That’s the most frequent question I get about non-surgical fat reduction. How can it possibly work? The amazing thing is that it does. If you asked me 3 years ago whether it is worth it, I would have said no, but the technology has come a long way in the last 3 years.
There are several devices out there now that actually work. I looked at all of them and decided that Vanquish ME was the best one, and I’ll explain why. But first let me explain how these machines actually kill your fat. Kill. Really, the fat cells die. How is that possible?
When cells sustain a certain amount of damage, they undergo what is called apoptosis. This means programmed cell death. The cell is still there– not cauterized or sucked out of the body– but stunned so much that it can no longer keep doing its normal cellular processes. The cell starts to break up. Its organelles get resorbed, and in the case of a fat cell, the lipid contents get released into the surrounding space. Those lipids are collected into the lymph system, and ultimately your body excretes them. Over time, your body eliminates the fat from the treated area.
The devices on the market today all use different methods to injure the fat. Fat cells are particularly susceptible to damage from heat and cold, and most of the devices that remove fat use either heat or cold to target the fat cells. There is one device that uses a laser, but really the laser is being used to heat the cells. There are devices that use ultrasound as well. They all have pluses and minuses to them, but Vanquish ME stands out as superior in many ways.
Coolsculpting is by far the most well-known of these devices as the company that makes it does a lot of direct to consumer marketing. Coolsculpting has some major drawbacks, as I’ve mentioned in a prior blog post.
- You can only treat fat that can be sucked into the applicator cup– adjacent fat or less mobile fat cannot be treated. Thus there is often a “shelfing” that occurs in the adjacent fat.
- Coolsculpting does not tighten skin
- Pain in the freezing and thawing process
- Possible nerve damage– lasts weeks-months if it occurs
- Does not work well on legs
- Higher cost (both for the patient and for the clinic)
- Ethical issues with the company, Zeltiq (this one is on here because I spoke with several people who have Coolsculpting who have issues with the company’s tactics). I spoke with many practitioners who are using Vanquish ME who not only are getting great results with the device but are very happy about the parent company BTL.
Many devices use radiofrequency to heat the fat from the skin surface. These turn out to work OK– the main limitation is that you are heating the skin as well. The fat needs to get to around 45C to kill it. The skin starts to feel unbearably hot around 43C. Many devices use a surface cooling to keep the skin at 42C while heating more deeply. The Exilis Ultra (one of our machines) works this way. At 42C at the surface, you get tightening of the skin in addition to killing some of the fat deep to the skin. These devices are really great at tightening skin, and also burn some fat, so it turns out that this is a great treatment if you have a lot of loose skin and a bit of fat to burn.
Vanquish ME is very different. It has a very large applicator that can span from love handle to love handle. It is positioned near your skin but not touching it. It has been designed to tune the radiofrequency to the fat, selectively heating it more than the skin. It does heat the skin somewhat, so there is some skin tightening, but it is mostly heating the fat. It feels warm but not hot. So Vanquish ME is a great treatment if you have a bunch of fat to lose, and it will also tighten the skin a bit.
Used in combination, Vanquish ME and Exilis Ultra are an amazing treatment to reduce fat and tighten skin. The time it takes depends very much on your activity and how well you stay hydrated, but generally it is 3-6 months. It generally requires at least 4 treatments. You can see some of our own before and after pictures on our page about Vanquish ME here.
Interested in finding out more? We offer free consultations to answer all of your questions. Schedule online here, or call us at 206-228-7281.