When you hear the word ultrasound, you probably picture a pregnant woman at her OB/GYN. While checking in on a baby is the most well known use for this imaging technology, it actually does way more, from routine health scans to skin anti-aging benefits.

Ultrasound scans use high-frequency sound waves to create images of organs and other structures in the body, according to the National Institutes of Health. The sound waves reflect off these internal structures, sending a message back to the machine, which uses them to create a picture. Since the scan works via sound waves, ultrasound technology is free of radiation, which can be a concern with other types of imaging devices like X-rays and CT scans.

When you get an ultrasound test to look inside your body—which is routinely done during pregnancies, but also to get a close look at organs such as the thyroid or kidney—the technician applies a water-based gel that helps conduct and transmit the sound waves. The technician then moves a handheld device along the surface of your skin, and the waves begin to reflect and relay those images to a connected machine and monitor.

Ultrasound’s application for the skin is just as, if not more, impressive. An ultrasound skin procedure like Ultherapy, which is FDA-approved for smoothing and lifting the neck, chest and eyebrow areas, focuses a concentrated amount of this sound energy into the skin’s deepest layers. “This creates cellular friction, which in turn creates heat,” explained dermatologist Marina Peredo, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The first thing it does is create an immediate contraction in the skin’s collagen. “This initial collagen contraction is responsible for the initial ‘lift,’ “ Dr. Peredo explained.

After that quick lifting sensation, the heat from the waves begins to stimulate new collagen production over the span of about three months, dermatologist Julius Few, M.D., founder of The Few Institute, explained. “By creating hundreds of pinpoint burns under the skin, the body is able to create more collagen and elastin, allowing for increased lifting and rejuvenation to the face and neck, as well as other parts of the body,” Few said.

Here’s essentially why it works: When skin tissue is injured, Peredo explained, the body’s natural wound-healing response kicks in. The skin begins to produce new collagen, in its attempt to repair itself. This new collagen then replaces the older, weaker collagen, giving your skin a firmer, more youthful look and feel.

“Ultrasound-based energy is the only cosmetic-based energy technology that can be focused to a very small point, under the skin, without affecting the outside skin,” Dr. Few explained. There may be some minor swelling immediately following your treatment, but other than that, there’s no visible trauma to your skin. This extremely minimal downtime makes Ultherapy a great alternative to an actual facelift—ultrasound technology makes it possible to essentially have a “micro facelift,” so you can see results without ever going under the knife.

This post is brought to you by YouBeauty and Ultherapy. 

The non-invasive Ultherapy® procedure is U.S. FDA-cleared to lift skin on the neck, on the eyebrow and under the chin as well as to improve lines and wrinkles on the décolletage. For indications in your country, and full product and safety information, including possible mild side effects, visit Ultherapy.com/IFU.