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Sublative rejuvenation might just be the key to a smoother complexion

Most of us wouldn’t mind having perfectly glowing, blemish- and wrinkle-free skin — but we all know getting it is no small feat. So when we hear of a treatment that could help us obtain our perfect skin goals, naturally we want to know more. Such is the case with sublative rejuvenation.

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Though sublative rejuvenation started gaining traction over five years ago, compared to microdermabrasion, lasers and light treatments, sublative treatments are fairly new — and still kind of a mystery. Let’s change that, shall we?

So what is it?

In short, sublative rejuvenation is an alternative to harsher treatments like chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Instead of using light or lasers, sublative rejuvenation uses radio frequency technology in an effort to tighten skin, erase fine lines, shrink large pores and heal previous acne scarring. Some have also found it helpful in the battle against stretch marks. Even though sublative treatments don’t involve lasers, they claim they can totally resurface the skin, simulating the same effects of various similar laser treatments.

“[Sublative rejuvenation is an] exponentially vast improvement over short-lived results of microcurrent facials at salons and spas,” David A. Colbert, M.D., told Vanity Fair.

How it works

According to a 2014 press release from Syneron Medical Ltd., the typical sublative protocol consists of three to five treatments, spaced four to six weeks apart. After going through the treatments, Syneron Medical claims patients can expect tone and texture improvements as a result of increased levels of collagen and elastin and new healthy skin cells.

The treatment works by depositing energy into the skin to initiate a healing response without disrupting the epidermis. The fractional bipolar radio frequency used to break through the skin in sublative rejuvenation supposedly keeps the top skin layer from getting damaged and allows more energy to get underneath the exterior of the skin to really make the most of collagen production.

The huge bonus of sublative rejuvenation is that it’s not marketed to any one skin type or tone — from light skin to dark skin and dry to sensitive to oily and everything in between, everyone is a candidate for the treatment.

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The pain factor

We did a scan of sublative rejuvenation reviews, and the verdict is in: This treatment is not painless. Most patients, however, find the pain to be bearable.

“The numbing cream they apply lasts about 1 minute after they wipe it off,” wrote one sublative reviewer on RealSelf. “At first it felt like tiny little needles jabbing my face, kind of like a tattoo feeling. After the numbing cream wore of I could start to feel the heat from the laser, and omg. It wasn’t ‘I’m going to die’ pain but it hurt. My eyes watered and I winced every time she hit me with [the] laser. After it was done, she applied ice packs, that was the best feeling in the world.”

SheKnows contributor Alison Luther went through the treatment at The National Laser Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona, and had a totally positive experience.

“The irritation you experience during the procedure feels similar to a dull tingly feeling, and my skin glowed with a slightly irritated pink for about 48 hours,” Luther said. “The good news was that makeup could be applied the next morning, so I scheduled an after-work appointment, gave my skin the night off, and then it was business as usual the very next day.”

The damage

We’re not talking skin damage, here. We’re talking cold, hard cash — and sublative treatments aren’t cheap. Prices vary depending on what combination of treatments you choose, but according to Advanced Dermatology in Chicago, you’re looking at anywhere between $525 and $1,600 per treatment for eMatrix (which is one of the most popular brands of sublative around). If you do the full round of five treatments, you’re gonna rack up a hefty bill pretty fast.

Is it worth the money?

Obviously, everyone has a unique experience when it comes to skin treatments, and sublative is no different. Reviews range from total raves to angry patients who didn’t see a difference.

“Been using same doctor for years, He convinced me to try this Sublative procedure for my under-eye issues and slight wrinkles. After 3 procedures since August, I have been very impressed. Skin is tighter, tone is better and I appear more rested!” wrote a 50-year-old patient on RealSelf.

“I had one treatment each month for a period of 5 months. It has been a year since I received my last treatment and there has been zero improvement. I spent a total of $4,900 for these 5 treatments,” another patient reported in a review.

However, of 121 reviews on RealSelf, 93 percent gave eMatrix a “worth it” rating, which isn’t a bad batting average. All in all, sublative rejuvenation might be worth looking into — if you have the cash to spare. Isn’t that how it always goes?

Watch a procedure being performed in the video below to get a better idea of how the procedure might go for you.

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Originally published May 2012. Updated January 2017.

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