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Does Noninvasive Lipo Work?
I have some stubborn fat around my waist, stomach and chin. I am at a great weight ,5’7″ and 135 pounds, but the stubborn fat really does bother me. I’m interested in noninvasive lipo, but I’m skeptical. The big question is: could I get good results from noninvasive lipo?
Nonvinvasive lipo removal technologies does work, but do not expect to get a similar result as with some type of surgical liposuction. The two technologies that appear to be most effective are Liposonix which is focused on ultrasound and Zeltiq, focused on Coolsculpting or cryotreatment. They are both FDA approved with good data to support their effectiveness. There will likely be some new technologies coming down the road, but then, don’t expect them to be as effective as surgical liposuction procedures.
Laser liposuction would be a reasonable surgical liposuction techique, and it does provide the additional benefit of some skin tightening. However, it should not be considered minimally invasive if you were to treat all your problem areas and there is definitely some downtime. I have been doing Smart Lipo for several years, and I think it is a disservice to patients to make it sound like it is little more than a tiny mole removal. Smart Lipo is an effective technology that offers some real benefits, but it is not a miracle device.
Some noninvasive techniques can provide measurable improvement. The most effective technique might probably be cryolipolysis. It is however important to realize that (before you start spending money) results will be substantially less than real surgical liposuction can provide.
Nonsurgical fat reduction is also often called “nonsurgical” liposuction, but really, it isn’t liposuction at all. Traditional liposuction is a surgical procedure, involving small incisions in which a tube is inserted into a fatty area. The fat is then “sucked out” through the tube, resulting in the permanent reduction of those fat cells. Liposuction can be used on large areas where there are significant fat deposits and may be effective after just one procedure. Since liposuction is a surgery, there is some recovery time with swelling, pain and a risk of infection.
Nonsurgical liposuction can be one of a number of procedures which use lasers, heat, cooling or sound waves to “destroy” fat cells which will the be removed from the body as metabolic products. Nonsurgical liposuction generally has less-to-no recovery time as surgical liposuction but it isn’t effective on large areas of fat. Its use should be limited to small, stubborn areas that remain after an adequate diet and exercise program or to patients who cannot undergo surgery. In order to be fully effective, multiple treatments may be required.
Types of nonsurgical fat reduction
Nonsurgical fat reduction is done in the plastic surgeon’s clinic, using one of a number of proprietary or “brand name” procedures. Brand names like Exilis, i-Lipo, Liposonix and Zeltiq or CoolSculpting, each uses a different type of treatment which may be laser- or light-assisted, cryo or freezing therapy, or sound through ultrasound or radiofrequency. Each type works to destroy the cell membranes surrounding fat cells which over time, may appear to “melt” the fat away.
Pros and cons of nonsurgical fat reduction
Pros: Nonsurgical fat reduction is just what it says, nonsurgical. There are no incisions done which means a noninvasive procedure with less recovery time required, less swelling and pain and a greatly reduced chance of post-procedure complications such as infection. It doesn’t usually require a lot of pre-procedure preparation and can often be done during the day with a quick return to normal activities.
Cons: The actual fat reduction takes place over the course of weeks or months and several treatments may be required. Because nonsurgical liposuction is an external treatment, it can be more difficult to target the fat in question. The surgeon may not be able to optimally address the fat in difficult areas or in patients with a good deal of scar tissue. Targeting may also be tricky as the physician cannot immediately “see” where fat destruction has been effective and must wait for additional treatment periods to refine the effects. Nonsurgical fat reduction does not produce immediately dramatic results and is not effective in people who need large sections of fat removed.
The bottom line on nonsurgical fat reduction
Liposuction, under expert guidance, is highly effective, more accurate and can be used in a variety of conditions. Newer ultrasound-assisted procedures have enabled plastic surgeons to be highly accurate in fat reduction with a minimum of post-surgical complications. In general, liposuction is considered to be much more effective, but nonsurgical fat reduction can be a good alternative for those who simply need a little additional help for some stubborn spots – or can be the only alternative if surgery is not possible.
So, yes, nonsurgical fat reduction works for the right patient but it does not compare to traditional liposuction. Noninvasive alternatives to fat reduction, of course, bring limited results, so it’s important to discuss with your surgeon what the true body contour changes will be, as opposed to expectations from ads. In the end, the search for the Holy Grail of noninvasive body sculpting continues!
Dr. Katayoun Motlagh offers laser lipo, a non-invasive fat reduction treatment, at her Encino and Palmdale, CA practices. Learn more about non-surgical laser lipo below, or book an appointment using the form on this page.
What is laser lipo?
Laser lipo, also known as laser liposuction or the strawberry laser, is an FDA-approved non-surgical, non-invasive cosmetic treatment that is an alternative to traditional liposuction. The procedure targets body fat through the application of a controlled laser to damage and shrink fat cells. This type of procedure may also be referred to as SmartLipo, which is named after the SmartLipo™ laser that is used to perform the procedure.
Why is non-surgical laser lipo performed?
Laser lipo is a cutting-edge, non-invasive approach to liposuction and body contouring. It can help patients achieve the following goals:
- Trim up to 25 pounds of excess weight
- Lose inches off of the stomach, thighs, hips, arms, back and other problem areas
- Re-contour the figure and improve overall body shape
- Remove pockets of stubborn fat
- Reduce stretch marks
- Stimulate collagen production
What does non-invasive laser lipo involve?
If Dr. Katayoun Motlagh determines that you are a candidate for treatment with the non-surgical strawberry laser, you can expect the following steps during each treatment session:
- You will be comfortably seated in a reclined position
- The laser paddles will be carefully placed on the skin in the area to be treated
- Each treatment section takes approximately 10 minutes to perform and some sections may be repeated for a second 10-minute treatment
- Six to ten treatment sessions are typically recommended for best results
How does the non-surgical laser technology work?
Here’s an overview of how non-invasive laser lipo technology utilizing the strawberry laser works:
- Multiple tiny “cold” lasers are applied to the surface of the skin
- The lasers harmlessly and painlessly penetrate the skin just deep enough to reach the layers of fat
- The lasers pass into the fat tissue, stimulating the fat to melt through pores
- Water, glycerol and fatty acids move into the interstitial space beneath the fatty layer in the skin
- Adipocyte (fat) cells are therefore reduced in size
- Liquefied lipids are transported away by your lymphatic system and fat is expelled from the body
What are the advantages of undergoing non-surgical laser lipo?
Non-invasive laser lipo has been successfully reducing fat and contouring the figures of millions of patients in over 30 countries for several years. The non-surgical procedure is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Strawberry laser treatments can yield noticeable, measurable results in lieu of other surgical weight loss procedures, such as traditional liposuction.
Advantages of the non-surgical laser lipo procedure include:
- Painless and non-invasive
- No restrictions or downtime
- Performed in-office
- Most patients will see a difference after their first treatment session
- Can be used for both men and women
- Uses the body’s natural mechanisms to help lose inches of fat
Any device that promises fast fat loss without surgery sounds like something that falls into the same category as diet pills, cellulite creams, and waist trainers—interventions that rarely (if ever) live up to their bold claims. Still, if you know someone who swears by laser lipo, a laser fat-removal procedure, you might at least want to do a little digging to find out if they’re full of it.
Low-level laser or “laser lipo” therapy promises a less invasive alternative to liposuction for targeting areas of fat. Instead of going under the knife, it involves laser treatments that last about 30 minutes, typically about three times per week for a total of six to eight. Another major difference, there’s no downtime. (Related: CoolSculpting Froze Off My Belly Fat, And This Is How It Felt)
Still have questions? Here’s the full rundown on laser lipo.
Who Should Try Laser Lipo?
The ideal candidate for laser fat removal is someone who is ready to commit to a diet and exercise conducive to weight maintenance, and who doesn’t have a lot of weight to lose but is concerned about specific areas, says Peter LePort, M.D., a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Center for Obesity in California, who uses fat sculpting laser in his practice. “This is not useful for people who are looking to lose a lot of weight, but it works great for tweaking individual body parts after losing weight or having plastic surgery,” he says.
You also need to have enough time in your schedule to commit to multiple sessions each week for several weeks. The total number of sessions will vary from person to person, so you’ll get a treatment plan during an initial consultation.
Laser fat-removal therapies are not recommended for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, or for people who have pacemakers. Laser lipo also won’t address any underlying metabolic, hormonal, or other physical issues that may have caused the weight gain, so you should run it by your doctor first, Dr. LePort cautions. (Related: 7 Reasons You’re Not Losing Belly Fat)
How Does Laser Lipo Fat Removal Supposedly Work?
Laser lipo targets fat cells while sparing other tissues in the body. Every laser lipo machine (brand names include Zerona and i-Lipo) is armed with lasers specifically designed to puncture holes in your fat cells. The lasers slowly perforate the cells so that they deflate. Your body keeps all the fat cells—a good thing since removing fat cells can have unintended consequences such as the fat reappearing in other places, as seen in studies on liposuction—but they shrink. The fat is then released into your interstitial fluid and flushed out by your lymphatic system.
What Does Laser Lipo Feel Like?
Depending on where you’re aiming to reduce the fat cells, you may need to strip down to your underwear before beginning. You’ll then lie on a table, as a technician positions the lasers, aiming at the specific spots you’re trying to shrink. You stay there while the lasers work their magic, with most sessions lasting between 20 and 40 minutes. Because low-level lasers are “cold” lasers, patients don’t feel a thing, according to Lisa Bloch, director of the LifeTime Fitness Medi-spa. There is no pain, swelling, tenderness, or redness, so there is also no downtime. Unlike more invasive fat-removal treatments, you can immediately go back to work, exercising, or whatever else your day holds.
Afterward, however, you may feel something. Because the laser is causing your fat cells to release their contents into your bloodstream, you may feel a little tired, woozy, or sick afterward, particularly if you’re not drinking enough water. “The water is key to flushing the fat and toxins out of your system,” says Bloch.
Okay, But Does Laser Lipo Really Work?
The jury is still out, according to a 2016 review of research on noninvasive body contouring devices published in the International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. Some existing studies suggest low-level laser lipo therapy might help reduce unwanted fat, but “more studies are needed to prove efficacy and safety of this method,” the authors wrote.
A small clinical trial of the Zerona laser, sponsored by the manufacturer, found that patients lost an average of an inch off their waist and hips and an additional two centimeters from each leg. However, most of the patients regained at least some of the inches just two weeks after stopping the treatment. The FDA had enough faith in the treatment to approve it for general use in the U.S.
“This is definitely not a miracle cure,” says Bloch. “This is complementary medicine, not a cure-all. It’s designed to make your healthy eating and exercise more effective, especially if you’re at a point where you’ve plateaued. You still have to do the work; it just enhances your results.” She recommends that her laser fat-removal clients eat a very clean diet, work out moderately, wear compression undergarments, and drink water as if peeing were an Olympic sport. (Related: The Ultimate Plan to Lose Belly Fat)
Traditional liposuction requires an invasive procedure to remove fat from areas such as the abdomen, thighs, neck, and arms. But there’s another way to slim down without surgery or even downtime. It’s called noninvasive laser lipo, and it relies on laser energy instead of incisions to slim the body quickly and with minimal effort on the part of the patient.
We asked Heather of Advanced Laser Body Care in Chicago to help us understand how exactly the treatment works. To get started, click one of the links below:
- How does laser lipo work?
- Who’s eligible for laser lipo?
- What is the laser lipo process like?
- How much does laser lipo cost?
- i-Lipo vs. Zerona
- What areas can be treated with laser lipo?
- How long do laser lipo results last?
Note: Sometimes the term “laser lipo” is used to describe conventional surgical liposuction that incorporates lasers to enhance the results, but that’s not how we’re using it here.
How does laser lipo work?
Unlike conventional liposuction, the idea of noninvasive laser lipo is not to remove fat cells, but to shrink them.
During each session of i-Lipo—the brand of laser-lipo device Advanced Laser Body Care uses—a technician places pads equipped with laser diodes directly onto the skin. The laser energy penetrates down to the fat cells and creates tiny holes in their membranes. This causes the fat cells to release their stored fatty acids, glycerol, and water into the body and then shrink, potentially resulting in lost inches. The body then flushes out the expelled fat-cell contents via the lymphatic system or burns them for energy.
“Think of your fat cells as groups of juicy grapes,” Heather says. “The laser beam reaches the fat cell and shrinks the contents, and those grapes become raisins.”
Who’s eligible for laser lipo?
The pool of ideal candidates for laser lipo is a little bit smaller than for traditional lipo because the procedure isn’t perfect for extensive weight loss. It might be right for you if you’re:
- Only about 25 pounds over your ideal weight
- More concerned with “problem areas” than total-body weight loss
- In good health with good skin elasticity
Still not sure? Make sure to schedule a consultation! If you purchase one of our deals and are not a candidate, we’ll refund your money.
What is the laser lipo process like?
“You’re gonna be very relaxed,” Heather says. “We’re gonna put you in a nice little cocoon, which helps speed up that metabolic process.”
From there, the technician applies the pads to the targeted area, inundating it with laser energy for about 10 to 20 minutes. If necessary they may then move the pads to focus on another area and repeat the treatment. And that’s about it. You may see a difference immediately, but for best results, you’ll need to return.
Here are some fast facts about the recommended cycle:
Though some clients begin to notice results after only a few sessions, most require 6–8 treatments to see maximum results.
Two treatments per week for four weeks are recommended.
Because the treatment is not invasive, no downtime is required.
How much does laser lipo cost?
The cost of laser lipo can vary considerably depending on the size of the area you want to treat, as well as your location and the experience of the clinic you visit. A typical series of eight sessions can easily cost upward of $1,000. However, look for one of our deals on laser weight-loss treatments, which can cut costs dramatically. A typical deal from us might cost about $50 for a single treatment, or around $30–$50 per treatment if you purchase multiple sessions at once.
i-Lipo vs. Zerona
There are many trade names for various laser body-contouring treatments, and discussing them can get confusing since those names are sometimes (incorrectly) used interchangeably. Two popular laser devices, the i-Lipo and the Zerona, both use low-level laser energy in their nonsurgical lipo treatments, but they’re not quite identical.
The i-Lipo device contains more than 30 laser diodes, and it’s applied directly to the skin in the form of pads. By contrast, the Zerona device hovers just above the skin and uses just 5 diodes. Some believe this difference makes Zerona more comfortable but the i-Lipo more effective. There’s far from a consensus on this matter, though.
What areas can be treated with laser lipo?
All parts of the body that store fat can be treated.
The most common treatment areas include:
- Under the chin
How long do laser lipo results last?
Because i-Lipo does not destroy fat cells but rather empties them of their contents, the fat cells are capable of storing fat again. A balanced diet is the only way to ensure lasting results.
“When you’re at home, we want you to make some good dietary choices,” Heather explains. “[Eat] lean protein. Stay away from alcoholic beverages and sugar.” Those who take in more calories than they burn will see their improvement start to decrease over time.
Does a laser treatment that can reduce your waist, hips and thighs or overall body circumference by inches seem the perfect solution for you?* It targets fat but without invasive surgical procedures such as liposuction.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given approval for non invasive laser lipo treatment and clinical studies have been supportive. This could give you further confidence but perhaps you still have questions.
What will happen in your first session? How long does it take? Will it be painful and how will you feel after the session?
Read on and find out what to expect.
What is Non Invasive Laser Lipo?
Non invasive laser lipo is a non-surgical technique. It is so straightforward that you don’t need an overnight stay in a hospital, recovery time or any of the arrangements associated with surgery. It is administered on an outpatient basis.
You visit the clinic for the treatment and go back to work, home or whatever else you have planned for the day.
How Long Does It Take?
The non-invasive nature of this procedure means that it takes much less time than surgical procedures. You can expect to have the treatment in less than an hour, over lunch break if you wish.
The laser treatment is applied to your target areas for about 20 minutes on the front of your body and about 20 minutes on the back of your body.
You start by undressing but leave your underwear on or change into swimwear on if you prefer.
You lay on the table and the arms of the laser are arranged by the technician. These arms are rather octopus-like. The lasers are aimed at specific parts of your body.
The laser is set in position depending on your target areas. These can be the hips, thighs, arms, knees, waist, ankles, back, bra fat areas, etc.
You lie in a comfortable position and relax for 20 minutes. Once the front of your body has been treated you turn over and the same procedure is applied to the back of your body.
Will I Feel Any Pain?
The treatment is non-invasive. In fact, you feel nothing during the procedure.* This is a non invasive laser lipo, so expect the laser to do the work.
It’s a relaxing atmosphere, so for 40 minutes you just lie there and relax. Your first session will confirm how quick and painless the treatment is.*
How Will I Feel After the Treatment?
There are very few after effects.* There is no tenderness.* There is no swelling or redness.*
Some people report some tiredness or feeling different and even lighter. It’s not like the recovery you might need after surgery. You will be advised to drink plenty of water to aid the process and complete light lymphatic stimulation by walking for 15 minutes per day.
One treatment will not be enough. But after the first treatment, you will be even more comfortable with the process.