My Lower Abs Are Super Defined Thanks to This In-Office Treatment

Imagine doing 20,000 sit-ups in 30 minutes

My Lower Abs Are Defined Thanks To This Tightening Treatment

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If you've grown up crunching abs to no avail, you may relate. I've been an athlete my whole life, but no matter how many hours I put in the gym or how many marathons I run, my lower abs always remained hidden under a layer of stubborn (yet cute) fat. It was never something that kept me up at night — after all, all bodies are beautiful and I'm very proud of mine — but I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes wish my abs would show.

But hey, that's genetics! Sometimes, no matter how balanced of a diet you eat or how long you can hold a plank, your body won't change that much. Obviously it's not the end of the world, but if you do want to get those visible results, in-office treatments can get you there.

Namely, Emsculpt — and it's so easy to do, too. Unlike other treatments which may leave you very sore or require down time, with Emsculpt you're in and out. Plus, each session gets easier to tolerate as you get used to the heat and contractions. To learn more about Emsculpt, its newer iteration — Emsculpt NEO — and how they work, we tapped three experts. And I share my experience with the treatment, too.

What is Emsculpt?

Emsculpt is an FDA-cleared, non-invasive sculpting device that uses High Intensity Focused Electromagnetic (HIFEM) technology to strengthen, firm, and tone muscle. The treatment is cleared for use on the arms, calves, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs using small contour applicators. For the best results, Dendy Engelman, MD, a celebrity dermatologist at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue, says to do four, 30-minute sessions. 

Now, Emsculpt NEO is the newer, more advanced treatment. "By delivering radio frequency to destroy fat and a HIFEM procedure to stimulate the muscles, this innovative solution is clinically proven to reduce fat by 30% and increase muscle by 25% on average, each session," explains Joanna Vargas, a Manhattan-based celebrity facialist, founder of Joanna Vargas Salons (where she performs non-invasive treatments such as Emsculpt) and Skin Care, and author of “Glow From Within.”

What are the benefits of Emsculpt?

Both Emsculpt and Emsculpt NEO are going to tone and define the body, the main difference is that NEO strengthens muscles and melts fat. As opposed to other body contouring treatments, such as CoolSculpt or any type of fat transfer, there is zero downtime post-Emsculpt.

Are there side effects to getting Emsculpt?

As long as you're a candidate and in the hands of a licensed professional, there shouldn't be any side effects. However, anyone with metal implants, people who are pregnant, and those with pacemakers should avoid the treatment. But regardless of your medical history, it's best to consult a licensed expert before trying the treatment to make sure they answer all your questions and concerns.

emsculpt review

Courtesy of Joanna Vargas

What does the Emsculpt treatment entail?

Pre-treatment, your provider will ask if you have any metal in your body as that could become disabled during the treatment. (And yes, this includes copper IUDs.) In the same vain, people must remove all jewelry pre-treatment, too.

First, the area is cleaned of any lotions to ensure a clean start. Then, a paddle is placed on the targeted area — the approved treatment areas are the abdomen, glutes, and thighs. "The provider will then start the treatment, you’ll feel pulses contracting the muscles. If you’re doing Emsculpt NEO, you’ll also feel a warming sensation, similar to a heating pad," shares Mercedes Doan, licensed esthetician and manager of esthetic services and education at Ever/Body. "Your provider will increase the intensity throughout the treatment based on your tolerance."

If you're doing traditional Emsculpt, Dr. Engelman says the device emits HIFEM energy which causes involuntary supramaximal contractions. "One 30-minute session achieves the equivalent of 20,000 crunches, or squats/reps," she explains.

After your treatment, Doan suggests drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated. "Stretching and consuming an adequate amount of protein may help improve your results," she adds. In addition, when I got the treatment I was encouraged to do quick, one-minute lymphatic drainage massages on my treatment area, which I diligently did.

For the best results, Dr. Engelman say four 30-minute sessions are recommended. "For Emsculpt, you should see results within two to four weeks after your last treatment, and they'll keep improving for up to three months," adds Doan. "For Emsculpt NEO, most people see their best results three months after their fourth treatment." 

My review on Emsculpt:

I started getting Emsculpt NEO treatments at Ever/Body toward the end of the summer. During my first treatment, I experienced more intense contractions than I did with the other follow-up treatments, which my provider and I realized was because I had done an intense ab routine the morning of, hence making my abs tighter. Other than that, there wasn't any pain associated with it. The paddles heat up as a result of the radiofrequency, but all that means sensation-wise is that your provider has to wipe the sweat away every 10-ish minutes. And of course, the contractions are quite the feeling as all your muscles tighten up. It's uncomfortable, but not painful. With the right attitude you can laugh it away, as I did every treatment.

Results-wise, consider me impressed. I got four treatments over the course of a month. I noticed more defined ab lines on my upper abs after the second treatment, but I was even more impressed when I noticed a flatter and more defined lower ab area after finishing all my sessions.

Now, it's been a few months since my the final treatment and I'm still seeing the results. To say I'm thrilled would be an understatement, and while I started off a little skeptical, I'm a complete convert now.

The Splurge is our recurring column dedicated to expensive beauty products that are worth it. 

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