If you have pockets of fat that won’t go away with traditional weight loss methods like diet and exercise, you might consider laser fat removal to smooth them out. There are many different cosmetic treatments that use laser technology to eliminate fatty bulges. Since the landscape of cosmetic procedures changes quickly, it’s helpful to get an overview of what is available before you decide which laser fat removal treatment is best for you.
Different Types of Laser Fat Removal
There are a variety of cosmetic treatments that use different types of lasers to remove fat from the body. Some procedures are minimally invasive while others are non-invasive. When someone refers to “laser fat removal,” they might be talking about any of these procedures.
Laser lipo or laser-assisted liposuction is an alternative to traditional liposuction. During this minimally-invasive procedure, a physician uses laser energy to liquefy fat in a targeted area. The fat is removed through a cannula (thin tube). Local anesthesia is required (as opposed to general anesthesia which is required for traditional liposuction). The treatment usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.
According to a published review, there are different patented devices used for this procedure including SmartLipo, CoolLipo, SlimLipo, or ProLipo. Brand names for the treatment also include SonoBello, Athenix, and others.
Side Effects: After the treatment, common side effects often include bruising and tenderness in the treated area. Scarring, infection, or irritation may also occur but are less common. It may take several days of recovery following the procedure and several weeks before you can return to strenuous activities like exercise.
Results: After the swelling subsides, patients will see results right away because the fat has been removed entirely. According to several medical reports, patients also benefit from skin tightening in the area where the laser liposuction was performed. For some patients, this benefit makes laser-assisted liposuction more appealing than traditional liposuction which eliminates fat but not does tighten the skin.
Costs: Typical costs may start as low as $1,000 to $1,500 for a small treatment area. Typically, however, prices for laser liposuction range from approximately $2,500 to $5,000 per treatment area. As a basis for comparison, the total cost of traditional liposuction can be as low as $1,000 or as high as $20,000, according to the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Many factors influence the total cost of the treatment including where you live in the country and the part of the body that you want treated. As you compare the costs of different laser fat removal methods, keep in mind that that laser liposuction requires only one treatment.
This laser fat removal method gained FDA approval in 2010 and quickly became popular in cosmetic and beauty circles. The treatment uses low-level laser therapy (LLLT) to target and liquefy the content of fat cells. The fat cells remain but the contents are emptied and eventually eliminated from the body.
One of the benefits of Zerona laser fat removal is comfort. Low-level laser therapy is a cold laser treatment, but it is not as cold as cryolipolysis (CoolSculpting) which some people find to be uncomfortable. And it is not as hot as other laser treatments for fat that some patients find difficult.
Another benefit of this procedure is that there is no downtime. Side effects are rare and research has shown this treatment to be one of the safest methods of laser fat removal. Most patients can return to normal activities immediately following the procedure.
Approved treatment areas include the waist, hips, thighs, arms, chest, knees, ankles, back, or bra line. Patients undergo six 40-minute treatments over a two-week period to achieve optimal results.
After a Zerona treatment, patients are advised to follow a diet and lifestyle protocol, including increasing water intake, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and exercising every day. This regime helps to stimulate the removal of fat from the cells. Results are generally seen after the treatment protocol is complete or within two weeks following the end of treatment.
Results: So does Zerona work? Results may vary. According to a research study cited by the company, clients lost on average 3.72 inches from the circumference of their waist, hip, and thighs, whereas the placebo group only lost an average of a half of an inch. However, independent studies have not shown results that dramatic.
Authors of one small study that examined Zerona stated, “There needs to be more evidence to show clinical circumferential reduction before LLLT can be recommended as an effective therapeutic option.” Another study showed that LLLT treatments did not provide a significant reduction in abdominal fat, and in fact, in some patients even showed an increase in the thickness of subcutaneous fat. Lastly, a study investigating the use of Zerona on obese patients showed that the treatment is most effective when combined with diet and exercise.
Costs: Typical costs range from around $2,000 to under $4,000 for a full package (six 40-minute treatments). The results are long-lasting if you follow a good diet and exercise regime following your procedure. However, some patients report that they need follow-up treatments to maintain the result.
The FDA approved SculpSure as a laser treatment to remove fat in May 2015. During a 25-minute treatment, lasers target fat cells and heat them to a temperature that damages their structure. Cooling mechanisms are employed to make sure that your skin is not damaged. While you might feel a warming sensation during the treatment, it is not generally not considered painful.
Results: Over the next three months following your procedure, the fat cells die and your body eliminates them. Unlike Zerona, SculpSure removes the fat cell entirely (rather than emptying the contents and leaving the cell structure intact). Results are usually noticeable at six weeks, with the full effect generally seen at about 12 weeks.
This thermo lipolysis laser treatment is approved to remove fat from the abdomen, flanks, back, inner thighs, outer thighs, or under the chin area. According to clinical studies cited by the company, the treatment will reduce the fat in each targeted area up to 24 percent. A study published in 2018 showed that patients were satisfied with results but flank reduction after the procedure was measured at about 2.6 millimeters.
Costs: Typical costs for a single SculpSure treatment range from approximately $350 to $800 depending on the area that you treat and the number of applicators used during the procedure. Multiple treatments are generally required so it is not unusual for the total cost to fall in the $2,000 to $3,000 range. Results are usually permanent as long as you maintain a healthy body weight.
There are other treatments to remove fat, such as cryolipolysis (also known as Coolsculpting—a non-surgical or non-invasive procedure), but these treatments don’t use laser technology. There are also home laser fat removal devices, but there is a lack of scientific evidence to demonstrate their effectiveness.
Laser Fat Removal Candidates
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the best candidates for these laser treatments are near their ideal weight. They are people who—despite a healthy diet and regular exercise—are unable to lose stubborn pockets of fat. The AAD also notes that there is strong demand for these procedures.
In a published overview of lipolysis, study authors write:
“The ideal candidate for laser lipolysis is a patient who is thin, in good health, and presents with isolated pockets of removable fat. Careful assessment and patient education is crucial prior to proceeding with the procedure. Candidates with too much fat are more likely to not see dramatic results. All patients should be advised that laser lipolysis is not a substitute for healthy diet and exercise.”
It is also helpful for candidates undergoing laser fat removal to have healthy habits in place prior to the procedure. While some people use these procedures to jump-start a weight loss program, many others find that it is better for fine-tuning their body after weight loss has been achieved.
Laser Fat Removal Results
Whether or not you are happy with your laser fat removal results will depend on your expectations going into the procedure.
Most physician providers are careful about explaining to patients that these procedures are not meant for achieving dramatic results. In fact, if you are overweight or obese, the procedures are often not recommended.
One study reviewing current non-invasive fat loss procedures determined that even though results are often achieved, the effect is usually mild to moderate. And another research paper that compared some of the most popular non-invasive fat removal procedures concluded that “there is little high-level evidence in the present literature to support the effectiveness of any of these devices (this study did not include SculpSure or laser liposuction).
Some patients combine treatments to get more dramatic results. For example, a patient might combine liposuction with a laser fat removal procedure to lose inches in a particular area and then sculpt it with the help of lasers. Of course, this increases the cost of the total treatment.
A Word From Tips For Healthy Living
There are always new cosmetic treatments on the horizon. New devices and technologies are being developed every year to help customers achieve the results they desire. So, it’s important to find a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon to discuss all of your options. Many providers offer different techniques to remove fat so it is easier to compare. Be sure to discuss your expectations, health history, and budget before making a final decision.