I don’t write about beauty stories much – but recently I received an invite to a press launch that intrigued me. Would I like to witness a “live demonstration” of the Zerona body contour laser? Er… maybe. Zerona is the latest fat-busting treatment to come out of the USA – non-invasive, painless, it causes no swelling or bruising – and is especially good for bingo wings (the stubborn arm fat that is the scourge of women of a certain age). Its unique selling point is that it is a device for removal of circumferential fat (that means evenly around your waist, hips , thighs or arms), so you’re not left with uneven, lumpy areas. It literally shrinks your fat cells.
Melissa McCarthy wants it…..
More than 600,000 people in the US have already been treated with Zerona and as with most things , what goes down well in the States usually takes off here too, sooner or later. Their marketing guy told me they sponsored the Emmy Awards and their room was full of celebs queuing up for free treatments (although not actually on the night I’m guessing). One of them was Melissa McCarthy (above) star of the cult Bridesmaids 2011 movie. The marketing man also said the treatment is particularly popular with men and the company is positioning itself in gyms attached to day spas in the US – apparently because blokes like the idea of combining the fat zapping with exercise ( maybe they’re just in denial though and like to kid themselves it’s just the exercise that has trimmed their waists?).
Is it just lipo under another name?
If it all sounds a bit like a 21st century reinvention of liposuction – actually it’s not. The problem with liposuction (apparently) is that it can lead to weird , lumpy, disfigurement – you suck out fat in one area and the area looks unnatural and fat clumps around the sucked-out area. Liposuction is also an invasive procedure – you have an incision and fat is sucked out .It can give rise to complications – including infections , numbness, scarring and in rare cases life threatening thrombosis.Not so with Zerona. Over 600,000 treatments have been completed in the US with no reported adverse events and there’s no recovery time – so you could literally have the treatments in your lunch hour(s).
How strong is the evidence?
Another thing caught my eye. Zerona is the first body sculpting ‘ cool’ laser to be cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration .To get this approval by the FDA, the cool laser actually had to undergo a randomised double-blind clinical trial (as you know this is the best quality research evidence as it compares interventions with having no treatment and patients don’t know if they are having the real thing or a fake treatment). I took a look at the study – published in 2009. There were only 67 participants admittedly, but of those 35 had active treatment with Zerona and 32 were randomised to the sham treatment. All the participants agreed to make no changes to their diets or exercise regime for the duration of their two weeks of treatment. The researchers concluded that Zerona was effective at removing 3.5 inches of circumferential fat on three areas – the waist, hips , and the thighs – compared with only 0.684 of an inch loss in the sham group who didn’t have Zerona but a fake treatment. This was achieved in two weeks – which sounds impressive. I have read one blog from an American plastic surgeon which is sceptical about the paper to say the least though.The company have 17 other clinical papers published in peer-reviewed journals too (I haven’t read them all, though).
The cynic in me though, is asking is it just a temporary effect, similar to those funny body wrap things in beauty parlours which draw out water and make you look less bloated for a few days – just so you can look slimmer for a wedding or party? Well, the research did find that after two weeks the participants who’d had the Zerona treatment had regained 0.31 inches on all three sites – so clearly it’s not a totally permanent solution. I’d be interested in the long-term follow-up figures to see if those inches remain off for six or 12 months or more .If they do I can see there would be some eager takers for it in the UK.
What’s the science behind it then?
The laser triggers a photochemical reaction which causes the fat within fat cells to melt and then the fat is released through a pore in the cell created by the laser and then eliminated by the body (you’re advised to drink lots of water to help flush out the by products).
UK plastic surgeon Mr Christopher Inglefield from the London Bridge Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Clinic describes it as a “natural biological reaction in the fat cell” – and is offering it at his clinic (it’s also available at Urban Retreat in Harrods). In the UK the treatment is being licensed for use under medical supervision only. He predicts that devices such as Zerona which complement natural science are the future of medical aesthetic procedures.
The Zerona laser in action
Who does it work best for?
The experts say Zerona is best for people of average weight who have stubborn areas of fat they have found hard to shift. Think post-baby tummy weight for example, love handles, bra strap fat bulge,post menopause thick waist, lumpy thighs or bingo wings.They wouldn’t recommend it for people who are gaining weight though.
There are reports that Zerona is even more effective if you combine it with a ketogenic diet (that’s a high fat/low carb /controlled protein diet) and exercise – but that’s hardly a surprise is it?
How many treatments do you need?
This depends on your weight and age; the older and heavier you are the more sessions you’ll need. Zerona say you’ll need six 45 minute treatments over two weeks (a minimum of 72 hours apart). It will cost you between £900 and £1,500 in the UK but you’ll need no time off work for recovery – unlike after some more invasive procedures. You can literally have it done in your lunch hour(s).
If you are obese though it’s likely you’ll need at least 12 treatments – so that’s up to £3,000. You might want to try dieting first and then resort to Zerona if you can’t shift those stubborn wobbly bits… it would be cheaper.
What of the “live demonstration” I hear you ask? Well, a volunteer laid down in front of 25 journalists at the W Hotel and was dutifully lasered for 45 minutes whilst we talked amongst ourselves. Allegedly she had “stubborn post-baby fat” – although I have to say if she did, it was incredibly well hidden. Anyway, it looked painless and dare I say it, quite relaxing. When the PR asked if anyone would like to trial it – everyone raised their hands. Always the acid test. Expect to be reading about it in all the beauty pages soon ….