Body contouring, also known as body sculpting, is a popular cosmetic procedure that aims to eliminate fat, shape certain body areas, and tighten the skin. There are two kinds of body contouring; non-surgical body contouring, known as lipolysis, and surgical body contouring, referred to as liposuction. Many patients choose lipolysis because it requires minimal downtime and causes little to no discomfort. It can be an ideal choice if you have nearly attained your desired weight but want to get rid of stubborn excess fat that has resisted exercise and diets.
Non-surgical body sculpting techniques work by either freezing fat cells or destroying them with heat, cold, or lasers. In this article, we explore the different types of body contouring while paying particular attention to the non-surgical options.
Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
Low-level laser therapy is a type of non-surgical body contouring that incorporates cool-laser technology. It is FDA approved and can be used to eliminate fat deposits around the arms, abdomen, ankles, buttocks, chest, and thighs.
A common form of low-level laser therapy is Zerona, which exposes excess body fat to low-level laser energy that forces fat cells to release lipids into your body. Once in the body, the fat is assimilated and eventually removed via the lymphatic system, leaving previously plump fat cells flat, empty, and undamaged.
During LLLT, your doctor will use a handheld device to direct cold laser energy at problem areas. The device does not touch your skin, and you will not feel any discomfort as laser energy liquefies dense lipids inside fat cells. This low-level laser therapy has minimal downtime or side effects and takes about 20 minutes.
Cryolipolysis is an FDA-approved non-surgical fat reduction procedure that uses cold temperatures to minimize fat deposits within your body. It can reduce fat deposits on various body parts, such as the lower chin, abdomen, lower and upper back, thighs, and below the buttocks.
Your fat cells are more susceptible to damage from extreme cold than other cells in your body. Cryolipolysis works by targeting fat cells and triggering an inflammatory response within the body, causing the fat cells to die. After this, white blood cells called macrophages remove the dead fat cells from your body.
During the process, you may feel mild discomfort that some patients describe as tugging or aching sensations. However, these sensations should lessen after 5 to 10 minutes as the area becomes numb due to the low temperatures. A typical cryolipolysis session lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.
Radiofrequency lipolysis involves delivering therapeutic heat to skin cells on various body parts, such as the buttocks, hips, and thighs. The heat causes the cells to die without affecting the surrounding muscle or skin. This procedure decreases fat and stimulates collagen production, which also helps to tighten loose skin.
Radiofrequency lipolysis generally requires multiple sessions to deliver results. To encourage optimal results, your doctor will likely ask you to avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, or engaging in strenuous physical activities for a number of days prior to your first session. Radiofrequency lipolysis requires no downtime after treatment. However, it can cause minor side effects such as tingling, mild redness, and tenderness.
Injection lipolysis is a kind of body contouring that chemically reduces the number of fat cells around the injection site. It involves injecting the target area with deoxycholic acid, which results in fat cell disruption and death. Currently, it is FDA-approved for the treatment of the area under the chin to eliminate what is called “double chin.”
Your doctor will numb the target area before beginning treatment, and most patients report feeling very little pain or discomfort. The process requires minimal downtime but may result in temporary side effects such as swelling, redness, and bruising. Usually, this procedure requires 2-4 treatments in intervals of 8 weeks to produce results, depending on the size of the fat deposit.
The Bottom Line
Body contouring can help eliminate fat and shape various areas of the body when diet and exercise aren’t delivering the results you want. If you are considering body contouring and are wondering where to start, be sure to reach out to an experienced cosmetic surgeon to discuss your options.