Test Drive: Will SculpSure banish belly fat? We tried it.

We tested the new, non-invasive slimming technology to see if it would reduce a “pooch”
SculpSure WIFH Sandy Springs
Photograph courtesy of WIFH

After having children, a lot of women end up with a layer of fat in the lower belly that they call a “pouch” or a “pooch.” For me, as a mom of two who’s also a fitness instructor, it’s more like a small coin purse or a Chihuahua puppy. And no amount of crunches, yoga, or planking seems to get rid of it.

I know that liposuction, or maybe a tummy tuck, would take care of things, but I don’t want to go under the scalpel (because: pain, money, and the nagging feeling that I shouldn’t try to live up to unfair beauty standards. Though of course I do try.). I’ve read about CoolSculpting, which uses suction to freeze and kill stubborn fat cells under the skin (which are then, apparently, pooped out), but some patients say the cold is nearly unbearable and the recovery quite painful.

Then along comes SculpSure, a method of targeting stubborn areas—we’re talking belly fat, back fat, inner thigh squish, and the like—with lasers (pew! pew!). In short, according to a report in the Cosmetic Surgery Times, the procedure heats fat cells to the point of injury. Then the body’s immune system clears the body of these cells. As a result, the treated area shrinks. The procedure is said to be best for already-active people—with a Body Mass Index of 30 or less—and is marketed as only mildly uncomfortable.

A SculpSure treatment takes about 25 minutes and is supposed to reduce fat in the targeted area by 25 percent. The cost: upwards of $1,100. WIFH, a plastic surgery practice in Sandy Springs that’s headed by Dr. Jay M. Kulkin, is the first to offer SculpSure in Atlanta. So I made an appointment.

In an examining room, Kulkin took a plastic frame—it looked a lot like the kind you’d put around a license plate—with two vertical lines that forced my tummy to smoosh up into the spaces like little loaves of bread. Next to me was the SculpSure machine, from which sprang large tubes. Each tube had a head that looked like a vacuum attachment. On the end of each head was a flat metal plate.

Kulkin clicked each head to a section of the plastic frame, making contact with the skin. Then he started up the machine. At first I felt a very localized cooling sensation, designed to dull the pain of the coming heat, which felt warm and tingly. Soon, though, it felt like I’d leaned against a hot stove. But each round of heating passed quickly, so it was tolerable.

Afterwards, I didn’t notice any immediate pain, swelling or bruising, and Kulkin told me there was no post-procedure care. “Just come back in three months,” he said.

The next day I felt a little bit of soreness in the area, but no worse than I’d feel after a short set of crunches. The second day, the soreness in my lower abs was more pronounced. The third day, the area was just a tiny bit swollen. On the fourth day, a couple of spots were slightly tender to the touch. On the fifth, it felt as though I had two bruises on my lower stomach, not that you could see any. I saw no immediate difference in the look of my lower stomach, but Dr. Kulkin had warned me that I wouldn’t notice a change until the three-month mark.

Fast-forward to that mark, and I thought my little pouch had peaced out. Maybe my pants fit a little bit better? I wasn’t sure; it’s difficult for me to really evaluate what I look like. So I visited WIFH for an evaluation.

Does SculpSure work?
Before (left) and after

Photographs by Christine Van Dusen

Does SculpSure work?
Before (left) and after

Photographs by Christine Van Dusen

After looking at some before-and-after photos (he sometimes weighs clients before and after the procedure, but I opted out of that), the doctor announced there’d been a minor change: a slightly smaller tummy. To see a big change, I’d probably need multiple treatments. To prove this point, he showed me another client’s before-and-after photos. The woman’s midsection had become significantly smaller and more taut—after three rounds of SculpSure.

Me, though? I decided to just let my sleeping pooch lie.