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Fractionated Radiofrequency

Fractionated radiofrequency (RF) treatment is the use of RF energy in a grid-like pattern to heat the deeper layers of the skin with minimal changes in the overlying skin. This leads to collagen remodeling with improvement in scarring and skin contour.

Fractionated radiofrequency (RF) is used to treat acne scarring and is most effective for mild-moderate changes and early scars. RF can be combined with other treatments directed to more difficult scars. Surgical scars, stretch marks and fine lines, wrinkles, increased pore size, laxity and pigmentation can also be treated with RF.

One of the major advantages of RF over laser treatment is the ability to safely treat darker skin types with minimal risks of pigmentation changes. In addition, RF has little downtime and can be carried during acne treatment, including isotretinoin (Roaccutane or Oratane).


You will need to have a topical anaesthetic cream applied. EMLA or a compounded (chemist-mixed) preparation will be prescribed. This should be applied 90 minutes before the procedure, with 3-4 mm of cream under a thin layer of plastic such as trimmed pieces of a freezer bag. Alternatively, an open technique can be used where the cream is reapplied every 15 minutes without any plastic cover. The cream should be applied over the entire area and extending 1 cm outside the area to be treated.

Please let me know if you get cold sores in the area to be treated so that anti-cold sore virus medication can be prescribed, starting on the morning of the procedure and continuing 2 x daily for a few days.

The cream will be wiped off before treatment with alcohol used to completely remove all traces. Unlike with lasers, your eyes do not need to be covered. Usually 1-3 passes are performed with a greater number of passes and increased strength applied to more severely affected areas. The treatment should be painless or only very slightly uncomfortable provided sufficient anaesthetic cream has been used. The treatment will take 20-40 minutes. You may arrange for a lift home afterwards if you wish but this is not essential.


The treated areas will be red and swollen and this will last for 2-3 days. Do not apply any creams on the first day as this will reduce the benefits of the treatment. Sensations of burning or stinging are uncommon but may last for 1- 2 days. The skin will develop a rough sandpaper-like texture which lasts about one week. In areas off the face, it is common to have a faint grid-like pattern of small dark dots for 2-3 weeks. Make-up can be applied after the first day to cover redness. Swimming, hot tubs, activities causing heavy sweating and any friction to the skin should be avoided until the skin returns to normal. Most people will not require any time off work or studies.

Sun protection is required throughout treatment and indefinitely afterwards to prevent complications and maintain improvement. The benefits of the treatment are assessed at 3 months following the final treatment.


Complications are rare. Usually, one expects 50 % improvement in scarring and age-related changes with a series of 3-6 treatments but in some cases, results may be less than this. Annual maintenance treatment may help to prevent recurrence of age-related changes. Occasionally, swelling and redness may last for longer than expected. Scarring and permanent or temporary changes in skin colour are possible but unlikely. Cold sore virus or other infections may rarely occur. If you develop tender and spreading redness, please contact us immediately.

If you have any questions or problems during the course of your treatment please call:
Adelaide Skin & Eye Centre 8211 0000 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)