When you’ve read about radiofrequency (RF) skin tightening in the past, you may have noticed the words “bipolar,” “monopolar,” and “multipolar” popping up all over the place. These terms may seem complicated at first and may deter you completely from trying this revolutionary skin treatment.
But we're here to tell you that these words are not as complicated as they seem. And we’re going to explain what they are and why they are used to talk about RF technology, so you understand what you’re reading when you look into this skin-tightening treatment.
What Is Radiofrequency Skin-Tightening?
But first, let’s redefine what RF skin-tightening treatment is so that you have the right context for these definitions. RF skin-tightening involves the use of energy waves on the electromagnetic spectrum, known as radiofrequency.
This energy is used to heat the dermis, i.e the deeper layers of skin beneath the epidermis. The applied heat stimulates the production of collagen, causing your body to “heal” itself over time by renewing the skin of the damaged area. This leads to skin that is thicker, tighter, and younger-looking.
As such, it has become a very popular treatment for people who want to lessen or eradicate the appearance of sagging, wrinkles, fine lines, scarring, and acne scarring.
What are Monopolar, Bipolar, and Multipolar Radiofrequency, and How are They Different?
Radiofrequency skin-tightening is not defined by one specific kind of technology. In fact, there are multiple classifications of RF treatment that are being sold and used in the beauty industry.
One of the most important classifications in RF technology is the active electrodes being used to treat the skin during RF treatment. Different electrodes, or “poles”, that are used will dictate how the electrical current will pass through tissue during treatment. Monopolar, bipolar, and multipolar RF are three different configurations of this.
So let’s define what each one is, and how they differ from each other.
Monopolar delivers energy to tissue using a single electrode and a grounding pad. The grounding pad, or “inactive pole,” is usually placed behind the patient while the single electrode, or “Active pole”, is applied over the area that needs to be treated.
The energy current that passes from the active pole needs to travel past the skin and through the body to return to the other pole. Monopolar radiofrequency is considered very effective in RF skin-tightening as it can treat every layer of your skin as well as subcutaneous fat.
Bipolar radiofrequency involves two active poles placed quite close to one another. This only allows the energy current to penetrate the skin superficially, sometimes as little as 1 millimeter deep. The current can usually only penetrate at half of the length of the distance between two electrodes.
This is considered to be a limitation to the efficacy of bipolar radiofrequency compared to monopolar. However, it also has its benefits. A bipolar configuration can be more easily controlled when distributing energy, and it is also less painful. For these reasons, bipolar RF is also becoming common in cosmetic RF treatments.
Multipolar configurations alternate between multiple active poles. This results in more uniformity of treatment and should allow the energy currents to penetrate deeper than bipolar RF, though it does not penetrate the skin as deeply as monopolar.
When you are considering RF skin-tightening treatment, usually one of these three terms will be used to describe it. Now that you understand these terms a little better, you can figure out which kind of treatment is going to work best for you.