What Is Emsculpt, and Will It Really Give Me Tighter Abs and a Rounder Butt?
In my mind, the words "quick fix" in relation to weight loss automatically signal that whatever method is being touted is completely bogus. So when I heard about Emsculpt, I pretty much wrote it off right away. That all changed, though, when I started speaking to medical professionals about the technology for this article.
Emsculpt is an FDA-approved, non-invasive, electromagnetic procedure that claims to eliminate fat cells and tighten muscles in your abs and butt. All you have to do is lie down at your dermatologist's office, get hooked up to a machine, and sit back and relax as it emits electromagnetic pulses that strengthen your muscle fibers and burn unwanted fat. Sounds too good to be true, right?
That's what I was expecting to hear from Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York–based dermatologist and Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology (FAAD), when I interviewed her about the procedure. But to my surprise, she called Emsculpt an "advancement for the body contouring world" and had no doubt that it can effectively slim someone's stomach or round their rear end.
Emsculpt simultaneously builds muscle and burns fat, according to information provided by the company. It does so by emitting electromagnetic pulses that force your muscles to contract about 20,000 times in just 30 minutes (way faster than you could make them contract on your own), and in turn strengthens your muscle fibers. The rapid contractions also cause your muscles to release chemicals that tell fat cells in the area to break down.
Emsculpt recommends that users do four 30-minute sessions over a two-week period for optimal results. Interestingly, though, the company says best results aren't seen until three months post-treatment. It also says you'll see continued improvement up until the six-month mark.
A company-sponsored study of 33 Emsculpt patients found there was an average 19% reduction in subcutaneous abdominal fat one month after treatment and a 23% reduction three months post-treatment. Another study of 22 patients found an average 15% increase in abdominal muscle thickness two months post-treatment. Yet another study of 19 patients found an average waist reduction of about 1.7 inches three months post-treatment.
One important thing to note, however, is that Emsculpt should not be used as a substitute for exercise. John Jakicic, PhD, chair of the department of health and physical activity at the University of Pittsburgh, tells Health that Emsculpt is "stimulating the muscle to fire, but it's not doing what exercise does for you." He went on to explain, "If I'm doing a squat, I have my glutes and quadriceps firing, I have my calves firing, my low back is working, and it's increasing my heart rate, so I'm stimulating more than just one muscle."
Emsculpt can instead be used as a body contouring method and to help you build the muscle you may need to confidentially start an exercise program (as it did for Drew Barrymore).
If you're thinking about giving Emsculpt a go, the cost of a full treatment ranges from $3,000 to $4,000, depending on the physician.
Oh, and you're probably wondering what it feels like to have electromagnetic pulses sent through your muscles. The company says it feels like "an intensive workout," the only difference being that you can relax while doing it. Sorry, Emsculpt, but that seems totally contradictory.
Lisa DeSantis, Health beauty editor, wrote about her experience with Emsculpt in the December 2018 issue. "I tried it on my stomach, and while it was a little uncomfortable, it was tolerable," she wrote. "The results weren’t instantaneous, but I could feel that my muscles had been putting in work. I was pleasantly surprised with my leaner tummy after about a month."
Emsculpt has definitely challenged my aversion to the words "quick fix." But when it comes down to it, everyone is different, and only you can be the judge of whether this treatment is right for you.