Do Fat Melters Really Work?

Noninvasive fat fighters are big business for one reason: There’s no need for surgery. But are they as effective as their more invasive counterparts? Find out what the experts think.

“Currently we can heat and freeze fat with different modalities, which can all potentially cause death of the fat cell, but we don’t yet have one machine that can do everything we want it to do on every patient,” says New York facial plastic surgeon Lee Ann Klausner, MD.

Zerona

What it is: The noninvasive contouring procedure is said to fight unwanted areas of fat with a laser that emulsifies fat cells so that they can be dispelled by the body. Zerona is purportedly pain-, heat- and sensation-free since you lie below the lights (positioned over the body)—no devices come into physical contact with the skin. There is also said to be no post-treatment swelling, either.

The Pro: “I’ve offered Zerona in my office for almost four years and have found the treatments to be successful. Most patients lose between three-and-a-half to fiveand- a-half inches,” says New York plastic surgeon Michelle Copeland, MD. “While I feel that Zerona is effective, it is not as effective as liposuction.”

The Con: “There are multiple laser heads that hover above the body while you just lie there; and you have to follow a strict diet and exercise plan. There’s too much involved in this procedure that the patient needs to do outside of having the treatment done that makes me think there’s no way that it can provide good results. I just don’t buy it,” says Smithtown, NY, dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD.

The Verdict: While you may get results, they aren't as effective as Liposuction. “From what I’ve seen with Zerona, this treatment does not give the results it promises,” says Dr. Peredo.

Related: 10 Breakthrough Skin Firmers

Liposonix

What it is: A single treatment that destroys and eliminates unwanted fat with high-intensity focused ultrasound. This treatment—you’ll probably feel tingling or discomfort—is best for those who are at their ideal weight and living a healthy lifestyle, but have difficulty getting rid of stubborn fat in the love handles, waist or stomach. Though it is noninvasive with little to no downtime, there may be swelling and bruising at the treatment site.

The Pro: “The upside to Liposonix, which is marketed as a liposuction alternative, is that studies show a permanent reduction in the size of the waist with just one treatment as opposed to multiple treatments that some other fat-reducing treatments necessitate,” says Hermosa Beach, CA, dermatologist Annie Chiu, MD. “Contouring can also be achieved because the machine can be maneuvered and manipulated in such a way that we can sculpt areas like the saddlebags.”

The Con: “We tried this device in our office but found that the pain-tobenefit ratio was too high,” says Santa Monica, CA, dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD. “The discomfort was pretty extreme and some patients weren’t finishing their treatments, so we couldn’t gauge and quantify the end results.”

The Verdict: It works but it can hurt. While incisions or a recovery aren’t required, Liposonix can be uncomfortable if the highest energy levels are used. On the flip side, about one inch, on average, can be lost from one treatment. “Like all nonsurgical fat-reduction procedures, the results from Liposonix can vary from patient to patient,” says Dr. Shamban.

Related: 11 Foods That Fight Cellulite

CoolSculpting

What it is: A noninvasive, downtime-free way to hone in on stubborn fat. CoolSculpting uses a patented cooling process to target fat cells by pulling the fatty area between two cooling panels—this creates tightness on the skin with pressure— freezing them to death (the treatment takes anywhere from one to three hours). As the fat cells die—it takes a few months for the full effects to be seen—they are naturally eliminated from the body. The results, while long-lasting, are not instant and your skin may be temporarily bruised, swollen or numb. And, while it doesn’t address loose skin, it does treat fat.

The Pro: “I find this to be effective for the right candidate,” says Charlotte, NC, dermatologist Gilly Munavalli, MD. “It’s an excellent answer for healthy patients seeking to reduce fat in the abdomen, love handles and the muffin top, with little to no downtime. The results become more evident over time, so the improvement and gradual change, prevents anyone from asking the question, “What did you have done?”

The Con: “CoolSculpting got a lot of hype when it was first introduced—the concept of it is great, but expect for the skin to be sitting in the device for an hour or so while it’s being pulled and sucked,” says Dr. Chiu. “There’s also swelling that can last a few weeks. But, if you repeat the treatment one or two times, it can give good results, although it is not a replacement for liposuction.”

The Verdict: It works but you may be swollen for some time. If you’re not a candidate for liposuction (CoolSculpting is for smaller areas of fat), or would rather not endure surgery, this is an option. “I like it because it addresses hard-to-treat areas. The device works effectively despite the fact that it is noninvasive,” says Dr. Shamban. “While CoolSculpting works, we don’t know if it is the magic fat treatment that we are all looking for. Only time will tell,” says Dr. Chiu.

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