While visiting a spa last week, I was encouraged to get a Slimming Body Wrap treatment.  Now, I'll be the first to admit my clothes are fitting a bit tighter than usual, but really, have I gotten to the point where I require remedial therapies?  I passed on the spa's service that day and hit the gym instead.  But it made me wonder: what is involved in these slimming spa treatments and do they work?

Body wraps are just one of a slew of services aimed at removing toxins, smoothing dimples, and purging fat deposits.  Here's a run-down of the most popular ones:

  • Colon Cleanse- It may be the oldest trick in the book for celebrities to perform before facing the red carpet, but it is still a relatively new technique for the masses.  Many medical spas are now offering Colon Hydrotherapy, a treatment that flushes out toxins from the large intestine with water.  It is commonly recommended to get a doctor's referral first and to receive a series of multiple therapies within a ten-day time period. A single treatment lasts an hour and costs from $55 to $175, though discounts may be available for a series.

  • Lymphatic Drainage- Another cleansing procedure, this therapeutic massage is meant to stimuate the circulation of lymph, which is the plasma-like fluid that maintains the body's fluid balance and removes bacteria.  Its catalog of benefits include flushing out toxins, smoothing cellulite, rejuvenating muscles, and boosting the immune system.  Cost varies with training and location, ranging from $50 to over $100 for an hour-long session.

  • Acoustic Wave Therapy- This cellulite treatment employs sound waves to create vibrations under the skin, breaking up fat tissue and stimulating collagen.  All the client feels is a little vibration.  In breaking up cellulite connective tissue, Accoustic Wave Therapy is supposed to result in less dimples and a smoother skin surface.  The recommended 6 treatments can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500.

  • Endermologie- A non-invasive way of shaping your body, Endermologie involves a hand-held device with tiny motorized rollers that gently lift, suction, and massage the skin. Originally developed to rehabilitate scars and damaged muscular tissue, it is now widely used to reduce cellulite by breaking up fat deposits and to release toxins by stimulating the venuous and lymphatic systems.  Though Endermologie is generally affordable (at $50-$70 per session), the average cost to reach desired results is between $1,200 and $2,000.  A single session lasts 40 minutes and is repeated one to two times per week until reaching satisfactory improvement, followed by monthly maintenance sessions.

  • Smart Lipo- This lipolysis system is the latest minimally invasive method for removing fat with a laser.  Through the use of a high-powered laser inserted in a tube, Smart Lipo rapidly contours the body, dissolves fat, and tightens the surrounding skin.  Designed to treat localized pockets of fat, this procedure is typically targeted on the waist, chin, thighs, hips, buttocks, and upper arms.  The average cost is $5,785.

  • Lipodissolve- A new technique developed specifically to eliminate localized fat deposits, Lipodissolve is ideal for problem areas that won't disappear despite maintaining proper diet and exercise.  It involves a series of medicated injections of a chemical cocktail featuring multivitamins, alpha lipid acid, enzymes, plant extracts, and phosphatidylcholine/deoxycholate (PCDC), a soybean extract/bile derivative that has been shown to break down fat to be later metabolized by the body.  Lipodissolve is also known as mesotherapy, lipolysis, injection lipolysis, and lipostabil, and it can cost anywhere from $300 to $800 per area being treated.

  • Body Wrap- Believed to release body toxins and relieve excess water retention, body wraps are a temporary fix for slimming down in one relaxing visit.  Typically following a facial application of a mud mask, an elastic cloth is wrapped around the body to absorb excess bodily toxins.  Like a thermal blanket, this snug wrap induces sweating and aids in the shedding of unnecessary interstitial fluid.  As tissue wastes are removed from the body, clients usually experience a loss of two to four inches.  Additional benefits include relief from muscle and joint pain, decrease of acne, and whole body detoxification.  The process costs between $100 and $300.


To answer whether or not these body slimming treatments work, you have to decide whether you care more about a quick fix or a permanent solution.  You'll be unlikely to achieve the latter in most cases.  The cleansing rituals of Body Wraps, Colon Cleanses, and Lymphatic Drainage might deliver immediate results, both superficial and internal. However, toxins and interstitial fluids eventually re-accumulate, so regular treatments will be necessary to acheieve long-term benefits. There is plenty of evidence that the anti-cellulite techniques, such as Acoustic Wave Therapy, Endermologie, and Smart Lipo,  reduce the appearance of fat and make skin smoother, but they don't actually remove fat.  For how expensive a series of these services runs, you might expect dramatic results, but this is entirely dependent on the expertise of the technician and the lifestyle of the patient.  Nothing is guaranteed.

Lipodissolve is another story.  Lipodissolve injections do liquefy fat, but where the fat goes is anyone's guess.  From the liver to the blood vessels, excess fat can build up in risky areas of the body, resulting in potential liver failure or increased risk of heart attack.  Moreover, the chemical cocktail that makes up the injection is not FDA regulated or approved, and some concoctions might include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, or homones.  No studies have demonstrated where the medication travels or how it affects many organs.  Still considered an experimental technology, Lipodissolve is not recommended by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, is under scrutiny in Canada, and is banned in Brazil.  Clinical studies are currently underway to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Lipodissolve.

Most doctors are skeptical about bulge-blasting treatments, insisting that there is no proven way to get rid of cellulite permanently in a spa setting; nonetheless, the medical community concedes that various options might improve the skin's appearance temporarily.  Some services may be billed as non-surgical alternatives to liposuction, but nothing tops liposuction when it comes to the permanent removal of unwanted fat.  Ultimately, with the exception of Lipodissolve, none of the body slimming treatments will harm you, though they might put a dent in your bank account.  Don't tell anyone, but I'll share with you a secret technique that expels toxins, zaps fat, and boosts the immune system, which you won't find on the menu of any spa but you can do in your own home: crank up the stereo and start sweating to the oldies!