What was once a pipedream is now reality: getting rid of fat permanently without having to go under the knife. Las Vegas plastic surgeon Terrence Higgins, MD, says whether you choose to go the noninvasive route or opt for something more invasive, like surgery, these treatments work best for those who are in good shape, and not overweight, with just pockets of resistant fat.
What it is: A selective radio-frequency treatment performed in 30–40 minute sessions to target deeper tissues in the body and reduce fat
How it works: The panel array hovers over the area to be treated, and, using real-time tuning circuitry (similar to tuning a radio), heat energy is delivered precisely to the area of stubborn fat.
Best for targeting fat on: The abdomen, love handles and thighs
What the doctor says: “It usually involves a series of treatments that produce a noticeable improvement in most patients without pain, an incision, or any recovery time. Like any of the noninvasive fat removal technologies, it is not as predictable or as effective as liposuction,” says La Jolla, CA, plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD.
What it is: A cryolypolysis-based treatment that permanently gets rid of fat
How it works: A vacuum-like applicator with cooling plates is placed on the area and then fat is sucked up into it (there’s also a surface applicator for nonpinchable fat such as the outer thighs), which cools skin and destroys fat cells, as they are literally frozen. The frozen cells then die and are naturally eliminated from the body over the next few months. “While it’s not a replacement for surgery, you can see a reduction in fat after one treatment, and it’s permanent,” says Great Neck, NY, plastic surgeon Kevin Tehrani, MD.
Best for targeting fat on: The stomach, love handles and thighs
What the doctor says:“The discovery of cryolipolysis has sparked an explosion in the field of noninvasive fat reduction,” says Duxbury, MA, plastic surgeon Christine Hamori, MD. “Plus, the results that are now obtainable with CoolSculpting have really improved over the years. Skeptical patients see noticeable results in one area and promptly book another treatment for other parts of their body.”
What it is: A micro-invasive skin tightener that uses radio frequency and heat to destroy fatty pockets
How it works: ThermiTight uses the same principle behind a radiofrequency device, but on a different level—a probe goes under the skin through a small incision to shrink the tissue and melt the fat.
Best for targeting fat on: The neck and other small parts of the body
What the doctor says:“Radio frequency uses heat, that when applied to the treatment area, tightens skin and may diminish some fat,” says Dr. Tehrani. To get rid of this patient’s unwanted fat that did not respond to a healthy diet and exercise, Mountlake Terrace, WA, plastic surgeon Richard A. Baxter, MD, performed a single treatment of Liposonix, which contoured the waistline.
What it is: A one-hour procedure that relies on high-intensity focused ultrasound to get rid of fat
How it works: Using ultrasound, Liposonix sends energy deep within the skin to destroy unwanted fat without disrupting the skin or surrounding tissues. The treatment head is placed on the area, and as the energy hits the fat, it creates a continuous lesion to destroy it. Then, the body naturally eliminates the fat. According to the company, after one treatment session, which can sometimes be accompanied by discomfort, cold, prickling, tingling or warmth, about one inch can be lost from the waistline (after eight to 12 weeks post-treatment).
Best for targeting fat on: The flanks, abdomen and waistline
What the doctor says:According to Dr. Tehrani, Liposonix is more painful than other fat-melting options because it uses highly focused ultrasound to destroy fat. “It is also time consuming to treat large areas of the body, so it’s limited in its use.”
What it is: While liposuction isn’t a noninvasive treatment, it does offer permanent fat reduction like surgery, so it often falls on the outskirts of the nonsurgical category.
How it works: Liposuction is still the most reliable way to permanently get rid of fat without the worry that some patients experience with other treatments (whether or not they’ll get enough fat reduction to be happy with the result). No matter which area is treated with liposuction, a tiny incision is made (it’s barely visible once you’re healed) and a cannula is inserted, which suctions out the fat.
Best for targeting fat on: The entire body—there’s no area it can’t treat
What the doctor says: “Liposuction continues to be the most precise tool to sculpt away fatty defects,” says Beverly Hills. CA, plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon, MD. “Both liposuction and nonsurgical techniques have been proven to work, but the surgical approach is more accurate and effective and has a longer and better track record.”