6 New Ways to Blast Away Fat
Slimming down simplified: Katherine Kluznik gets the skinny on six smart new ways to get rid of fat, no lipo required.
Until recently, those wishing to erase a double chin or eliminate saddlebags had only one truly effective quick-fix option: surgical liposuction. Now, however, streamlining problem areas requires nothing more than a trip to the dermatologist. "We have so many options now. The most invasive traditional liposuction has pretty much become obsolete," says dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, MD. And there are even more high-tech fat fixers on the horizon. Here, the most cutting-edge ways to shape up.
HOT SHOTS: ATX-101
Credit: Explore Plastic Surgery
"It's simply an injection, so the ease of use is a great thing," says New York dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, of forthcoming jawline sculptor ATX-101 (FDA approval is currently slated for May). Using a synthetic version of the same molecule, deoxycholic acid, that our digestive system uses to process dietary lipids, ATX-101 shrinks the small pockets of fat that cause double chins. In clinical trials, patients experienced significant loss in submental fat as well as an increase in skin firmness following a series of up to six injections spaced four weeks apart. "Not only are you destroying the fat cells, you're also getting some tightening of the skin," says Miami- and New York City–based dermatologist Fredric Brandt, MD. But while Frank anticipates "a huge stir of applause," he cautions against touting the procedure as a fix-all. In one clinical study, over 20 percent of patients experienced moderate postshot pain, and, he says, "it causes bruising and swelling" that can last two to five days after each treatment. There's also a reason why ATX-101 is best limited to use above the chest. "It's not something that I'd inject all over someone's stomach," Brandt says. "The more fat you're treating, the more of an inflammatory response you're going to get. So when you're treating large areas of the body, there's going to be a lot of swelling."
Credit: Your Weight Loss Aid
Another injectable is being tested in clinical trials specifically to tackle the stomach. Lipo-202's active ingredient, salmeterol xinafoate, found in common asthma medications, whittles fat cells by targeting and diminishing the triglycerides they store (the more triglycerides a cell contains, the bigger it is). "Lipo-202 shrinks the size of the fat cell—it's not destroying it, like with other modalities," says dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD. As a result, "There is no recovery. There is no downtime." Better yet: Many patients report dropping a dress size. "That, I think, was the biggest wow factor," Peredo says. A full course of treatment involves a five-minute session of 20 tiny shots dispersed evenly over the abdomen, performed once a week for eight weeks. And while current trials address only belly issues, Peredo says, "I could see this being used in other areas, like arms or the back," as well as under the chin. But could the inches come back if we give in to a few too many doughnut binges? "We don't have the answer yet," says Peredo, who adds that new studies will look at the long-term effectiveness of the treatment.
LIQUID ASSETS: LATANOPROST AND BIMATOPROST
"A lot of the things that we figure out in any realm of cosmetic surgery, particularly with fat, we learn by accident," says Frank. Case in point: the latest innovative application for prostaglandin analogs, the active ingredient in glaucoma eye drops that, thanks to a lash-growth side effect, led to the creation of Latisse. Over the years, ophthalmologists have observed diminishment in puffiness around the eyes of some patients using glaucoma drops, leading researchers to look at prostaglandin as a possible topical fat dissolver. How does it work? "This is not completely understood," says Fusco, who explains that the drug seems to decrease fat-cell volume. But this is definitely not a DIY trick to try on your own eye bags: Potential side effects include darkening of skin and unpredictable shrinkage. Says Fusco: "I think we're just at the very beginning of something like this—but it is fascinating."
COLD PLAY: COOLSCULPTING
Credit: Shape Magazine
"Fat cells are more sensitive to cold than other cells in the body," Brandt says of the simple mechanism behind the technology Zeltiq, which cools adipose cells to the point at which approximately 30 percent quite literally freeze to death during a one- to two-hour session per region. "You're able to selectively kill the cells," which, he explains, die off and are naturally eliminated by the body over the following few months.
After a recent launch of applicators sized to target the biggies on everyone's hit list, including saddlebags and inner thighs, look out for the launch of a small-scale head to treat tiny pockets—including double chins. Says Manhattan-based dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, MD, "CoolSculpting the chin would be another game changer."
SOUND EFFECTS: LIPOSONIX
Credit: Leif Rogers MD
Just one 60-minute session with a high-intensity ultrasound machine can erase a handful of pounds. During the procedure, molecular vibrations heat underlying tissues, increasing skin's tautness as well as killing adipose cells—which are then naturally processed by the body over the next several months. And while the results are similar to those of CoolSculpting (according to Frank, "You can get rid of a centimeter to a centimeter and a half"), Liposonix has the advantage of speed. Freezing multiple areas such as the stomach and hips could translate to six hours in the doctor's office, compared with only one hour for Liposonix. Nevertheless, many patients still opt for the big chill, no matter how slow: Frank says, "Liposonix hurts a lot more."
Credit: ATT Medikal
Already approved for bellies, arms, and thighs in Europe, pulsed ultrasonic UltraShape has now gotten the FDA go-ahead to treat abdominal fat stateside. Brandt, who is among the first MDs to work with the device in the U.S., says that unlike other ultrasound treatments, "it's not a painful process" because the energy is pulsed. UltraShape delivers ultrasound to tissues in a way that eradicates cells through mechanical manipulation rather than thermal heat. Three sessions over six weeks can yield a 30 percent decrease in troublesome patches—results comparable to the popular Liposonix and CoolSculpting. "There is no recovery time," Kauvar says, "and results become visible as early as two weeks after the first treatment."