I don’t simply work in the aesthetic enhancement industry. I take full and frequent advantage of its offerings.
I love that modern beauty innovations have so much to offer when it comes to helping us all feel (and look) fabulous. A side benefit of my pursuit of healthy beauty is the unique patient’s perspective I’ve derived from my experiences. That’s why we like to say that Costhetics’ coverage of news, tips, and information about cosmetic enhancement is more than skin deep.
It should come as no surprise to you, then, when the opportunity arose for me to enjoy a complimentary four-session Emsculpt body-contouring treatment package, I felt it was my duty to say yes. (I’m also not thrilled with my abs, making it a total win-win.) At the time, I had noticed an increase in stories about this trending treatment and it’s still the focus of a lot of attention. In fact, from what I was reading, Americans are flocking to Emsculpt like bees to honey. It makes perfect sense. Who could resist a way to get great abs or a boost to your booty with no exercise, no sweat, and no surgery? Not me.
Does Emsculpt deliver on its promise? I’ll tell you about my experience, but first let’s cover the basics…
What is Emsculpt?
Emsculpt is the latest device to offer non-surgical fat reduction. It uses high-intensity focused electromagnetic (HIFEM) technology to produce high-intensity muscle contractions that require more energy than any contraction you could achieve in a workout. Known as supramaximal contractions, they cause a breakdown of muscle fibres, which then rebuild themselves to be bigger and stronger.
During a single, 30-minute treatment, targeted muscles contract up to 20,000 times, or about the same number of contractions you’d achieve doing 12,000 sit-ups. (I’m guessing that’s a few hundred more than you’d normally do on average) Not only are the contractions more frequent, they are more powerful. “When you do a crunch or a squat, you’re activating about 50% of that muscle group every three to five seconds,” cosmetic dermatologist Dr Paul Jarrod Frank says in the article I Tried the Body-Contouring Device Emsculpt and Now I Have Actual Abs. “(Emsculpt) is activating 100% of the muscle 20,000 times in a 30-minute period.”
Advocates say these muscle contractions trigger the release of the body chemical epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. Epinephrine narrows blood vessels, opens airways, and promotes lipolysis, the chemical breakdown of fat. Widely available in Australia and now TGA listed, Emsculpt was originally approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for:
- Improvement of abdominal tone
- Strengthening abdominal muscles
- Promoting a firmer abdomen
- Strengthening, toning, and firming thighs and buttocks
In July of 2019, the manufacturers received an additional approval covering the use of small contour applicators. This gives Emsculpt the ability to strengthen, firm, and tone arms and calves.
Researchers credit Emsculpt for helping patients achieve muscle growth and fat reduction, but agree that more study is needed. Yet not all doctors feel the treatment is a best-choice option for body contouring. In So, This Is What a $3,000 Emsculpt Butt Lift Actually Looks Like a physician tells Cosmopolitan magazine, “The key is being a good candidate for the procedure,” he said. With Emsculpt, that means:
- Someone who is already in good shape
- Someone who has minimal excess body fat
- Someone who exercises regularly
- Someone with realistic expectations about what can be achieved
That “good candidate” sounded just like me!
My Life as a Guinea Pig
I was excited about my Emsculpt treatment, maybe too excited. I’ve written repeatedly in this space about how vital it is that patients follow their doctors’ instructions regarding any aesthetic treatment. Yet I admit I don’t always practice what I preach. I was told to wait for my menstrual cycle to finish prior to beginning my Emsculpt journey. Instead, I went full guinea pig and decided not to wait and see what happened. I do not recommend this approach to research.
During my Emsculpt experience, which consisted of four treatments over a period of two weeks, I experienced shorter periods than normal, but the flow was heavier. I got off easy, as it turns out. Administered during menses, the treatment can trigger significant cramping, along with bleeding. I found it interesting to learn on the RealSelf website that a doctor whose patient suffered from endometriosis said her Emsculpt treatment gave her, “…the first manageable period she’s had in a year.”
I couldn’t find any solid research to explain her experience or mine. My decidedly unscientific hypothesis is the extreme shaking of my abs had literally shaken things up in my lady part region. The long and the short of it is that each patients experience with Emsculpt body contouring will be unique.
Now back to me…
Contractions: Not Just for Pregnant Ladies Anymore
As a general rule, I’m a good patient. I do my research before having any kind of treatment, so I’m always confident in the skills of my provider. The same was true with Emsculpt. I lay down calmly on a table as my practitioner strapped a device that looked like a steam iron onto my stomach. When my first treatment began, the muscle contractions triggered by the device felt super-strange; not painful, just strange. It was as though I was vibrating at the very core of my being. This odd feeling only lasted 5 minutes or so, and within 10 minutes it didn’t feel as strange. My later sessions were even easier since I knew what to expect.
I was good to go when each treatment was complete. No downtime. The contractions left me feeling as though I’d had an extra strenuous workout. I definitely wasn’t in pain, and I was surprised I wasn’t even sore. It was more as though my muscles felt tired. (Who wouldn’t be tired after contracting muscles 20,000 times in 30 minutes!?)
Here’s something else I didn’t expect: I was hungry like a wolf after each treatment. Another surprise was the “no metal” instructions I got from my doctor. No wristwatch, no jewellery, and no underwire bras in the treatment room. I almost expected him to ask me to refrain from listening to heavy metal on my phone! When I asked my practitioner, he explained that metal can disrupt the device’s functionality much as it would if you were having an MRI.
My four treatments took place over a period of two weeks. My practitioner explained that the protocol was four treatments with four days in between each session. I scheduled a follow-up appointment for two weeks after the last session to discuss the results. There wasn’t much to discuss, I’m afraid. I thought perhaps I was a slow fat loser/muscle builder, but as time went on, things didn’t get better.
Emsculpt: Is It Worth it For You?
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, requests for Emsculpt treatments have increased 25% in just the last year. Yet if I’m totally honest, and I always try to be, I have to say Emsculpt body contouring didn’t float my boat or make my abs the envy of my gym mates. I feel the modest results I achieved weren’t worth the effort or the cost (had I paid it) of close to $4,000 (AUD) for the recommended four-treatment cycle.
My practitioner also told me I would typically need a maintenance treatment every three to six months, and I would have to continue my normal program of exercise and healthy eating. It seems Emsculpt is not a miracle cure, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the findings of more than a dozen independent and clinical studies that show:
- 19% reduction in subcutaneous abdominal fat
- 16% increase in muscle mass
- Average waist measurement reduction of 4.4cm
With more than 300,000 treatments performed annually each year, it is also hard to overlook that Emsculpt earns a
- 95% patient satisfaction
- No serious adverse side effects ever recorded
Where does this leave you? It leaves you in control of your own destiny. Do more research. Ask friends, family members, and colleagues to weigh in. Emsculpt could be the greatest thing that ever happened to you…or not. Only you can make that decision, hopefully with the knowledgeable guidance of an experienced practitioner.