High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is an effective non-surgical treatment for skin tightening and face lifting. In Singapore, this particular type of treatment is extremely in demand.
However, as an experienced doctor, I am concerned about the overwhelming interest in HIFU facelifts.
We all love a good deal, but cheaper is not always better. I have seen patients suffering from bad burns after going for skin tightening treatments at unlicensed centres.
With a large number of HIFU treatment brands and a broad range of treatment providers, I often get a lot of questions on the very varied pricing for HIFU treatments in Singapore.
Hence, I have decided to write this post to help you understand the varying HIFU treatment prices, the effectiveness, and the safety concerns beyond the marketing hype.
How much does HIFU treatment cost in Singapore?
High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is the scientific name of medical technology. There are many different brands of HIFU devices. (Similar to how Apple and Samsung are different brands of smartphones).
The 3 most common types of HIFU devices are Ulthera, Ultraformer 3 and Sygmalift (based on market share in Singapore). This list is non-exhaustive as new HIFU devices are continually introduced into Singapore.
The price range of full-face HIFU treatments in Singapore:
Ulthera: $2300 to $5000 (1 session that lasts 6 - 12 months)
Ultraformer 3: $2000 to $5000 (1 session that lasts 6 - 12 months)
Sygmalift HIFU: $500 to $700 (3-5 sessions at 3-4 weeks intervals, followed by maintenance sessions)
Important Tip: Clinics may use fancy names for their HIFU treatments (eg Ultra Plus, Ultra Lift, U Lift, etc- they all allude to Ultrasound technology). You should always ask your doctor which is the exact HIFU device that will be used for your HIFU treatment.
Why are some HIFU treatments so cheap (e.g. $200)? What accounts for the difference in the prices of HIFU treatments?
- Treatment Regions
The prices that I have listed above are for full-face treatments. HIFU can be used for full-face as well as the neck.
Typically, doctors and clinics break the procedure down into bite-size treatments for smaller areas like the region around your eyes or your lower face because not everyone needs a full face HIFU treatment.
These smaller regions can cost from $450 to $800 for Ultraformer/Ulthera treatments.
Tip: For "lower face" treatments, check if the under-chin area is included, as "lower face" may mean different things at different clinics!
- Doctor's Skill & Experience
The doctor's skill critically affects the effectiveness of HIFU treatment. Naturally, HIFU treatments by an expert doctor will be more costly. I will explain more on this point in the next section.
- Brand of HIFU device
HIFU treatments using Ultraformer and Ulthera yields a higher price because the original HIFU devices cost more than $75,000. There are also additional “consumable” costs for each HIFU treatment that a doctor adminsters.
Now you understand why it's near impossible for HIFU treatments using the original technology to be cheap!
- Number of Shots
Typically, there is a standard recommended protocol for the number of HIFU shots that should be administered to each region of the face. However, clinics may customise the protocol and vary the number of HIFU shots.
Important Tip: Always ask for the approximate number of HIFU shots that you are getting prior to the starting. An experienced doctor should be able to advise you on the number of shots required based on your facial analysis. If you have severe saggy skin, you will require more HIFU shots, which will be more expensive!
However, you must bear in mind that it only makes sense for you to compare the number of shots amongst clinics that offer the same brand of HIFU. For example, the recommended number of Sygmalift shots will differ from the recommended number of Ultraformer shots.
- Treatment protocols
Sygmalift requires multiple treatment sessions whereas Ulthera and Ultraformer require only 1 session every 6-12 months.
For HIFU treatments that require multiple sessions, you should always find out the total cost of the treatment package instead of focusing on just one treatment session alone.
- Consultation Fees
Consultation is essential before the HIFU treatment to determine if you are suitable for treatment. The listed prices of HIFU treatments may not be inclusive of consultation fees.
Consultation fees usually range from $50 to $150.
- Clinic “overheads”
A positive clinic environment is an important part of the treatment experience. However, prime clinic location and posh clinic interiors tend to result in higher priced treatments.
"HIFU treatments seem to be technologically driven. Does the doctor I choose matter?"
- Expert doctors know when NOT to treat
Yes, it matters. The doctor you see makes a world of difference. Seeing an expert doctor can mean receiving a highly effective skin tightening result, or walking out of the clinic without a HIFU treatment (yes, an expert doctor knows when you do NOT need a HIFU treatment).
Let me explain why. HIFU treatments are good for mild to moderate skin laxity. Not everyone will benefit from HIFU treatments. I regularly turn away patients who have severe sagging skin because they will benefit more from a surgical facelift instead.
A good doctor knows how to treat. A great doctor knows when NOT to treat. Being able to assess who is suitable for HIFU treatments is just the beginning.
- Doctor’s skill affects results
Well-trained and experienced doctors may use their own specialised techniques such as “vector lifting” to achieve better results. These techniques are honed from years of experience and overseas hands-on training.
- Availability of other skin tightening options
Although HIFU treatment is highly effective, it is not the only solution for sagging skin and anti-ageing.
Seeing a doctor who offers a comprehensive range of skin tightening treatments will ensure that you are getting an unbiased opinion on whether HIFU is truly suitable for you. After all, if HIFU treatments are all they have, HIFU is all they can/will offer.
Why waste $3,000 on HIFU treatments that you might not benefit from in the first place?
What is the difference between HIFU treatments performed by doctors versus “HIFU” treatments performed by therapists in spas (non-clinics)?
Medical-grade HIFU treatments (like Ulthera and Ultraformer 3) are the gold standard, research-proven skin tightening treatments. Ultraformer/ Ulthera HIFU devices are only available in Ministry of Health-registered clinics and can only be performed by doctors.
There is no guarantee that “HIFU” treatments at non-clinics (eg spas) have similar proven effectiveness or safety.
Important Tip: It is common for spas to suggest multiple regular HIFU sessions (monthly or even fortnightly). Ultraformer and Ulthera are potent HIFU treatments can only be performed once every 6 to 12 months.
Can doctors delegate HIFU treatments to their staff?
No, non-doctors should not be performing medical-grade HIFU treatments.
In fact, not all doctors are certified to perform HIFU treatments. HIFU treatments are medical treatments that should only be performed by qualified doctors.
Can you use Medisave/ Insurance for HIFU treatments?
Unfortunately, no. This is why it pays to do your research and speak to a trusted doctor before committing to HIFU treatments.
Nowadays, aesthetic treatments don’t have to cost a bomb, but you have to be wary of “cheap deals” – if it’s too good to be true, it often is.
Find out more about Dr Justin Boey here:
Dr Justin Boey’s practice of aesthetic medicine centres around the busy modern individual. He is experienced in Facial Aesthetics (lasers and injections) and hair loss treatments. Learn more about him here.