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What is the Difference between Ultherapy and HIFU?

Ultherapy and HIFU are non-surgical skin tightening treatments for face lifting and skin rejuvenation. They are 2 of the most popular anti-aging treatments. 

HIFU and Ultherapy have a lot more similarities than differences. 

I tell my patients that “Ultherapy vs HIFU” is similar to “iPhone versus Samsung smartphones”. 

The technology is similar, but there are slight differences in functionality and branding.

What is Ultherapy?

Ultherapy is a US FDA, and Europe CE approved ultrasound skin tightening treatment for face and skin lifting. 

It is a non-invasive treatment and uses micro-focused ultrasound energy waves to stimulate collagen production. 

What is HIFU?

HIFU (High Intensity Focused Ultrasound) is the name of a medical technology. There are many brands of HIFU devices. We offer Ultraformer 3. 

Ultraformer 3 is a Korea FDA, Europe CE and HSA Singapore approved ultrasound skin tightening treatment for face and skin lifting. 

Similar to Ultherapy, HIFU is a non-invasive treatment. Ultraformer uses micro and macro-focused ultrasound energy waves to stimulate collagen production.

At suitable settings and treatment depths, macro-focused ultrasound can be used to reduce fat as well. 

Ultherapy vs HIFU: Differences

Ultherapy vs HIFU vs Thermage

Can’t tell the differences between HIFU and Ultherapy? 

Let’s explore the differences between Ultherapy and Ultrafomer 3 HIFU…

FDA Approval

Ultherapy is FDA approved. Ultraformer HIFU is not FDA approved. But what is the importance of “US FDA approval”?

What is the significance of “US FDA” approval?

US FDA is the Food and Drug Administration regulatory body of the US. They test and approve medical devices for safety and effectiveness for medical use in the US jurisdiction.

Every major country has their own health and medical device regulatory body. 

Europe has CE. Korea has Korea FDA. Australia has TGA. Singapore has HSA.

Smaller countries may take reference from the US FDA and Europe CE, and approve medical devices that have already been approved by the health regulatory bodies of these bigger countries.

What does a lack of US FDA approval mean?

A HIFU medical device that does not have US FDA approval means that it is not registered to be used as a medical device in the US jurisdiction. 

Other health regulatory bodies might approve this medical device, just not the US FDA. The lack of US FDA approval does not necessarily mean that the medical device is unsafe – especially when other health regulatory bodies have approved of its use.

Does this mean that the “non-FDA approved” HIFU medical device is unsafe or ineffective?

No. There are many reasons why a medical device is not FDA approved. 

The most common reason is a commercial reason – getting a US FDA approval takes a long time and is expensive. It is only justifiable commercially if the medical device manufacturers plan to launch the device in the US. 

With all due respect, there are many other large economies in the world other than the US. Medical device manufacturers might decide to launch their products in other parts of the world where they feel they have strategic advantages.

Ultraformer HIFU originated from Korea, and it is currently widely used in Asia (Korea, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and Singapore), Australia and Europe. It is approved by the respective health regulatory bodies of the aforementioned countries. 

Even though Ultraformer is not US FDA approved, it does not mean that it is unsafe and ineffective. Ultraformer HIFU is approved by Korea FDA, TGA (Australia) and CE (Europe) and HSA (Singapore) (non-exhaustive list).


Both Ultherapy and Ultrafomer 3 have handpieces that can target the three usual depths of 1.5mm, 3.0mm and 4.5mm.

Depth targeted by Ultherapy and HIFU

The 4.5mm depth is the depth that your SMAS layer is at. The SMAS layer is the superficial musculoaponeurotic system which is the deep muscle layer of the face that is tightened in facelift surgery.

The 4.5mm depth is also the depth that sets Ultrasound technology apart from other technology like radiofrequency. Radiofrequency cannot reach the depths of 4.5mm. 

However, Ultraformer 3 has the additional 2.0mm handpiece, which is a specialised handpiece to treat sensitive areas like around the eyes. This is an additional functionality that Ultraformer has that Ultherapy does not have.

Ultraformer for Saggy Eyelid

If you have saggy eyelids and fine lines around the eyes, you will need treatment with the 2.0mm handpiece.


Price of Ultherapy for full-face treatment is from $2500, whereas the price of HIFU for full face treatment is from $1800 at Sozo Aesthetic Clinic in Raffles Place, Singapore.


Both treatments are able to heat your skin up to therapeutic temperatures of 60-70 degrees celsius. This is the temperature at which new collagen fibres will be produced.

Ultherapy & RF Devices Difference


Both Ultherapy and quality HIFU devices, like Ultraformer 3, are equally precise in terms of delivering the ultrasound energy to preset depths of your skin like 1.5mm, 3.0mm and 4.5mm.

So long as the clinic sends their HIFU or Ultherapy device for regular servicing and maintenance, these devices should be accurate.  

Ultrasound Imaging

Ultrasound imaging is only available with Ultherapy. This allows doctors to scan and analyse your skin during treatment. 

With ultrasound imaging, vital structures such as blood vessels and bone can be avoided. This gives you a safer treatment experience. 

How does Ultherapy and HIFU work?

Treatment Areas

Both treatments can be used for the treatment of full face and neck.

However, Ultraformer HIFU has an additional 2.0mm handpiece that allows for treatment of your peri-orbital (eye region). This allows for additional treatment of saggy upper eyelids and fine lines at your lower eye-lids.

Treatment Process

When it comes to discussing about the treatment process in Ultherapy vs HIFU – they are both similar. 

After consultation with your doctor, numbing cream will be applied to your skin for 15 to 30 minutes. 

Next, the Ultherapy or HIFU treatment will be performed by a qualified medical doctor. Ultherapy treatments might be 1.5 to 2 times longer in duration because the lines or shots take longer to be delivered. 

After treatment, recovery creams like moisturisers and sunblock will be applied. 

We routinely schedule a free review consult for all our patients two weeks after the Ultherapy or HIFU treatment. 

Results to Expect

Both treatments yield skin tightening and face lifting results when performed on the correct patient. 

The results are not immediate. Best results take 2-3 months to manifest. This is because collagen production takes time. You can expect the results to last between 6 months to 18 months. 

Which is safer and more effective, Ultherapy or HIFU?

Ultherapy might be considered to be safer by certain doctors due to the ultrasound imaging capability. 

However, based on my experience with both HIFU and Ultherapy, both are equally safe when performed by an experienced doctor. 

In terms of effectiveness, I suggest Ultraformer HIFU for younger patients with earlier signs of skin laxity and aging. Patients who are keen to treat their eye area precisely should also consider Ultraformer HIFU because of the specialised 2.0mm handpiece.

In my practice, I prefer to use Ultherapy for more mature patients with more signs of skin laxity because of Ultherapy’s imaging capability that gives me more precision to treat aged skin more effectively. 

Not sure if Ultherapy or HIFU is more suitable for you? Ask an expert doctor now.


Dr Sau earned her medical degree from the historic University of Glasgow, UK, one of the top medical schools in the world. She also holds Certificates of Competence in Aesthetic Procedures to provide the full complement of treatments available at Sozo.