Can you really freeze your fat? The body sculpting treatments to know about this summer

Georgia Chambers
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Can you really freeze your fat? The body sculpting treatments you need to know about this summer

It's the end of May, tights season is officially over and many of us will be trying our best for the beach.

Hitting the gym twice a day isn't for everyone, so it's not surprising many are turning to alternative methods to help shift the pounds in the run-up to their summer holidays.

Across the UK, dozens of cosmetic surgery clinics now offer non-surgical fat-reducing treatments that promise a toned and sculpted body without having to go under the knife.

These treatments use a variety of technologies to eliminate unwanted fat and are typically described as "non-invasive" as they don't involve cutting into the skin.

They also require little to no downtime and can be performed without local anaesthetic. What's more, the sessions are so quick that you can book an appointment during your lunch break.

Sound too good to be true? The Standard consulted with plastic surgeons and cosmeticians to get the low down on whether these non-surgical treatments actually work - and what you should think about before trying them.

CoolSculpting

CoolSculpting works by freezing fat cells (Pulse Light Clinic)

Fat freezing, or 'CoolSculpting,' as it is known by its brand name, works by freezing the fat cells, essentially killing them off.

During treatment, a gel pad and applicator will be applied to the specific area, delivering controlled cooling to the targeted area.

According to the CoolScultping website, most patients see results between 2 and 6 months depending on the area being treated.

How it works

Freezing your fat off may seem ridiculous, but there's some method in the madness, explains Dr Marsh, a plastic surgeon and British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) council member.

"Because fat has got a high percentage of water in it, it freezes at a different rate to normal cells," he said.

"Therefore, delivering a cold temperature to the targeted area will kill the fat cells at a different rate while leaving the normal cells alive.

"Your body will then absorb the excess fat and excrete it," he added.

PROS

Because there's no recovery period involved, you can get back to business as usual in no time.

As non-surgical procedures go, CoolSculpting is great for getting rid of smaller, stubborn areas of fat as it targets specific areas of the body.

"It's ideal for when you want to have a small reduction in the amount of fat like the love handles or upper thighs," said Dr Marsh.

Are there any side effects? Who should avoid CoolSculpting?

Lucy Dawe is a senior technician at the Pulse Light Clinic in Bank, London, which offers CoolSculpting treatment to its clients.

"Following the procedure, typical side effects include redness, swelling, blanching, bruising, firmness, tingling, tenderness, cramping, aching, itching, skin sensitivity and numbness," she said.

"Numbness can last up to several weeks, however, it's not noticeable after the first week."

Lucy also advised against obese patients, pregnant women and those who have recently had surgery undergoing CoolSculpting treatment.

EMSculpt

EMSculpt uses electromagnetic energy to tighten and firm skin (Dr Rita Rakus clinic )

EMSculpt uses high intensity, electromagnetic energy to create muscle contraction, leaving the targeted area looking more toned.

Sessions last around 30 minutes each, and around 4 sessions are needed on average to see results.

The EMSculpt brand is so convinced that their treatment works, it claims that one session is the equivalent to doing 20,000 sit-ups.

How it works

Unlike CoolSculpting, which targets the fat cells, EMSculpt focuses on the muscle cells.

"EMSculpt causes the muscle cells to contract by passing little electric currents through them," explains Dr Marsh.

"This, therefore, causes the muscle cells to increase in size because they're being used more, so the actual bulk of the muscle increases."

PROS

As the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared device approved to burn fat and build muscle mass, EMSculpt does seem to produce results.

A clinical study of 22 users concluded that patients experienced on average 20 per cent reduction in body fat in that time, and a 15 per cent increase in muscle in their stomachs and buttocks.

CONS

Because EMSculpt targets muscle cells, not fat cells, it's not a very effective treatment for those wanting to get rid of excess fat on their body.

Dr Marsh said: "It's less of a fat-reducing treatment and more of a toner and tends to work better for people who are already slim and are looking to tone up their abs or glutes."

Are there any side effects? Who should avoid EMSculpt?

Dr Rita Rakus is a world-leading cosmetic doctor, with over 25 years' experience within the aesthetic industry and offers EMSculpt treatments from her clinic in Knightsbridge.

She says that whilst initial sessions can feel "intense," the sensation is similar to a rigorous workout. You can lay down and relax during treatment and there is no residual pain or downtime.

"But there are restrictions on people who we wouldn't recommend EMSculpt to," she added.

"For example, anyone who has metal in their bodies, such as a woman with a copper IUD coil, as the metal will interfere with the technology.

"Also anyone with muscular conditions or epilepsy."

Dr Rakus advises EMSculpt is not intended for those who are seriously overweight.

She said: "If they start with over 7cms of fat we would recommend that they have a fat reduction treatment first. Once the fat has been reduced below 7cms, EMSculpt can work to its maximum capacity to burn fat and target and tone the muscles."

NuEra Tight

NuEra Tight uses radiofrequency to tighten the skin, giving an overall smoother look (Renee Lapino)

NuEra Tight uses radio frequency to tighten the skin on the face and body.

During treatment, two electrodes emit powerful radio frequency waves to the target area to heat the skin's surface, temporarily reducing the appearance of cellulite.

How it works

Instead of using cooling technology like CoolSculpting, NuEra Tight delivers a heating sensation between the skin and the muscle, tightening the skin as a result.

"NuEra Tight uses radio frequency to break down the tissues between the skin and the muscles," says Dr Marsh.

"What it's supposed to do is to tighten the skin by causing almost a heat-like sensation under the skin, making the skin cells retract and tighten which causes mild inflammation.

"And when you have inflammation under the skin, it causes retraction, therefore tightening the skin somewhat."

PROS

Like other non-surgical procedures, NuEraTight involves no recovery period, although your muscles may feel sore for a day or two.

As the NuEra Tight technology works to smooth and tighten the skin, it can be an ideal treatment for those wanting to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

CONS

NuEra Tight has so far shown modest results and there are few studies out there supporting its effectiveness.

"If you look at all the studies, they've been very low numbers and they've been quite biased how they're set up and the outcome points are fairly vague," said Dr Marsh.

Are there any side effects? Who should avoid NuEra Tight?

Renée Lapino is a leading skincare expert and offers NuEra Tight from her clinic in Notting Hill.

"There are no negative side effects," she said. "You can even go out in the sun immediately after treatment if you like.

"However, anyone with a pacemaker or electric impulse cannot have the treatment. We also do not treat pregnant mothers and we cannot treat over metal implants."

T-Shape

T-Shape uses a combination of technologies to sculpt the body (EF MEDIA SPA)

T-Shape uses a combination of radio frequency, laser and vacuum technology which its creators, the Baldan Group, claims treat cellulite, boosts collagen and helps with body sculpting.

How it works

Esther Fieldgrass, CEO and founder of EF MEDISPA in Kensington, which offers T-Shape to its clients, explains how each technology works.

"Multipolar and bipolar radio frequency heats the dermis to trigger new collagen production, tighten and firm the skin with Low-Level Laser Technology breaking down fat cells to target stubborn fat," she said.

"Finally, Vacuum Aspiration Technology, similar to a mechanical massage, improves blood circulation and stimulates lymphatic drainage to eliminate toxins and reduce the appearance of cellulite."

PROS

Like the other treatments listed, the plus of T-Shape is that it involves minimal discomfort and no downtime.

"This means that you can return to your normal, day-to-day activities with immediate effect post-treatment," said Esther.

"It's the perfect treatment plan to slot into a busy schedule.

CONS

Whilst T-Shape may promise a lot, it's unlikely that it will banish your cellulite, explains Dr Marsh.

"As a plastic surgeon and a doctor, I do not know of any permanent or effective treatment for cellulite," he said.

"The T-Shape appears to cause local swelling and inflammation, which may cause a temporary improvement in the appearance of the treated area.

"Once any swelling and inflammation are resolved it is likely that the cellulite would still be visible."

Are there any side effects? Who should avoid T-Shape?

Esther explains that although T-Shape treatment has "minimal side effects," clients may notice "temporary redness" and "slight bruising" immediately after treatment.

"But this will soon subside," she added.

"Clients should also avoid sun exposure on the treated areas for two weeks and maintain a healthy diet."

Esther also advised that those individuals who should avoid T-Shape treatment include those with varicose veins and excessive loose skin.