What is the difference between HIFU treatment provided by a medical doctor versus in a beauty salon in Singapore?
HIFU stands for High Intensity Focus Ultrasound, and is an energy based device for face lifting and skin tightening treatments. Ulthera is the only HIFU machine in the market currently with "live scanning" ability, that is to say the doctor doing the treatment is able to see the depth as well as the skin structures such as blood vessels, nerves, and bones and to avoid them where necessary during the procedure. Having live scanning also helps to maintain proper coupling of the handpiece to the skin to ensure optimal delivery of energy to where it is intended.
Only registered medical clinics and doctors are allowed to own and operate the Ulthera machine, as a N2 NEA license is required.
Not all HIFU machines are equal, those used in clinics are usually of medical grade which can deliver higher energy level and thus require HSA approval as well. Having said that, it does not mean beauty salons' HIFU do not work, as the efficacy of a treatment depends on the machine as well as the operator. In all energy-based treatments there is always a sweet spot or "therapeutic window". Below it, results are slow or nil and above, and will unfortunately result in burns or worse, cause damage to the skin's underlying structures.
To answer your question simply, Medical Grade HIFU devices needs to be registered with the local HSA. To qualify for registration they need supporting documents of safety as well as efficacy. Such devices are usually US FDA, Medical CE, KFDA approved or have multiple approval authorities. The popular ones include Ulthera and Ultraformer III.
Secondly HIFU needs to be performed by a trained medical doctor to ensure safety and efficacy.
The beauty salon devices are usually not true medical grade HIFU and require multiple treatment sessions with either minimal results or results that are very temporary.
The other issue is of course safety concerns as one cannot be sure of the training and experience of the beauty therapist.
Therefore my advice is if you are looking for a HIFU treatment seek it out at registered medical clinics.