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With so many advancements in non-invasive body treatments, visible transformation no longer means going under the knife.
Written by FIORELLA VALDESOLO
Photography by GUY AROCH
There was a time in the not so distant past when the options for ridding yourself of love handles or bra bulges—those areas whose immunity to the effects of exercising make them that much more of a nuisance—required general anesthesia, a scalpel, and a lengthy recovery period. But just as most of the technology we surround ourselves with continues to improve—recall for a moment that it was only ten years ago that the world was bestowed with the first iPhone; now try to imagine your life without one—the same is true of the technology in the skin care realm. We asked a few skin pros to share the non-invasive body treatments that are their current go-tos.
THE NON-INVASIVE SURGE
“I don’t care how, I want it now,” the character of Veruca Salt famously screeches in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. And while it may not be a golden goose any of us are after, our collective impatience has extended to our beauty proclivities. Time is of the essence and many treatments have shrunk to fit this new standard: there are quickie blowouts, abbreviated facials, and condensed workouts. When it comes to skin and body treatments, this has translated to procedures that are performed in a shorter time, have a faster visible effect, and require little to no recovery. “Whereas ten years ago all we had was liposuction surgery and the whole category of non-invasive body contouring didn’t exist, now we have more effective treatments with less down time to reduce unwanted fat, tighten skin and help cellulite,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas. Dermatologist Dr. David Colbert at New York Dermatology Group echoes the timeliness prioritizing. “People don’t want downtime and these non-invasive body treatments are an easy way to slim down when coupled with diet and exercise so I’ve seen a 100% uptick in patients requesting them,” he explains. And, adds Washington DC-based dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a lot of her patients just don’t want surgery. “Surgical procedures can give you really dramatic results, but for some people they’re looking for discreet little tweaks, not something dramatic,” says Tanzi.
The one and only device for non-invasive and permanent reduction of fat that’s earned the coveted FDA stamp of approval, over 4 million people globally have been CoolSculpted since it launched eight years ago. Based around the cooling technology cryolipolysis, it works by freezing, and, in turn, killing off fat cells. “After puberty, the stem cell capabilities that allowed fat cells to reproduce turn off, so the number of fat cells you have at 18 is typically the number of fat cells you die with,” explains Laura Dyer, physician assistant at New York dermatologist Dr. Amy Wechsler’s office, who has become nationally recognized for her CoolSculpting savvy. “Over the course of your life, as you gain or lose weight, those fat cells expand or contract, but the number never changes. Once your fat cells are exposed to CoolSculpting, 20-25% of them solidify, freeze and then die, and once they’re gone, they’re gone permanently and will not return.”
AREAS OF CONCERN
The device is approved for treatment of diet and exercise-resistant bulges of fat like chin, abdomen, arms, back and bra, knee, and inner, outer and posterior thighs. With the addition of many different sized applicators in recent years, CoolSculpting is now able to address every breed of bulge.
Usually two treatments one to two months apart and results, which often are seen within a three-month period, are permanent.
The treatment, which feels like a mild sucking and pinching and employs a combination of vacuuming technology, radio frequency, and infrared light, is what both Chapas and Miami dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann have been using most frequently to address cellulite. “The vacuum helps with the circulation then infrared laser helps tighten the skin and the radio frequency helps reduce the fact,” explains Chapas. Though you’ll see a marked difference, Chapas warns that there’s no miracle cure for cellulite—so keep expectations in check.
AREAS OF CONCERN
Areas with cellulite and which benefit from lifting and firming like the buttocks, inner, outer and posterior thighs.
Velashape takes somewhere between 15 to 30 minutes and to see cumulative results people should do a series of three to five sessions, or plan to come back every six months for maintenance. “Many of my patients continue to do it once a month because they like the results,” adds Baumann.
“My patients ask me all the time, ‘why is my skin crepey?’ and it’s usually a combination of age-related changes and lifestyle,” says Chapas. “We worry a lot about sunscreen on our faces but don’t forget your body because once you hit your mid-forties you’re going to see a lot more crepey and loose skin than someone who was more protective.” Those crepey areas of the skin are best addressed with Ulthera, a treatment that uses ultrasound technology to heat and penetrate deep into the structural layers of the skin to tighten it. “Your body’s response to the ultrasound energy is to recondition the tired skin by stimulating the growth of fresh new collagen and gradually tighten and lift,” says Colbert.
AREAS OF CONCERN
Loose and crepey skin around the décolletage, lower legs, knees and ankles. Because it can be a bit uncomfortable you may want to take ibuprofen beforehand or ask your doctor about topical lidocaine.
You’ll see the results over the course of two to three months and, depending on severity, you may want to return one or two times a year.
Sculpsure’s newer, light-based technology is FDA-cleared for use on and around the abdomen and hips, and Colbert has also been seeing results on cellulite. “It targets and destroys unwanted fat cells which your body will naturally metabolize over time, leaving the area slimmer,” he explains. The 25-minute treatment is pain-free and Colbert compares the sensation to the feeling of warm compresses.
AREAS OF CONCERN
Areas with cellulite and those prone to exercise and diet-resistant bulges. Results are permanent but it can’t prevent the development of new cellulite.
You will see results somewhere between six to 12 weeks and it requires up to three treatments.
The same signature lifting and toning microcurrent technique that Shamara Bondaroff, the New York facialist frequently name-checked by many a fashion world insider, uses to stimulate facial skin and muscles also works its magic on the body. “During a treatment, high frequency electrical signals reach deep into the muscles and surrounding tissues to not only firm, lift, slim, tighten and tone but also promote circulation, lymphatic drainage, collage production, cellular repair and regeneration,” explains Bondaroff. And though electrical current applied to the flesh may sound distressing, the process is pain-free. “It’s actually very relaxing once you get use to the wave of the pulse and sometimes people even laugh during treatment as you have no control of the muscles and it can be oddly ticklish,” she says.
AREAS OF CONCERN
The traditional so-called “problem areas”—abdomen, thighs, bum—benefit from microcurrent which tightens skin, tones and firms, and can help debloat. “It can even help with cellulite reduction,” says Bondaroff.
You’ll feel firmer after one treatment but to see any cumulative effects it should be done every few months.
INFRARED LED LIGHT
In your doctor’s office, the turbo infrared light option of choice for addressing any loose or sagging skin is called the Titan, a laser wand that works by delivering series of quick painless pulses. “While the Titan hand piece cools the surface skin, the penetrating laser heat works to repair weak collagen fibers which the natural aging process and environmental influences have worn down over time,” Colbert explains. “New collagen begins to generate as a response to the Titan’s sub-dermal heat.” And facialist Joanna Vargas has long been spreading the gospel about the anti-aging benefits for the skin of LED light; she developed her retro-fitted LED bed after reading all the studies showing that LED heals skin at a 300% faster rate, promoted collagen production, reduces inflammation, and shrinks pores. “The bed covers the entire body with red and infrared light targeting cellulite, fine lines and wrinkles, and stretch marks for a smoother and more even skintone all over,” says Vargas. A bonus: there’s no more restorative place for a snooze.
AREAS OF CONCERN
Skin from head to toe can benefit and see subtle improvements from Vargas’s LED light while Colbert focuses the Titan on the stomach, arms, bum and thighs.
Many of Vargas’s clients pop in every other week for a quick stretch in the LED bed while Colbert recommends 2 or 3 Titan sessions spaced out over six months to see more toned and resilient skin and a natural lift.
Vargas’s signature Forever Facial relies heavily on the collagen-regenerating benefits of radio frequency and she’s found it to be just as impactful on certain areas of the body. “It pushes collagen fibers back together and increases collagen production by almost 20%,” says Vargas. “It’s amazing for the body because it can make dimpling disappear and plump and tighten the skin. I use it to target the tummy, the back where your bra cuts in, jiggly part of the arms, knees or inner thighs. It won’t make you skinny but it will make you confident!” And Tanzi uses a form of dynamic radio frequency to target larger areas that need firming like the back, thighs, or bum. ‘it heats the skin to stimulate collagen over time and it feels like a hot rolling,” she says.
AREAS OF CONCERN
On the body, radio frequency can target areas that need lifting and firming like the arms, tummy, back, bum, and legs.
Vargas’s radio frequency clients come in once a month to see a cumulative benefit. “Long term, just like the gym, you get a real lift and can ultimately replace the need for a face lift,” she says.
Oftentimes, shares Colbert, the most impressive results come from using these non-invasive body treatments in tandem. “The real promise is learning to combine the various energy sources, lasers, and machines and that takes experience that most non-doctor spas don’t have,” he adds. For stretch marks Colbert will cocktail Excel V (to reduce redness) with Fraxel (to smooth) lasers and Sculpsure (to tighten); for loose skin, a fusion of Ulthera and Titan lasers; and for love handles or tummy bulges a hot cold mash-up of CoolSculpt and SculpSure.
OR, FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT…
At Modern Sanctuary, a sprawling wellness mecca in New York, you’ll find “virtual stomach stapling” on the menu, a non-invasive body treatment of a very different creed: hypnosis. Alexandra Janelli, a seasoned hypnotherapist, uses hypnosis as a means of helping those struggling to lose weight or have compulsive or emotionally-driven eating habits. “The beginning part of my session is like life coaching and the end part is the hypnosis, so you’re going to work on both the conscious and subconscious levels,” she says. While the power of suggestion can be a compelling aid in curbing all kinds of bad behavior (diet-related or otherwise) Janelli says that clients need to come in with two things: an open mind and realistic goals. “Clients who come to me and say, ‘make me not like carbs,’ tend to not benefit from the treatment,” she adds.
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