Published November 28, 2017 By Dr. Adam Lowenstein

As a plastic surgeon, you would think I only had one job… but that is not the case. In addition to seeing patients and performing surgery, a field like plastic surgery is ever evolving and changing. One of the most important aspects of what I do is keeping abreast of the latest techniques and technologies. Sometimes things come up that are trendy but don’t really do much (who remembers Thermage?) and sometimes new technologies come out that are really game changers (think CoolSculpting).

Recently another game-changing technology has become available the likes of which I really have not seen. For years, true skin shrinking has been kind of a holy grail for plastic surgeons- the wonderful but elusive thing that would really make a huge difference in the world of plastic surgery. And now it’s actually here and available in Santa Barbara. It’s called J-Plasma, and it does things that really nothing else can or has ever done.


J-Plasma is based on the science of plasma, which is the fourth state of matter (solid, liquid, gas, and plasma). This is to differentiate it from the other kind of medical plasma that we think of which is kind of the liquid portion of the blood, like when you donate plasma at the blood bank. While that type of plasma is critically important, it is the ionized gas type of plasma that allows for true skin tightening in the 21st century.

Plasma, or ionized gas, is an excited state of the ionized atom which in this case is Helium. Because Helium is a very small molecule, it does not take much energy to ionize it and therefore the helium plasma beam creates an environment of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The effect of the ionized gas on tissue is a very precise, very thin layer of effect at a very controlled temperature.

Many of you may have seen advertisements over the past few years for various technologies that are supposed to shrink the skin. Ultrasound, radiofrequency, and lasers have all been touted as skin tightening technologies, but in the end, don’t really do too much of the actual shrinking of skin. Scientists have long known that while these modalities do cause some skin tightening, their effects seem to be blunted by inconsistency. The variation in skin temperature with these other instruments has caused these inconsistencies, and that is why radiofrequency and such gets a bit of a bad rap- sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.

J-Plasma has the precision in effect and temperature that has been so elusive for such time. It is so effective that as I perform it, I can physically feel its effects on the tissue, and I can appreciate in real time how the skin tightness is improving.

How is J-Plasma performed?

J-Plasma skin tightening is performed by applying the helium plasma beam to the undersurface of the skin. The beauty of this approach is the lack of any issues with the outside of the skin, so pigmentation, scarring, long healing times… they just are not problems with J-Plasma skin tightening. Performing the procedure is very much like liposuction, in that the J-Plasma device is run under the skin from small incisions just like the liposuction cannulas are. In fact, in patients requiring some liposuction and skin tightening, both liposuction and J-Plasma can be performed together allowing for some deflation with some tightening of the skin around the new smaller volume.

When performing J-plasma, some fluid, called tumescent fluid, is injected under the skin in the area that we want to treat. This tumescent solution has the effect of reducing bleeding, but also providing some numbing in the area that we work. In most cases, this is done with general anesthesia for complete comfort, but sometimes a bit of sedation can be used instead. Even for these smaller procedures, I use my plastic surgery operating room facility because here you are going to get the most sterile, controlled environment to minimize any problems with infections, etc. (which I have NEVER seen with J-Plasma in my experience.)

Once any liposuction that is needed is taken place, if there is any need for this, the J-Plasma tool is introduced through the same small incisions, and the plasma beam is run under the skin. While performing this skin tightening, I can actually pinch the skin and pull on it and feel the difference between the skin that has been treated and the skin that has not. The effect is IMMEDIATE! Not only that, but the improvement in skin tightness seems to get better over the next few weeks to months!

Following the treatment, some compression is put on the area in the form of fitted garments or ace bandages, or if this is being done as a neck lift to tighten the neck skin, a chin strap is placed. There is not a lot of recovery involved, and aside from a bit of bruising and the small amount of swelling seen from the tumescent injection, things go quite smoothly (pun intended) following J-Plasma treatments. I always ask for patients who have any type of such procedures to take it easy from excessive exercise for a few weeks, but skin tightening patients are usually back to work and normal daily life within a few days.

Where can we treat with J-Plasma Skin Tightening?

In the neck, we use J-plasma for minimally invasive neck lifts seeing results that we could never have seen before. Incisions are hidden under the earlobe and one 3mm incision is placed under the chin, and the effects of the plasma beam are exceptional. In fact, I often now use the J-Plasma beam during facelifts to add to the tightening that I perform surgically because truly, not even with surgery can I get the neck to do what I can with the addition of J-Plasma.

In the body, J-Plasma can be used in the abdomen when that skin excess is not enough to justify an operation but makes it uncomfortable to show your midriff like you used to. The arms and thighs are other great places for skin tightening, as we often see some skin excess here that makes things look older and less fit. Even in the knees, where some people are getting that crepey skin from aging, J-Plasma can provide a wonderful improvement in the texture and quality of the skin.

I’m so pleased to have brought this cutting edge skin tightening solution to Santa Barbara, and I’m honestly eager to share this new technology with our plastic surgery patients. I’ve had to tell so many patients for so long that there was nothing to do with loose skin but cut it out… now that we have J-Plasma, I’ve got to get those patients “in the know” that we can tighten and improve skin excess throughout the body!

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