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With the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can be hard to hit all your fitness goals. This might especially ring true if you’re a woman since biologically, the female form holds on to more body fat (so unfair, we know). Even the most athletic and nutritionally-conscious may have trouble areas that resist diet and exercise. Does this mean that surgery is your only option? Not quite. There are non-invasive treatments available that aid fat shedding, one of which is WarmSculpting with SculpSure.
This new addition to the body contouring family was FDA-approved in 2017 and developed by Cynosure, Inc, which is a division of Hologic, a trailblazing cosmetic pharmaceutical company that’s leading the way in beauty aesthetics. According to the Dermatology Times, SculpSure can be applied to a person’s submental area (the area underneath your chin), abdomen, flanks, back, and inner or outer thighs. Though SculpSure is relatively new to the game, celebrities love it for red carpet appearances. E! News reports that Lance Bass, Jackie Cruz, and Kyle Richards are a few vocal fans of the treatment. More recently, Brooke Shields joins the list of SculpSure’s high-end clientele with a series of endorsements on the SculpSure Instagram page.
Below, we break down the nitty-gritty and everything to know before scheduling your first SculpSure appointment.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Jennifer Walden, MD, FACS, is a New York City-based SculpSure pro and board-certified surgeon. Walden is also the first woman to serve as a member of the executive committee for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
- Dr. David Goldberg MD, JD, is a board-certified dermatologist of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. He is recognized for his innovative techniques in skin lasers, cosmetic dermatology, and non-invasive facial and body rejuvenation.
What Is SculpSure?
SculpSure is a convenient body contouring treatment that can be done in a medical office in less than an hour without disrupting the skin’s surface. So, you can quite literally get it done during your lunch break and your coworkers would never be the wiser.
The laser that’s used in a SculpSure treatment causes a process that’s called apoptosis, which gently heats up fat cells and shrinks them so they can be expelled through the body’s lymphatic system as waste. In the weeks after your treatment, you’ll see a permanent reduction in those persistent, unwanted pockets of body fat.
Goldberg says the treatment is meant for patients who want to get some fat reduction and can be used on various body areas. "It is meant for people who are in pretty good shape who want some help ‘melting’ a little extra fat."
For the skeptics out there, SculpSure is classified as a permanent fat-reduction treatment. According to Walden, “Clinical studies show it will help to destroy up to 25% of fat cells in the treated area. After the treatment, fat cells will not regenerate.”
However, before you start celebrating never having to watch what you eat again, Walden stresses that SculpSure is not a magical laser. “If someone gains weight after SculpSure, remaining fat cells will increase in size and it can diminish the results that were achieved. SculpSure doesn't affect the caloric intake or the body's ability to gain the weight,” she says.
In other words, permanent fat reduction after SculpSure has to be maintained with a balanced lifestyle, which includes eating nutritious and portion-sized foods, working out, getting enough sleep, and so forth.
Benefits of SculpSure
- "Melts" stubborn pockets of fat
- Destroys fat cells
- Can help a patient achieve desired aesthetics
- Minimal discomfort during treatment
- Can use to treat various areas of the body, including the face
- Improves definition of the treated area
Although SculpSure is an innovative treatment for fat reduction, clients should go into their appointment with realistic expectations. Unlike liposuction and similar surgical procedures, SculpSure is not a weight-loss treatment that supplies drastic results. According to Walden, SculpSure is most effective for, “someone with a BMI under 30 who leads an active lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet, but still has stubborn pockets of body fat and is looking to aesthetically improve the appearance of those certain areas.”
When it comes to facial contouring, SculpSure can be helpful in some areas for fat reduction. As mentioned previously, the procedure is approved for submental use, which means you can target double chins and untoned neck or jawlines. “[Facial] SculpSure can be effectively done on someone with a BMI greater than 30,” Walden explains. “A special applicator is adjusted to the area under the chin and gentle heat will target the fat cells below the surface of the skin.”
If you are looking to reduce the fullness of your cheeks, unfortunately, SculpSure will not be effective. Walden’s reasoning? This type of fat is much deeper and needs to be removed carefully by a gifted surgeon via an intraoral incision.
How to Prepare for SculpSure
SculpSure may be a non-invasive treatment, however, there are some other considerations you may need to take before you book a consultation. If you have a serious or minor medical or health condition, you should definitely consult a trusted physician or an advanced level practitioner prior to treatment. Pregnant women cannot be treated with SculpSure. Walden also recommends avoiding sun exposure during the week prior to treatment.
What to Expect During a SculpSure Treatment
Depending on the area being treated, your provider will have you either sit or lie down before strapping on the SculpSure device. First, you'll feel a cooling sensation that is applied during the entire treatment to combat the rising temperature of the fat cells and keep the skin comfortable. The machine switches between cool and warming cycles throughout the 25-minute treatment and Dr. Goldberg says to expect a general sense of warmth. Though you may also feel more of the cooling sensation or some tingling periodically (nothing major).
Before and After
“The best results can be seen when someone receives between two to three sessions in the same area,” Walden explains. Moreover, improvement can be noticed as early as six weeks after treatment, which is when the "after" photo was taken of this patient. Further definition will be achieved within the following six weeks so long as you keep up a healthy diet and exercise plan. Here, the patient saw significant results after receiving two profile treatments with six weeks between each.
SculpSure vs. CoolSculpting
SculpSure utilizes targeted laser energy to heat up fat cells and melt them away. This might sound similar to CoolSculpting in that it also destroys fat cells with temperature manipulation, however, CoolSculpting uses a process called cryolipolysis, which involves controlled cooling to freeze fat cells to death.
At the surface level, both treatments can offer similar results when it comes to fat reduction. In Walden’s professional experience, though, SculpSure comes out on top. “SculpSure applicators can be applied on both pinchable and non-pinchable body fat, whereas CoolSculpting works nicely on areas with pinchable body fat,” she points out. If you’re on a time crunch as well, SculpSure is the definite winner. “The SculpSure procedure is only 25 minutes for four applicators. CoolSculpting treatments will take 35 minutes or more per applicator.”
Potential Side Effects
Like any other cosmetic procedure, there are a few side effects you should be aware of beforehand. “After SculpSure treatment, someone can experience slight swelling, tingling, or redness in the treated area, but it will resolve on its own in a few hours,” Walden explains. “Occasionally, someone can feel tender for a few days.”
Depending on the results you’re trying to achieve, the number of treatments you need may vary. Like mentioned before, most people who get SculpSure done benefit from two or three sessions, but certain areas like the lower abs or thighs might need additional treatments for a more contoured appearance.
On the flip side, Dr. Goldberg mentions that often results can be satisfactory with a simple one-time procedure. "Depending on the size of the area being treated, costs can be anywhere between $1,000 -$4,000," he adds.
“It is important to advise patients that SculpSure permanently reduces only a certain amount of fat cells,” Walden notes. She goes on to explain that weight management is imperative to maintain your results since it wouldn’t be ideal to rely on SculpSure as a catchall. And with a national average cost of about $2,175, getting infinite treatments would just make your wallet cry out for help.
Since SculpSure is not an invasive treatment like surgery, there is no downtime. “Daily activities can be resumed right away,” says Walden, which is great for those who don’t want to interrupt their lifestyle or work schedule. Even better, SculpSure patients don’t have to worry about scarring or any other marks that indicate they’ve undergone treatment.
You'll also want to get a bit hands-on following treatment. “It is recommended to apply five-minute massages to the treated area two times a day for two weeks," she says. "It will encourage lymphatic drainage, minimize swelling, and will assist in the elimination of the fat cells.”
When it comes to sun exposure, it’s recommended that you remain indoors as much as possible post-treatment. According to Walden, “SculpSure is, by definition, laser energy—albeit subcutaneous.” She advises patients to avoid the sun one week before and one week after treatment. If stepping outside is unavoidable for you, make sure to apply sunscreen with a high SPF.
The Final Takeaway
Sometimes no amount of diet and exercise can phase a good pocket of fat cells. SculpSure could very well be the little extra "oomph" you need to finally bid adieu to those stubborn areas—sans the operation table.
Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. "Safety and Efficacy of a Non-Invasive 1060 nm Diode Laser for Fat Reduction of the Abdomen." Jan 1, 2018.