What is Body Sculpting and How Does it Work?


There’s no such thing as the “perfect body,” but many of us have areas we wish were more tightened and toned. Exercise and diet only take you so far—especially for stubborn areas that don’t seem to budge no matter how many squats or crunches you do. 

That’s where body sculpting (or body contouring) treatments come in. These non-surgical, in-office treatments use a non-invasive approach to reduce fat cells—and there are plenty of options if this feels like the treatment for you. 

What is non-surgical body sculpting and how does it work?

Body sculpting is the process of destroying fat cells with extreme temperatures, sonic vibrations, or acid injections to help the body flush them out of pesky areas. Most treatments can be done through non-invasive procedures that come with little to no side effects. 

There are five different types of body contouring treatments to choose from. While you may get similar results with each type, these methods can look and feel vastly different. 

The most common forms of body contouring are:

  1. Cryolipolysis
  2. Laser fat reduction
  3. Ultrasound fat reduction
  4. Deoxycholic acid injections
  5. Muscle stimulation

Here’s what you can expect from different kinds of body sculpting treatments, including what they normally cost and the typical side effects. 

    #1 Cryolipolysis

    Cryolipolysis, commonly referred to by the brand name CoolSculpting® (an Allergan product), is the process of destroying fat cells by freezing them. The temperature at which fat freezes is low enough that it won’t cause damage to the skin, making it a great option for contouring in areas that have been resistant to diet and exercise. 

    CoolSculpting is performed via a machine that sucks up problem areas—typically the belly, thighs, or butt. The device then cools these areas to the proper temperature, leaving the destroyed fat cells in a frozen-like state.

    While CoolSculpting has been found to effectively reduce body fat in targeted areas by 20-25%, results are not instantaneous.1 This is because it takes time for dead fat cells to be removed from the body and for significant weight loss to be noticeable. Results can be accelerated through massage.2

    Cost: $2,000 to $4,000 per session.3

    Side effects: Patients may experience a tugging sensation at the target site, pain or stinging, and temporary redness or swelling. If these symptoms appear, they will typically be mild and stop within 3 to 11 days.4

    #2 Laser Fat Reduction

    On the opposite end of the thermometer, body contouring can also be achieved through heat. Laser fat reduction, often referred to by the brand name SculpSure® (a CYNOSURE product), uses wavelengths to heat fat cells to an inhospitable temperature.

    This heat is safe on skin and internal organs, while remaining hot enough (107.6 to 116 degrees Fahrenheit) to eliminate stubborn fat. After 25 minutes, the cosmetic procedure is complete, and fat cells in the area should begin to break down. The entire process can take up to 12 weeks for your lymphatic system to fully flush out the dead fat cells and result in the minimizing of loose skin.5 

    Cost: $1,400 to $1,500 per session. 

    Side effects: Minor pain during the procedure can occur, but will usually subside once finished. In the days following a heated body contouring treatment, you may experience mild stiffness or bruising in the target areas. 

    #3 Ultrasound Fat Reduction

    Ultrasound fat reduction breaks down fat cells using highly focused sonic waves which help your body metabolize the fat and reduce unwanted fat pockets through vibrations. This form of body contouring is rubbed across your abdomen.

    FDA-approved ultrasound fat reduction treatments include UltraShape (a pulsed ultrasound technology) and Liposonix (a high-intensity focused ultrasound).

    Cost: Roughly $1,300 each session. This number can vary depending on the type of machine being used and the amount of work done.

    Side effects: Ultrasonic radiofrequency body sculpting will have similar side effects as a heated treatment. A hot feeling and increased sweating at the target area are normal during the body contour procedure.

    #4 Deoxycholic Acid Injections

    Deoxycholic acid is a naturally occurring bile in the body that helps break down fat during digestion. For body sculpting purposes, this acid can be injected into targeted areas using a syringe. 

    Because this is the only form of nonsurgical body sculpting that requires an injection, the procedure will typically be done under local anesthesia. The only FDA-approved brand of deoxycholic acid injections is known as Kybella® (an Allergan product), and it is currently allowed to be administered to the area under the chin, only. 

    About 59% of people who undergo Kybella injections required six sessions for optimal results. These sessions must be at least a month apart.6

    Cost: $1,200 to $1,800 depending on the fees charged by your technician.

    Side effects: Pain, swelling, bruising, and a feeling of numbness can all occur following this type of treatment. Typically, these side effects (if mild) will subside in a week or two. Rarely, this procedure can result in more serious effects to jaw movement, but this is not a common result of a Kybella procedure.

    #5 Muscle Stimulation

    The final form of body sculpting involves toning the arm or abdominal muscles. Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is done through the use of electromagnetic energy that essentially strains and contracts the muscles the way exercise would. These contractions cause microtears and fat consumption within the muscles. Over time, this process can help build muscle in the same way a workout routine would—but without all the sweating.7

    Brands like CoolSculpting have also moved into the muscle toning market, with their own procedure known as CoolTone® (an Allergan product). Using a deep penetration of the body’s fat layer, combined with cooling technology, CoolTone works double time at dissolving excess fat and building muscle tone.

    Cost: $500 to $600, with an average of at least four sessions needed to achieve desired results.8

    Side effects: The most common side effect of EMS is involuntary twitching of the muscles in the treated area. Muscle pain and redness of the skin are also possible, but should not be intense or last an extended period of time. The side effects of a muscle stimulation procedure may feel similar to the tenderness following an intense workout

    No matter which path to body sculpting you choose, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the potential risks and side effects. Additionally, always do your research when choosing a treatment facility, and make sure you’re receiving these procedures from a trusted, certified professional. 

    How to Improve Body Sculpting Results  

    While body contouring can provide noticeable changes on its own, many providers recommend making the most of your investment by using a topical product that can accelerate and maximize your results. ALASTIN’s patented TransFORM Body Treatment with TriHex Technology® is a leading formula in the space, created specifically for use after a body contouring procedure. With TriHex Technology®, this product works to help plump skin and promote collagen production. 

    After receiving a sculpting treatment, your body needs time to break down the fat being targeted, and results can often take several weeks for significant weight loss to become visible. By using TransFORM Body Treatment, you can help speed up the process by supporting the removal of dead fat cells.

    Taking care of the skin covering your targeted areas will also help return elasticity and potentially prevent excess sagging skin following the procedure. For better results, increased collagen, and additional toning toned figure—use TransFORM Body Treatment with TriHex Technology® following any body-sculpting procedure. 

     

    Sources:

    1. “Does Fat Freezing and Non-Surgical Body Sculpting Work?” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 21 Aug. 2020, health.clevelandclinic.org/does-fat-freezing-and-non-surgical-body-sculpting-work/.
    2. Johnson, Emmanuel Nse. “How Can You Improve CoolSculpting Results?” Barnstable-Hyannis, MA Patch, Patch, 11 Jan. 2017, patch.com/massachusetts/barnstable-hyannis/how-can-you-improve-coolsculpting-results.
    3. “CoolSculpting® Cost, Results, & Info: CoolSculpting®.” CoolSculpting® Cost, Results, & Info | CoolSculpting®, www.coolsculpting.com/what-is-coolsculpting/faqs/
    4. Healthline. CoolSculpting: Risks and Side Effects. https://www.healthline.com/health/coolsculpting-risks#who-should-avoid-coolsculpting
    5. Wisco, Lucie. “SculpSure: How to Prepare, Procedure, and Cost - Healthline.” Healthline, 14 July 2017, www.healthline.com/health/sculpsure
    6. Wisco, Lucie. “Kybella: Injectable Double Chin Reduction.” Healthline, 15 June 2018, www.healthline.com/health/kybella
    7. “EMS Body Sculpting: Non-Invasive Body Contouring.” SepiSpa, 9 Apr. 2020, sepispa.com/ems-body-sculpting/.
    8. Repinski, Karyn. “CoolTone Muscle Toning & Body Contouring: RealSelf.” RealSelf.com, RealSelf, 18 Aug. 2020, www.realself.com/cooltone.

     

    Article Reviewed by Wendy Johnson
    Wendy Johnson

    Vice President, Marketing

    Wendy Johnson brings to Alastin Skincare over 22 years of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and aesthetics industry experience in various sales, training, marketing and thought leader development roles.

    After spending 10 years in gastroenterology at Tap Pharmaceuticals and Prometheus Laboratories, with sales and marketing oversight for in-line and pre-launch products, Mrs. Johnson transitioned to an aesthetic career at SkinMedica in 2004. While there, she was responsible for marketing one of the top 2 branded prescription hydroquinones, launching a leading branded low potency steroid, and oversight of the acne franchise line extensions.

    In 2010, Wendy joined Merz North America where she developed and managed the Physician Relations department in support of injectable, topical and device business units under Medical Affairs, before transitioning into managing a Regional Aesthetics Marketing team.


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