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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 AnistonChristie 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 things we’ve learned is that no one treatment is best for everyone. That’s why you’ll find our offices filled with over 70 different lasers and technologies, including both Sofwave and Ultherapy. If you’re considering either option, it’s helpful to know the differences. Here’s our breakdown of two of our most popular options here at Reflections Center for Cosmetic Medicine – and how you can combine them for maximum results.

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

Pain & Anesthesia: Sofwave vs. Ulthera

Neither option requires needles, surgery, or anesthesia. In fact, both are completely non-invasive. That being said, they both have some degree of discomfort.

We’ve never had a patient need 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 targets muscles and occasionally can hit bone, both of which are very uncomfortable. We provide Pro-Nox, which is a laughing gas, to help patients have a more comfortable experience. Numbing is also an option for Ultherapy.

In our experience, Sofwave comes with slightly more discomfort, but with a much quicker treatment, it can be more manageable for patients – potentially requiring no anesthesia at all.


Neither procedure has downtime. You might find your skin is flushed for an hour or so, which can easily (and safely) be covered with makeup.

 Some patients have reported their skin feels firm to the touch following treatment, and a few have had mild soreness. This lasts for a few days at most and isn’t experienced by everyone. It’s also not noticeable by other people – 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. In our experience, patients notice a result in the mirror from Sofwave much sooner – the skin looks great within the first 7-10 days after Sofwave, looking plump and smoother, which is probably due to very mild edema (swelling) in the skin. The final results take about 2-3 months.

Ulthera can cause welts in the first week, and the 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 discuss this during the consultation so you’re not surprised by the lack of initial results.

Anytime your body is building new collagen, it 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 at our practice, too – 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 they work best for different types of people. If you primarily have 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. It can produce a firmer and more youthful appearance with firm, elastic, youthful-looking skin.

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 is a better choice for you. In fact, Ulthera is the only treatment other than surgery that can affect the muscle layer, making results go deeper than other technologies. It can have great benefits for skin tightening and lifting by firming, tightening, and lifting loose and sagging skin at a deeper level.

Can You Combine Sofwave & Ultherapy?

If you have mild to moderate muscle and skin laxity (with no excess skin), then a combination approach of Sofwave and Ultherapy can be an excellent option. There are a few benefits to this, the first of which is that it can target multiple different tissue depths for more complete treatment. Whereas Sofwave treats the surface layers of the skin, Ultherapy can target the deeper layers of the skin – including the muscle layer. Working together, you can achieve the maximum amount of lift and the maximum results.

Secondly, since both options use ultrasound technology, you can get double the results by combining them – especially at different depths – compared to using them individually. Finally, you can save time in your schedule by performing both treatments within the same session, meaning you don’t have to come back for separate appointments.

Sofwave and Ultherapy at Reflections Center for Cosmetic Medicine

Sofwave and Ultherapy each provide great benefits for your skin. 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. Contact us today at our Bridgewater and Livingston, NJ offices to get started.