My body type is petite and fairly unremarkable, but you can absolutely tell I like pasta. I tend to hold onto fat around my midsection, which is completely normal and fine, but time in quarantine streaming Marvel movies had me wanting a strong, toned, superhero-esque physique. I’m also an aerialist who practices pole, and time in lockdown impacted the progress I had made in that realm as well—my core wasn’t as strong, my muscles were less defined, and certain tricks I once loved became significantly harder.

When I learned that EmSculpt Neo could tackle both of these things in a series of four 30-minute sessions, I booked the treatment at a speed that could rival Quicksilver himself. The non-invasive body contouring treatment promises to build muscle and melt fat without any exercise required, thanks to technology that mimics the effect of over 1000 crunches in a half-hour. While the lazy girl within me rejoiced at this news, it also served as the potential jump-start I needed to actually start working on that Marvel superhero bod.

Here, we spoke to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Bruce E. Katz, MD, and medical esthetician Evelyn Ramirez, MA, to get all the details on EmSculpt Neo and how to tell if this treatment is right for you.

What Is EmSculpt Neo?

EmSculpt Neo is a non-invasive body contouring treatment that harnesses the powers of radio frequency (RF) and high-intensity focused electromagnetic energy (HIFEM) to simultaneously tone muscle and melt fat. “The HIFEM is what causes your muscle to contract,” Dr. Katz explains. “At the same time, the machine is firing RF to warm the muscle as you would during a warm-up, while also melting fat cells.” According to Ramirez, the warming action of the muscle helps to better prepare it for exposure to stress. Additionally, the fat cells are heated up to about 42 or 43 degrees Celsius, which causes apoptosis, or the controlled death of said fat cells. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good.

It’s the first time that this technology has been used in tandem—the first-ever version of EmSculpt only used the HIFEM energy and was better suited to already-fit individuals who wanted to create extra tone. The radio frequency gives EmSculpt Neo that extra fat-melting boost, making just about anyone a good candidate for the treatment.

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Benefits of EmSculpt Neo

One of the biggest reasons EmSculpt Neo can be a game-changer for many is its multifaceted approach to body contouring, allowing you to work on several goals at once. By the end of the treatment, you're likely to look and feel notably stronger and more toned. A few main effects are as follows:

Strengthens Your Core: All those HIFEM-motivated muscle contractions are great news for your core strength. Aside from the aesthetic payoff and better ability to keep up with a HIIT workout, Ramirez calls out that a stronger core packs additional health benefits. “Strengthening your core helps your posture and allows you to put less pressure on your back and hips,” she says. Echoing that sentiment, Dr. Katz notes that the improved core strength also led to lessen the lower back pain some of his patients faced before the treatment.

Reduces Fat: Those stubborn areas that always seem to hold onto fat? They’re no match for EmSculpt Neo’s radio frequency. Because the heat causes apoptosis in the fat cells, Ramirez notes that patients often see a 30% reduction of fat in the treated area. And it isn’t a temporary measure—once they go into apoptosis, the amount of fat cells in the impacted area are permanently reduced.

Improved Muscle Tone: While you’ll notice a more toned appearance, the benefits of conditioning your muscles run more than just skin-deep with this treatment. According to Dr. Katz, our bodies lose between 2 and 5% of our muscle mass every 10 years as part of the natural aging process, with almost 30% being lost over the course of one’s lifetime. “Because EmSculpt Neo builds muscle and restores the volume you lost, there are anti-aging benefits in restoring the muscle mass that would be lost naturally,” he says. “During the pathology studies, we also noticed new muscle fibers being created in areas that were treated, which is beyond what you’d see in exercise alone.”

Find out if EMSCULPT Neo is right for you.

How to Prepare for EmSculpt Neo

For the most part, EmSculpt Neo doesn’t require any pre-treatment preparation, according to Ramirez. However, she and Dr. Katz both note that you’ll want to remove any metal jewelry, as the radio frequency and HIFEM will heat them up. If you have a metal implant (like an IUD), make sure to check with your doctor before booking your EmSculpt Neo treatment to avoid any complications.

What to Expect During EmSculpt Neo Treatment

EmSculpt Neo is administered through a large electric paddle, which can be placed on the abdomen, thighs, and/or butt, depending on your treatment goals—a smaller paddle can target your arms as well. I chose to get my abdomen treated (because of my Marvel body goals), and Ramirez placed the paddle directly on my skin, holding it in place with a velcro band.

Once the paddle is activated, the sensation is somewhat of a hybrid that fuses the warmth of a heating pad with pulsating vibrations, and an almost-magnetic pull that seems to grab at your abs, coaxing them out from underneath. “You can feel intense muscle contractions together with a heating sensation in the treated area, which is comparable to a hot stone massage,” says Ramirez. “It’s also customizable, which allows us to treat each patient at their comfort level.” The treatment doesn’t hurt, and I wouldn’t even say it was uncomfortable—the biggest thing you’ll have to get used to is the involuntary muscle contractions and movements as a result of the machine, almost as if someone else is controlling your muscles.

Once you get used to it (and in my case, laughed off my weird, unexpected flailing with Ramirez), the treatment is quick and easy, taking about 30 minutes from start to finish. Afterwards, I was able to resume normal activities without incident. My abs were a bit sore the next day, but not in any significant way that impacted anything I was doing—it just felt as if I successfully completed a tough workout, and if anything, motivated me to complement my EmSculpt Neo treatment with exercise.

EmSculpt Neo vs. CoolSculpting

Considering that both methods are non-invasive body contouring treatments, EmSculpt Neo and CoolSculpting may seem similar on the surface, but Dr. Katz notes the technologies are entirely different. “CoolSculpting freezes the fat cells, but doesn’t touch the muscle, with roughly a 17 to 19% reduction in fat,” he says. “EmSculpt Neo eliminates fat while building the muscle, and you’ll see a 30% reduction in fat after completing the treatments.” The sensations between the two are also vastly different—with CoolSculpting, the temperature makes your skin go numb, followed by a massage to break up the fat cells. EmSculpt Neo is warmer in the way a hot stone massage is warm, but feels more active with the HIFEM contracting your muscles.

As someone who has tried both treatments, I found that the downtime with CoolSculpting lasted longer. While the results were significant, the treated area was swollen for a few days afterwards, and the numb sensation lasted for a few weeks. With EmSculpt Neo, I didn’t experience any downtime or lingering sensations, save for the “I just worked out” feeling in my abs the next day, which wasn’t uncomfortable.

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