A shift is under way in the realm of cosmetic surgery. As trends continue to move in favour of a natural finish, more people are seeking a non-invasive start – why go under the knife, if the latest technology can work from the outside-in?
Statistics by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show as many as 89 per cent of cosmetic procedures performed are now surgery-free – an increase of 228 per cent since 2000. Welcome to the age of the tweakment.
The same logic applies when it comes to weight loss – sort of. No matter how regimented our healthy lifestyle is, certain pockets of fat seem near impossible to target through workouts and calorie counting alone, which is where non-invasive weight fat reduction treatments come in. More often than not, these come with minimal risks, and little to no downtime. Targeting stubborn thigh fat can, quite literally, be a lunchtime activity.
The kicker? Knife-free options cannot quite generate results close to that of liposuction and, as such, are more effective on those with a relatively healthy body-fat ratio who are looking to sculpt their silhouette.
“There are four main ways non-invasive fat treatments work,” says Dr Jamil Al Jamali, a consultant plastic surgeon at Medcare Hospital. “Cryolipolysis, radio frequency, low-level laser therapy and high-intensity focus ultrasound.”
Onuma Saput, a therapist at The Nova Clinic and Aesthetics International, adds: “Most devices harness some form of energy, and use heat or cold to kill unwanted fat cells. They penetrate the skin and either break down underlying fat or stimulate muscles.”
Here are some options available in the UAE.
A popular non-surgical fat reduction brand, VelaShape utilises a range of technologies to achieve results. “It uses a combination of four modalities: infrared light, bipolar radiofrequency energy, massage and gentle suction,” explains Dr Dany Kayle, founder of Dr Kayle Aesthetics Clinic Dubai.
The suction brings the skin closer to the energy source to enhance effectiveness. Massage then relaxes cells and stiff fibrous bands that appear as cellulite, while the radio frequency and infrared energies shrink or kill fat cells, which are then processed through the body’s natural toxin-elimination system.
Cell shrinking is effective as, unlike most others in our body, fat cells expand rather than multiply to store fat when we consume more calories than we use as energy. Finally, the treatment harnesses heat power to tighten skin and promotes collagen production, which in turn can strengthen and elasticise skin.
“It is [our] most popular non-invasive treatment, and shapes your silhouette and improves skin texture without any downtime,” adds Kayle.
BTL Exilis likewise uses a combination of techniques to aid weight loss, in this case bringing high-intensity ultrasound into the mix. Sound vibrations can “shake” fats cell, promoting excess fat to be dislodged and then flushed out by the liver.
As Saput explains: “Using radiofrequency and ultrasound simultaneously, the Exilis heats the affected area to stimulate fat lipolysis [the body’s mechanism for breaking down fats to make them usable and absorbable] and tightens the skin. The pulses delivered help to reduce the volume of fat cells and accelerate collagen production."
As with all non-invasive options, the results are best seen in areas of the body where alpha2 receptors are dominant, such as the thighs, hips and belly. As these receptors tell the body to store fat for a rainy day, areas high in them need a helping hand to get fat moving. Beta-2 receptors, meanwhile, encourage the body to burn fat, and they are more common in areas such as the arms and face. This is why you’ll often see the results of natural weight loss here first.
If you’re more drawn to the cold than heat, then CoolSculpting is the leading brand of cryolipolysis in the UAE. Dr Hanadi Al Salama, of Kaya Skin Clinic, explains: “The CoolSculpting device freezes fat cells underneath your skin tissue. The cells are slowly broken down by your body’s mechanisms and eliminated by the liver enzymes.
“We can isolate and target just fat cells by defining the depth we are reaching,” she adds. This explains why a cryolipoysis device is able to target the right cells, say, rather than muscle tissue.
CoolSculpting, along with other non-surgical fat loss treatments, works on subcutaneous fat that sits between the muscle and skin surface. Visceral fat – the more dangerous of the two that surrounds the organs – cannot be targeted this way.
Another brand name in the game, Pollogen, unites two technologies to shrink and sculpt: Deep Muscle Activation and TriPollar Radiofrequency. Skincare expert Rebecca Treston explains: “DMA is a unique and proprietary technology targeting muscle to enhance tone.”
Altering the power and duration of strengthening contractions, DMA can increase muscle tone and density – which long-term can reduce fat, as the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you’ll burn in day-to-day activities. The radiofrequency device then calls upon “deep heating energy to encourage the production of collagen and elastin, resulting in tighter and smoother skin. In addition, heating the fat cells accelerate metabolism and causes them to shrink,” says Treston.
While DMA is available in clinic such as Dynamic Clinic and Pollogen Body Contouring at places such as EuroMed Clinic Centre in the UAE, TriPollar devices are also available to buy for home use.
Treston is keen to remind people that there is no point in having any such treatment “if your lifestyle isn’t healthy. The liver cannot distinguish between fat due to a treatment or your diet, so if it becomes overwhelmed [read: if you consume too many calories] the fat will be reabsorbed into your body.” And although the elimination of fat cells can be permanent (therefore so can results), this is not a get-out-of-gym free card, either.
Lymphatic drainage massage and Pressotherapy
Not all techniques need waves and frequencies. Results may not be as dramatic, but a trip to the spa could also suffice when it comes to body sculpting. Lymphatic drainage massage, for example, can be effective, as it encourages the movement of lymph fluid through the body. Since the lymph nodes play a key role in the absorption of fat by the digestive system, stimulation can enhance this process and help to flush toxins at a faster rate for a slimmer frame.
As well as mildly effective on their own, founder and head therapist at The Branding Room, Mae Romero Do-Thanh, explains: “Lymphatic drainage treatments can be an excellent complement to treatments such as VelaShape for better and faster results." In her clinic, she also offers pressotherapy; a mechanical lymphatic drainage treatment that uses an air pressure machine to squeeze targeted areas in a rhythmic motion, in a similar way to a masseuse.
Fat-loss techniques to try at home
Pre, post or in place of a treatment, why not try these slimming bathroom swaps for maximum effect?
Exfoliation is known to promote blood flow and smooth skin to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Try the Guinot Orange Peel Body Scrub, available at Pastels Salon, which contains caffeine-rich extracts to enhance the process, as coffee bean extracts dilate blood vessels and help to eliminate excess water. Papaya and lemon extracts also offer mechanical and enzymatic exfoliation simultaneously, for an overall smooth finish.
Switch out your day-to-day body lotion for a cellulite reducing one, such as the Clarins Body Fit Anti-Cellulite Contouring Expert, available at Sephora. The cream-gel formula lifts and firms skin in areas such as the thighs, while redefining the skin texture over time.
Fill your bath with special salts for a short-term slimming solution thanks to their host of powers. Westlab Cleanse Bath Salt with Epsom & Himalayan Salt, available from Life Pharmacy, can help promote the body’s normal detoxification processes, working as an aid alongside other lifestyle choices to promote weight loss.