Ultherapy review: what it's really like to have the non-invasive 'lunchtime facelift'

Does it work? Does it hurt? Our Ultherapy review reveals all about the skin-tightening treatment

A blonde woman with plump skin, touching her jaw to illustrate the ultherapy review
(Image credit: Future/Getty images)

When reading Ultherapy reviews, you'd be forgiven for thinking it sounds a bit too good to be true. A non-surgical, non-invasive treatment that can achieve what no cream, laser, or needle has managed before—tightening loose skin. 

We all know the rule in beauty, as in life, is if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. But do you know what else didn't sound realistic when it first hit the mainstream? An injection that freezes wrinkles, a chemical solution that turns black hair blonde, or a plastic mask that plumps lines while you kick back with an episode of The Crown (hello red light therapy devices!)

So try to suspend disbelief, because there's a reason this skin firming procedure is a talking point. It promises great things and, along with microneedling and the Aquagold Facial, is a darling of the aesthetic scene with fans reportedly including Jennifer Aniston and Bobbi Brown. Then again, as with any tweakment, it's important to be realistic. Realistic about results, about costs, and—I'm sorry to say—realistic about pain. Don't be scared. Let's dive into this Ultherapy review and discover if the so-called 'no-scalpel facelift' could be right for you. 

Ultherapy review—everything you need to know

What is Ultherapy and how does it work?

"Ultherapy is a non-surgical alternative to a facelift," explains Cosmetic doctor Dr. Rekha Tailor. "It’s often described as a lunchtime facelift because of the speed and effectiveness of the procedure. It’s used to counteract signs of aging like skin sagging and wrinkles on the face, neck, and chest as well as drooping of the brow area." There are no needles with Ultherapy; nothing injected, nothing stiffens, nothing fills. What happens is an ultrasound wand is applied to the parts of the skin from which collagen is rapidly departing—the neck, the cheeks, the brow, and of course, the jawline. The resulting heat, produced by targeted sonic waves, kickstarts lazy collagen into frenetic healing activity; this ultimately re-tightens and lifts the face.

Aside from the very appealing lack of needles or knives, Ultherapy is booming due to its versatility and life-friendly appointment time—from 20 minutes for one small area to two hours for a full face and neck. "I love this treatment for many age categories as it is a one-time, one-hour treatment with excellent long-lasting results," agrees oculoplastic surgeon and facial aesthetics specialist Dr. Maryam Zamani. However, patience is required. Expect to see the best effects around three months after the treatment once that new collagen has formed. Things can keep improving for several months after that and last around a year.  

Is Ultherapy painful?

If you've ever had a cosmetic treatment, you know the drill:  If they say it's "relaxing," you're in the clear, "comfortable" means tolerable, and if they say you will feel "some discomfort" expect pain. The bad news is Ultherapy, by all accounts, does involve a level of "discomfort." This can vary from person to person, depending on the area treated and the treatment duration. The depth that is being targeted affects comfort levels as well, and of course, so does your own tolerance for pain. 

The good news is that clinics have devised plenty of ways to make it more tolerable, from using a topical numbing cream to over-the-counter pain relief medication, anti-inflammatories, and cooling devices.  Also, the beauty of this treatment is its ability to be tailored to your needs, so the pro carrying it out can respond to your comfort levels, adapt the depth, and take breaks when treating larger areas. 

Ultherapy review: what happened when our beauty ed tried it?

If the gamut of aesthetic treatments runs from pampering facial to full-on facelift, I'm parked halfway up that hill. At 36 years old, I haven't had anything injected (yet!) but definitely favor a results-driven Hydrafacial, peels, and micro-needling over a bit of massage and face oil. My skin is in good nick, but my Instagram grid suggests that my lower face isn't hugging my jawline quite as tightly as it did back when I thought Smirnoff Ice was an acceptable aperitif. So when the opportunity to do an Ultherapy review presented itself, I did not have to be asked twice.

I booked in with Dr Alexis Granite (opens in new tab) at Skinesis Medical (opens in new tab). This is crucial information because aesthetic treatments are only as good as the expert who administers them, and Dr Granite is as expert as they come. I sent photos in advance and was told I was a good candidate (still not sure if I should be happy about that) then was advised to take a pick 'n mix of ibuprofen and paracetamol before my appointment and arrive early for numbing. A little foreboding on the pre-care front, but the beautiful clinic and friendly vibe put me at ease. I asked everyone I encountered to level with me on the pain front and responses ranged from, "It's one of the most painful treatments you can have," to "some people don't even flinch." When the numbing cream kicked in, Dr Granite took before photos, marked my face into zones and I lay down with my neck stretched back to begin treatment. 

And how did it feel? Honestly, a pleasant surprise. As the wand moved from zone to zone I felt a thrum of heat, a sort of clicking sensation, and occasional sharp zing. It was toothache-like near my jaw but that came and went fairly quickly and my 90-minute treatment felt more like 45. Obviously, everyone's tolerance varies, but if you've ever had a tattoo or laser hair removal, you will definitely be able to handle Ultherapy. Afterward, I was a little red and my jawbone a tad sensitive, but I definitely could have gone out that night without anyone noticing. However, I'm 36 so I slathered on some soothing skincare and had an early night instead.

Our beauty editor recommends...

Teoxane Deep Repair Balm | RRP: $49.85/£22.99
Medical skincare brands are a good bet post-treatment. While Ultherapy doesn't generally have downtime, this deeply soothing and powerfully replenishing balm will help calm any inflammation and replenish the skin, which is always a good thing. 

Sand & Sky Tasmanian Spring Water Intense Hydration Mask | RRP: $35/£29
Just about as hydrating as skincare gets, this packs in plumping hyaluronic acid, nourishing squalane, plus PH-balancing Tasmanian Spring Water. Best of all, it's got an ultra-cooling gel texture that felt absolutely amazing on my slightly pink, post Ultherapy review skin. 

And what about the results you ask? This is a long-game treatment, so they are still very much in the post. I'll be back in Dr Granite's office three months post-treatment for some after photos and will report back to complete my Ultherapy review. Until then, I've gathered some of the most compelling Ultherapy before and after shots on social media as a visual aid. 

Ultherapy before and after

Ultherapy costs

Naturally, this varies depending on where you go for your Ultherapy, who performs it, and which areas are being treated. The official line from Ultherapy is that "Prices start at roughly $700/£500, though pricing can vary depending on the treatment protocol to achieve your desired results and will be discussed during your consultation with your aesthetic practitioner. Treatment pricing will vary based on individual treatment plans as Ultherapy is customized to individual needs."

You can expect to pay at least $1300/£1000 for treating a substantial area. Clearly, that's not pocket change, but many people require only one session, rather than a course as is the norm with treatments such as laser. And of course, a few thousand actually is pocket change compared with surgical facelifts, which run into the tens of thousands. 

Ultherapy near me

Ultherapy is available nationwide, but as with any aesthetic treatment, it's crucial to do thorough research on the clinic or practice you are planning to visit. To find a list of GMC registered doctors and dermatologists, visit gmc-uk.org

 Keep the following in mind before booking: 

  • Only have Ultherapy by a medical professional, ideally, a physician who specializes in skin and never a beauty therapist or a salon worker.
  • Do your research. There is never any emergency cosmetic treatment. Take your time and investigate who you're going to see, go to several people or clinics to decide.
  • Be wary of special offers, chains with two-for-one deals, or persuasive staff. If you feel under any pressure at all, walk away.

woman&home thanks Dr Alexis Granite, Dr. Rekha Tailor and Dr. Maryam Zamani for their time and expertise

Ultherapy with Dr Alexis Granite costs from £600 for the brow area to £2400 for the lower face, for more information visit  www.dralexisgranite.com

Fiona McKim
Fiona McKim

 As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.