at which that energy is delivered. Ulthera is delivered at 1.5mm, 3.0mm, and 4.5mm, whereas Sofwave focuses in only at the 1.5mm depth, which is the middle-to-deep layer of the skin where collagen is most abundant.That one, seemingly small, difference changes the results, discomfort, cost, and time of treatment – which is everything we know patients care about most.

Price: Is Sofwave or Ulthera Cheaper?

Sofwave is substantially cheaper at our New Jersey offices, at $2600 for the full face and neck versus Ulthera is $3900 for the lower face and neck plus an additional $1700 for the upper face.

Treatment Time: Which is Faster?

Sofwave is a faster treatment by far, because the handpiece is much larger (and thus covers a larger treatment area with each pulse. For both Ulthera and Sofwave, you do two passes over each area in each treatment session).

Pain & Anesthesia: Sofwave vs. Ulthera

We’ve never had a patient who had to stop their Ulthera treatment due to the discomfort, but we do acknowledge it’s not a pain-free experience – and neither is Sofwave.
Ulthera is most uncomfortable during the deepest treatment depth, and that’s because the ultrasound is targeting muscles and occasionally can hit on bone, both of which are very uncomfortable. We do provide Pro-Nox, which is laughing gas, to help patients have a more comfortable experience. Many patients choose not to use ProNox during Ulthera because they find it tolerable.
We would offer ProNox to our Sofwave patients, too, but have found anesthesia of any kind unnecessary thus far, because it’s simply not intense. Sofwave has proven to be more comfortable than Ulthera.

In either case, ProNox is out of your system within a few minutes, so there’s no need to arrange a ride home, or anything like that.


Neither procedure has downtime. You might find your skin is a bit flushed for an hour or so. This can easily (and safely) be covered with makeup.
Some patients have reported their skin feels a bit firm to the touch following treatment, and a few have had mild soreness. This lasts for a few days at most, and isn’t something everyone experiences. It’s also not something anyone else would be able to see or notice – so there’s no need to take time off work or any social activities with either of these treatments.

Time to Results: Is Ulthera or Sofwave Faster?

Scientifically speaking, no matter the device used, it takes about 3-6 months for your body to build new collagen. So the full results from either of these won’t be seen until that time.
Anecdotally, in our experience, patients notice a result in the mirror from Sofwave much sooner – the skin looks great the first 7-10 days after Sofwave, plump and smoother, which is probably due to very mild edema (swelling) in the skin. The final results takes about 2-3 months. Ulthera can cause welts in the 1st week and final results take 3-6 months. Now we haven’t run a clinical study on this, but we find this to be a predictable trend among our patients, and we do discuss this during the consultation, so that you’re not surprised by the lack of initial results.

Anytime your body is building new collagen, that will take time, but we find the results to be much more natural and longer-lasting than treatments that give an instant boost. However, we do an awful lot of “instant boost” treatments, too, at our practice – sometimes even in combination with Sofwave or Ulthera – and the discussion of those options happens during your free consultation with one of our cosmetic physicians.

Type of Results: Is Ulthera or Sofwave Better at Achieving Dramatic Results?

Neither Ulthera nor Sofwave is inherently better than the other – they’re different, and the work best for different types of people.
If you have primarily skin quality issues – meaning you have lots of crepey or thin skin, characterized by collections of lots of fine lines (as opposed to deep folds or wrinkles) – then Sofwave is a great choice for you.
If, however, you have deeper wrinkles and folds, and the cause is not just loose skin, but also sagging muscles, which usually occurs later in life, then Ulthera (or perhaps even a facelift) is a better choice for you.

It can be difficult to accurately assess our own needs, and that’s why we welcome you to schedule a free consultation with one of our cosmetic physicians.