On my walk to work, I pass at least three posters or subway ads that advertise body contouring treatments. I'm not referring to a bronzer and highlighter technique, though. They are non-invasive, in-office procedures that promise to reduce or destroy body fat cells. These sorts of treatments are gaining steam: The FDA has given its stamp of approval for CoolSculpting, a non-invasive treatment that uses cool temps to get rid of fat. They have also recently cleared a heat-activated body contouring treatment called SculpSure to get rid of excess fat cells.
To find out more about how it works (and does it, really?), I spoke with a cosmetic dermatologist who performs the treatment in her practice to learn more about the science behind the process.
What Is SculpSure?
It's an FDA-cleared laser treatment that destroys excess fat cells on the abdomen, sides of torso, back, inner and outer thighs, and under-the-chin area. "Once the fat is destroyed, it is naturally eliminated from the body," New York City-based Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah says.
What Makes This Treatment Different from Other Body Contouring Methods?
"It feathers the heat, so the results are more natural and there isn't the risk of dents, dimpling, or sharp demarcations between what is treated and untreated," Dr. Shah says. "Because it uses heat rather than cooling, it can potentially stimulate collagen and some individuals note improved skin texture and skin tightening, but keep in mind it is not a skin-tightening treatment and not FDA-cleared for these benefits." She also says that the applicators allow more customization compared to some other treatments. The price of the treatment varies based on location and the area of the body, but it usually ranges from $1,000 to $1,500.
What Is the Treatment Process Like, and How Does It Get Rid of Body Fat Calls?
According to Dr. Shah, it uses a laser to heat and damage fat cells. The SculpSure laser machine is attached to a belt with holders, of which the patient wears in the specific treatment area. The holders are attached to the area that is being treated. "The number of applicators used is based on the size of the area and ranges from one to four," she says. The patient feels heat alternated with cooling. The total treatment takes approximately 25 minutes to complete, and one treatment is said to remove up to 24% of the fat cells in the area. "However, one to three treatments are generally recommend per area to achieve optimal results," Dr. Shah notes.
How soon do you see results?
You're not going to see an immediate change. "It takes approximately six weeks to start seeing results and 12 weeks for final results," Dr. Shah says. While the fat cells are reportedly destroyed and will not regenerate, Dr. Shah says that results are best seen when the patient maintains their weight and follows a healthy routine.
What's the downtime after the treatment?
The fact that there isn't any downtime is probably why this treatment is getting so popular. "After the treatment, the area may feel slightly sore and you may experience swelling, but you can go back to normal activities immediately," Dr. Shah explains. Other side effects include redness, soreness, swelling, bruising, firmness, and deep nodules. "These are generally transient and resolve spontaneously," she says.
Who Is the Ideal Candidate?
"An ideal candidate is someone who has localized, stubborn areas of fat that do not respond to diet or exercise," Dr. Shah notes. "Ideally they should have a BMI under 30. They should also be generally healthy and live a healthy lifestyle including diet and exercise."
It's important to note that this shouldn't be considered a weight-loss treatment. If you're seeking a fat reduction that isn't localized to one area, Dr. Shah says this treatment might not be for you. You should also not have the treatment performed if you have open sores or an infection in the treatment area. Before getting any body contouring method, though, you should consult with your primary doctor to see if it's safe for you.