What are Non-Invasive Body Contouring Treatments?

There is an increasing demand for non-surgical, non-invasive treatment options for body contouring. Many people want to get rid of stubborn pockets of fat without the downtime and risks of surgery. They want better body definition that diet and exercise cannot deliver. There are many different FDA-cleared treatment devices on the market. We will briefly discuss the six different types of treatments available and the pros and cons of non-invasive body contouring.

What is an ideal candidate for non-invasive body contouring?

  1. You should be at your ideal weight.
  2. You have stubborn pockets of fat that diet and exercise will not fix. Non-invasive body contouring treatments are not obesity treatments. Your BMI should be less than 30.
  3. You must have realistic expectations. Non-invasive body contouring treatments are not a substitute for surgery or liposuction.
  4. You do not want the risks of surgery, general anesthesia, and scarring.
  5.  You want little or no downtime and few side effects.
  6. Non-invasive body contouring treatment is not a weight-loss treatment.
  7. You should not be pregnant. Consult with your doctor if you are breastfeeding.  

What are the different types of non-invasive body contouring treatments?

Cryolipolysis (Coolsculpting)

Cryolipolysis uses cold to freeze and destroy fat cells permanently. The dead fat cells are eliminated from the body as waste via the lymphatic system.  

  • It is FDA-approved to treat and remove fat on the buttocks, thighs, abdomen, hips, back, arms, and chin.  
  • Patients can expect to see a 25% reduction in fat with each treatment.  
  • You will start to see results in as little as a month, but maximum results take 2-3 months.  
  • The treatments can take 30-60 minutes.  
  • Most patients need several treatments. 
  • Patients experience an intense cold feeling, numbness, and a pulling or pinching sensation during the treatments. 
  • There is no downtime with the treatments.
  • The most common side effects include redness, swelling, numbness, tingling sensation, and discomfort.  
  • More severe but rare side effects are prolonged numbness and paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (increased fat in non-treated areas).
  • Cryolipolysis is safe for all skin types.  
  • People with cold urticaria, cryoglobulinemia, pacemaker, or active cancer should not receive these treatments.
Cryolipolysis

Laser (Sculpsure)

Laser treatments utilize heat to permanently and selectively destroy fat cells without harming the skin. The lymphatic system removes these dead fat cells from the body as waste.  

  • It is FDA-approved to treat fat on the abdomen and flanks, but it is used off-label to treat other areas.  
  • Each treatment can result in a 24% reduction in fat.
  • Patients will begin to notice fat loss in 6 weeks, with maximum results visible in 12 weeks. 
  •  The treatments can take 25 minutes.  
  • Several sessions are usually needed.  
  • Most patients experience a painless warm sensation during the treatments.
  • There is no downtime.
  • The most common side effects are transient redness, bruising, soreness, and tingling in the treated areas.
  • Sculpsure is safe for all skin types.
  • People with pacemakers cannot have treatments.

Injections (Kybella)

Kybella (deoxycholic acid) injections permanently break down fat cells, which are eliminated in the lymphatic system as waste.  

  • It is FDA-approved to treat the chin area but is used off-label to treat other areas. 
  • You may notice a 25% reduction in fat. 
  • You will begin to notice fat loss within days, with maximum results after 4-6 weeks.  
  • The treatments only take about 15-20 minutes. 
  • You will need several treatment sessions.
  • Patients report a burning or tingling sensation during the treatments.
  • There is no downtime, but you should avoid heat or exercise for 24 hours.
  • The most common side effects are transient redness, swelling, numbness, and bruising.  
  • More severe but rare side effects include facial weakness, difficulty swallowing, and prolonged numbness.
  • It is safe for all skin types.
  • You should not receive treatment if you have an active infection in the area.

Ultrasound (Ultrashape, Liposonix)

Focused ultrasound (sonic waves) permanently breaks down and destroys fat cells. These fat cells are eliminated from the body as waste through the lymphatic system.  

  • It is FDA-approved to treat the abdomen and flanks but is used off-label to treat other areas.  
  • Patients report a 32% reduction in fat.
  • You will begin to notice fat loss in a few weeks, and maximum results are visible in 6-12 weeks.  
  • Each treatment takes 30-45 minutes and is performed every two weeks.  
  • Multiple treatments are needed. 
  • Treatments feel like a warm, tingling sensation.
  • There is virtually no downtime.
  • The most common side effects include itching or tingling, redness, bruising, swelling, and nodules. These disappear in a few weeks.
  • Rare blistering of the skin has occurred.
  • It is safe for all skin types.
  • You should not have these treatments if you have a pacemaker, metabolic disease, or active cancer.
Body Ultrasound

Red Light (Ultraslim)

When fat cells are exposed to a particular wavelength of light (red light), it causes them to release their contents and subsequently shrink in size. This modality does not destroy the fat cells.    

  • Ultraslim is FDA-approved to treat the abdomen, thighs, and hips but has been used off-label to treat other areas.  
  • Studies report a two-inch loss of fat with each treatment.
  • Results are visible about one hour after the treatment.
  • Each treatment takes about 30 minutes.  
  • It requires multiple treatments.
  • Patients report a warm sensation during the treatments.
  • There is no downtime, and you can resume normal activities immediately.
  • No side effects are reported.
  • It is safe for all skin types.
  • You should not get these treatments if you have active cancer or a pacemaker.

Radiofrequency (Trusculpt)

Radiofrequency treatments utilize heat to permanently destroy fat cells, which are eliminated through the lymphatic system as waste. It also tightens the skin and temporarily reduces the appearance of cellulite.  

  • It is FDA-approved to treat the abdomen, buttocks, thighs, and arms.  
  • One treatment will reduce fat by 25%. 
  • You will start to see results in 4-6 weeks with maximum results visible at 12 weeks.
  • The treatments only take 15 minutes per area. 
  • Multiple treatments can be performed if needed, but usually, one treatment is sufficient.  
  • Patients report a warm sensation during the treatments, like a hot stone massage.
  • There is no downtime, and you can resume normal activities and exercise immediately.
  • The most common side effects include redness, swelling, warmth, and tingling, which resolve quickly.
  • Rare side effects include lumps or tenderness.
  • It is safe for all skin types.
  • You should not get these treatments if you have a pacemaker or tumors.

Conclusion

There are numerous treatment modalities to remove stubborn pockets of fat that diet and exercise cannot. Every person and body is different. Have a consultation first to determine the right treatment for you. Make sure you choose a qualified provider who has experience in body contouring. Whatever treatment you get, you must adhere to a healthy lifestyle consisting of proper diet and exercise to maintain your new body.

Dr. Jennifer Trent

Dr. Jennifer Trent is a world-recognized dermatologist who has published over 40 articles in peer-reviewed journals and six chapters in various dermatologic textbooks on surgery and wound care. She also co-authored a book on dermatologic diseases and therapy, published by McGraw-Hill Co., Inc. Dr. Trent now writes for multiple digital and print publications and also consults and does editorial work.

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