The FDA approved Thermage in 2002, and when Oprah introduced it to her viewers in 2003, interest surged. But some critics pointed out that Oprah's show mentioned only positive outcomes of the treatment [source: Kosova]. Negative accounts do exist.
Patients of early Thermage treatments reported burning, blistering and scabbing. Some complained of problems with uneven contouring -- in other words, instead of level skin, Thermage left some areas indented, while others stood out. These early problems seemed to be the result of too much heat, which caused the melting of fat in the dermis, creating unacceptable dips and bulges in skin [source: Singer].
However, Thermage has evolved since its early days. Even doctors who question the treatment's effectiveness now acknowledge that the procedure is generally safe, when it's properly performed.
But that doesn't necessarily mean you'll completely escape pain or discomfort. In her O Magazine interview, Barkin said the treatment felt like burning rubber bands snapping her face [source: Monroe]. That was in 2007, and Barkin's opinion about Thermage being painful was shared by many at the time.
Despite recent improvements, there's no question that Thermage can still be an uncomfortable experience for some, and downright agonizing for others. Doctors and patients should talk throughout the procedure. If a patient's personal pain meter exceeds the hot-but-tolerable stage, he should ask the doctor to dial down the temperature used.
Now that you've learned that Thermage is generally safe, maybe you're ready to sign up for a treatment. Read on to learn how it stacks up against surgery.