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By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

It used to be that if you wanted to tighten your thighs or get rid of those not-so-loving love handles or slim your derriere, you had to go under the knife.

Sure, liposuction was never quite as traumatic as a full-on body or facelift, but it still constituted surgery, and included all the pain and recovery time involved in a surgical procedure.

Then, in the early 2000s, a whole new range of nonsurgical procedures for body shaping began to gain popularity, and medical noninvasive contouring treatments became the go-to solution for transforming flabby tummies into fabulous abs and bulging backsides into beautiful booties.

The myriad of mechanical body-shaping therapies now available in Mexico ranges from the basic to the bazaar, and just how well each method works depends on which technology it employs and who is administering it.

In fact, when it comes to ridding your body of unwanted fat, you can choose between burning it off (with laser heat), freezing it off (with sub-Arctic cooling), working it off (with electromagnetic energy that forces muscles to contract) or just plain scaring it off (with radio frequency waves and ultrasound technologies that break up fat cell and build collagen by engaging the skin’s deeper layers).

“The truth is that each of these techniques works to some degree,” explained aesthetic and plastic surgeon José Romeo Castillo Moreno, director of the JR Plastic, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery Spa Clinic in Mexico City’s upscale Colonia Polanco.

“And each has its particular pros and cons.”

Castillo Moreno went on to explain that temperature-based (both hot and cold) therapies, for example, work primarily by killing fat cells, either by freezing them or zapping them with heat.

“These are good at getting rid of excess fat, but do little or nothing to eliminate sagging tissue, and they can be quite uncomfortable,” he said.

Radio frequency and ultrasound treatments, on the other hand, target collagen and elastin production, stimulating the body to increase its output of these vital contouring elements.

“The result is a significant improvement, not only in skin’s contours, but in tightening,” Castillo Moreno said.

“These treatments do reduce fat accumulations in arms, thighs, buttocks and abdomens to some extent, but not nearly as much as temperature treatments do.”

Muscle-enhancing therapies are aimed at increasing muscle density, and while they do eliminate some overlying fat, their main objective is to strengthen both ab and buttock muscles.

The secret to finding the right noninvasive sculpting therapy for you is to start by knowing exactly what it is that you want to accomplish in reshaping your body, Castillo Moreno said.

“The truth is that when we talk about body contouring, we are talking about a plethora of therapies and objectives, from cellulite treatments to skin tightening therapies and from fat reduction to muscle tightening,” he said.

“This is one of the reasons why you should consult a board-certified medical professional and have any treatment done by a trained specialist.”

Castillo Moreno also noted that even the best body-sculpting technology in the wrong hands can be useless or even dangerous.

“These are highly advanced machines that have to be used in a specific manner,” he said.

For example, in the case of a heat-based treatment, if the temperature does not reach a hot or cold enough level to break down fat cells, the process will not be effective. And, of course, if the temperature is too high or too low, there can be superficial burning of the outer skin.

But in the right hands, Castillo Moreno said, patients can begin to see results within a few weeks or months, depending on the type of therapy used.

Notwithstanding, Castillo Moreno cautioned that patients need to understand that these noninvasive therapies are not a cure-all for every body shape problem.

“Most procedures take at least six weeks to show changes and require repeated sessions,” he said.

“And while most patients can expect to dramatically reduced fat accumulations and tighten flabby areas, there are some things that noninvasive therapies cannot do. These therapies can significantly reduce cellulite and the appearance of stretch marks, for example, but they cannot eliminate them completely. Anyone who promises that they can is lying to their patients.”

Castillo Moreno recommended that before undergoing a body-sculpting therapy, a patient sit down with their doctor and discuss what the treatment will involve, how long it will take and what they can realistically expect in the way of results.

“A noninvasive treatment is never going to create the same results as as a surgical procedure,” he said.

The main advantage of in-office procedures is, of course, the fact that they are usually much more affordable than surgical options and require little to no downtime.

The disadvantage is that there are no overnight results and they usually target one or two specific areas, rather than the entire body.

And, yes, like in the case of surgical procedures, they require complementary efforts, like following a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine, to get maximum results.

Castillo Moreno said that, once you have determined what exactly you hope to accomplish with your therapy, the best approach may end up being a combination of treatments.

New multi-faceted technologies, such as the PowerShape 2, which Castillo Moreno is using in his clinics in both Mexico City and Mexicali, combine different technologies to produce more dramatic and balanced results.

“I think that multi-functional, body-shaping therapies like PowerShape 2 are the new frontier in noninvasive body contouring, because they address a combination of issues with a holistic approach,” he said.

Castillo Moreno went on to explain that PowerShape 2, which was developed by the South Korean Eunsung Corporation, uses an innovative three-in-one system that synergistically incorporates bipolar radio frequency, low level laser rays and a vacuum roller for contouring and fat and cellulite reduction.

“This system has the advantage of being able to adapt to different parts of the body and face, and can be adjusted based on each patient’s needs and responses to the therapy,” he said.

Each session begins with a relaxing radio frequency treatment that delivers thermal energy deep into the lower layers of the skin and sends electromagnetic waves through dermal cells, both eliminating fat cells and stimulating collagen growth.

Then, the PowerShape 2’s vigorous vacuum function increases blood circulation by sucking the targeted areas and evening out skin texture to optimize delivery of the radio frequency energy.

This vacuum process also induces lymphatic drainage, smooths out the body’s contours and helps reduce cellulite, Castillo Moreno said.

The final process included in the three-pronged PowerShape 2 system is the use of specific wavelengths of laser light to significantly reduce the size of fat cells and to destabilize them so that they begin to break down and are expelled through the body’s own natural process.

This creates synergic results for a more balanced and effective body slimming, and maximizes the fat-reduction process.

“The benefit of using a multi-functional system is that the results are much more dramatic and faster. And there is no pain or bruising,” Castillo Moreno said.

“This is the cutting edge of modern, noninvasive body-shaping therapies. It is lightyears ahead of the earliest body-shaping treatments. In fact, it is getting so popular that we can barely keep up with demand at our clinics.”

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