Top dermatologist Josh Fox on the science behind two new non surgical fat-removal techniques
For many people, losing those unsightly bulges without going under the knife (or dressing entirely in spandex) seems like wishful thinking. Everyone—both doctors and patients—has been searching for a way to “spot reduce,” or get rid of extra inches that otherwise won’t budge. Until now, that is.
“There are two procedures that just might be the answer to everybody’s prayers,” says Joshua Fox, M.D., a leading dermatologist and medical director of Advanced Dermatology of New York and New Jersey. “Right now, doctors have access to two new procedures that can smooth away dimples in the skin and actually eliminate fat deposits—something that before now required surgery or liposuction.”
Both procedures are also unique in that they’re the only two non-invasive fat-reduction methods to get clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
And while that might seem like a pipe dream, Dr. Fox explains that both methods—each of which uses a futuristic device that looks like it’s straight out of a sci-fi movie—actually rely on fairly simple science to achieve their results.
The Big Chill with Zeltig
The first new procedure, Zeltiq, employs a space-age CoolSculpting device that uses controlled cooling (something called selective cryolipolysis) to essentially freeze fat cells in the area being treated. The cold causes the fat inside the cells to crystallize, which kills the cells and allows them to be reabsorbed into the body. Dr. Fox notes that fat cells, like all the other types of cells in the body, die naturally on their own. “This just speeds the process, creating a deficit of fat cells in the area being treated and thereby reducing the overall mass of fat there.” After about three or four months (the time it takes the cells to die and disappear), you’ll see a slimmer bulge, he says. He notes that there’s significant evidence that cold temperatures induce necrosis (death) in fat cells,
The Zeltiq device is about the size of a fat paperback novel; it’s attached to a small hose that delivers suction. In a treatment, the doctor or cool sculpting technician moves the device over the area to be treated, where it pulls the bulge into place and administers a dose of fat-freezing cold; a treatment lasts about an hour. “Most people say the treatments are uneventful or only mildly uncomfortable,” says Dr. Fox. “You’ll feel a slight tug and your skin getting cold, then going numb as the cells are frozen.” Afterwards, you might see some redness or bruising, but most patients say they don’t see any ill effects. Most areas need just one Zeltiq treatment, but a bigger area might require two.
Lighten Up with Zerona
The second procedure, called Zerona, uses a low-energy laser that creates tiny punctures in the fat-cell membranes, which causes the contents to ooze out and leaves the cells looking like deflated balloons, says Dr. Fox. Unlike the other lasers used in dermatology, which deliver high-energy beams of light in tiny, ultraconcentrated doses, Zerona uses a four-armed device that looks like a giant insect and is strapped to your body, where it emits red light beams that slowly rotate around your hips, thighs and midsection. The energy delivered by the Zerona device is much milder than that of a traditional dermatological laser, he says, so you’ll hardly notice it. You also won’t see any unpleasant after-effects, such as blistering, swelling, or redness.
A Zerona procedure takes about 40 minutes (20 minutes on each side). Most patients repeat the treatments three times a week for two weeks, and will see results about two weeks after the last treatment. People are guaranteed if they follow the protocol, to lose at least 3 inches collectively from the waist, thighs and hips areas.
“Both of these treatments are great for someone who’s at or close to ideal weight and are not designed for weight loss. If it’s your baby fat along the waist, hips and thighs and it’s inches you want removed, rather than a specific bulge, then the Zerona is probably the better choice. After a treatment you may not be able to see a visual difference but your pants or dress may feel loser. The Zeltiq is better for someone who is unhappy about certain areas—the love handles, belly bulges, muffin tops, back fat—that they just can’t eliminate with diet and exercise,” Dr. Fox says. “We’ve all heard of ‘spot-reducing,’ but unfortunately, it’s impossible for most people without medical intervention.” Before now, that intervention was liposuction, which carries significant costs, discomfort, surgery and recovery time. But with these options, most people see real results, without the cost, expense and pain of surgery, he says.