What You Should Know About Radio Frequency

Radio frequency (RF) devices have been used in the health-care industry for more than 50 years. They assist surgeons in cauterizing tissue and reducing blood loss. They are also the basis of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).1 In 2000, the use of RF devices was adopted by the beauty industry and became FDA-approved for skin tightening.

Over time, devices have been modified to meet various skin care needs. Beyond skin tightening, RF is FDA-approved for cellulite and fat reduction, skin resurfacing, and to remove minor skin abnormalities such as skin tags. The popularity of this modality is due to its efficiency, safety, and versatility.

What is Radio Frequency?

RF is an alternating current with treatment outcomes similar to laser and light energy. One of the main advantages to RF, however, is that it does not target a chromophore (the part of a molecule responsible for color). In the epidermis and dermis, the chromophore absorbs a laser beam’s energy, which leads to a controlled wound.2 Since RF is “color-blind,” treatments are acceptable for use on all Fitzpatrick skin types, with minimal chance for hypo- or hyperpigmentation.

Application of RF can be delivered in a variety of ways. Here, we’ll focus on the use of RF for minor skin abnormalities.

What does Radio Frequency do?

Treatments that use RF technology to target skin flaws are also known as thermocoagulation, electrocauterization, and electrodesiccation. Without penetrating the skin’s surface, these devices create localized heat that evaporates the targeted tissues’ fluid and blocks blood supply. The result is either coagulation of the tissue or blanching of a vascular lesion. This is accomplished with a needle-thin electrode that is placed near the targeted lesion, allowing electric current to be conducted and heat to be produced in pinpoint-precise areas.

After the lesion is treated, a small crust or scab will form, which falls away within 4–7 days. Immediately after treatment, the skin may be a little red or flushed. Remind clients it’s best not to pick or scratch at any scabs in order to avoid scarring. Makeup can be applied within 24 hours.


Electrodesiccation devices are used for treating a wide range of skin irregularities, including skin tags, milia, sebaceous hyperplasia, xanthomas, angiomas, blocked pores, fibromas, and spider veins. When in doubt, don’t treat. If you have a client with a suspicious-looking lesion, refer them to their medical provider.

Article by Maggie Staszcuk
This article appears in the May | June 2019 issue of ASCP Skin Deep magazine.


ASCP Skin Deep magazine, May 2019ASCP Skin Deep magazine

The award-winning ASCP Skin Deep magazine is the premier estheticians' source for the latest trends, techniques, products, and news from the biggest names in the industry. In this issue:
Attracting Male Clients: Men are spending money on professional skin care. Are you getting your share?
Treating Male Acne: When it comes to men's acne, straightforward treatments are best.
     • Professional Products Just for Men: Pro products created for men's skin care needs.



Liability Insurance

Professional liability insurance for Advanced Esthetics Services protects you in case a client sues. ASCP members have access to optional radio frequency insurance insurance and other advanced modalities like ultrasound cavitation, laser, IPL, or permanent makeup services. More information about advanced esthetics coverage that protects you and your esthetics practice, including the steps for applying, visit www.ascpskincare.com/ami. Pricing for advanced esthetics insurance starts at $672 for the year, and you can bundle that coverage with other advanced modalities to save more.



1. David Jack, AestheticsJournal.com, “Using Radiofrequency,” accessed January 2019, www.aestheticsjournal.com/feature/ using-radiofrequency.

2. Judith Culp et al., Milady Standard Advanced Esthetics, 2nd ed. (Boston: Congage Learning, 2012).

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