My body type might be petite, but you can absolutely tell I like pasta. I tend to hold onto fat around my midsection—which is completely normal and fine—but streaming Marvel movies has got me wanting a strong, toned, superhero-esque physique. So when I learned that EmSculpt Neo could melt fat and build muscle over four 30-minute sessions, I booked the treatment at a speed to rival Quicksilver himself.
Here, we spoke to board-certified dermatologist Bruce E. Katz, MD, and medical esthetician Evelyn Ramirez, MA, to get all the details on EmSculpt Neo and how to tell if it's right for you. Keep reading to learn more and to see how I fared as I test-drove the treatment.
Meet the Expert
- Bruce E. Katz, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist, director of the Juva Skin and Laser Center, and a clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine.
- Evelyn Ramirez, MA, is a medical esthetician born and raised in New York City.
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,” 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.
Benefits of EmSculpt Neo
- 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, Katz notes that the improved core strength also led to lessening 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 percent reduction of fat in the treated area. And it isn’t a temporary measure—once they go into apoptosis, the number of fat cells in the impacted area is permanently reduced.
- Improves 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 Katz, our bodies lose between 2 and 5 percent of our muscle mass every 10 years as part of the natural aging process, with almost 30 percent 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.”
One of the biggest reasons EmSculpt Neo can be a game-changer for many is this 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.
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 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, 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 main thing you’ll have to get used to is the involuntary muscle contractions and movements, which almost feel like 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. Afterward, 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, I was motivated to complement my EmSculpt Neo treatment with exercise.
Before and After
Before my four EmSculpt Neo treatments, my midsection was not toned in the slightest, with excess fat clinging to my lower abdomen in particular. I started noticing significant results week by week, with my obliques popping through as early as my second treatment. I'm also an aerialist who practices pole, and after completing the fourth treatment, I definitely experienced an improvement in my strength. This was especially noticeable when I was attempting moves where I was required to initiate from my core.
EmSculpt Neo vs. CoolSculpting
Simply put: CoolSculpting just focuses on getting rid of fat, while EmSculpt burns the fat while also toning muscle.
As Katz tells us, the technologies are entirely different. “CoolSculpting freezes the fat cells but doesn’t touch the muscle, with roughly a 17 to 19 percent reduction in fat,” he says. “EmSculpt Neo eliminates fat while building the muscle, and you’ll see a 30 percent 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 afterward, 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.
Potential Side Effects
There aren’t usually any side effects associated with EmSculpt Neo, apart from that residual "just worked out" feeling the treated area will have in the day that follows. “The original EmSculpt launched in 2018, and EmSculpt Neo was launched in 2020,” Katz says. “After hundreds of thousands of treatments, we haven’t seen one side effect, which is quite remarkable.”
A single session of EmSculpt Neo can run anywhere from $750 to $1,000. Because at least four consecutive treatments are necessary for optimal results, expect to spend between $3,000 and $4,000 in total.
Would you believe us if we told you there's no downtime associated with EmSculpt Neo? “After an EmSculpt Neo treatment, you can resume all of your normal activity, and go about your day as you typically would,” Katz says. While you won’t want to apply an ice pack to the treated area (the tissues should stay warm for a bit), there aren’t any restrictions to any of your activities afterward—whether you decide to do an additional workout or house a bowl of pasta is entirely up to you.
Conscious of the fact that I just had my muscles contracted, and in effect, “worked out,” I made sure to bring a bottle of water to hydrate right after. “Radio frequency also feeds off water, which helps to flush out toxins from our body, which will be excreted through sweat and urine,” Ramirez adds. The next day, my abdomen felt as if I did an intense core workout, which was to be expected and wasn’t limiting at all.
The Final Takeaway
Color me an EmSculpt Neo convert. In addition to the obvious aesthetic benefits, I loved how it impacted my core strength. As an avid (but by no means great) pole hobbyist, I had worked really hard to get my core muscles in a place where I could navigate the trickier moves with ease. But all of that kind of unraveled in lockdown without studio access. Practicing at home was effective, but still a far cry from the intense practices I used to have, and my muscles really felt the impact (or lack thereof).
EmSculpt Neo helped me to recondition those muscles so I could better navigate harder moves that required me to initiate from my core, and honestly, the sculpted appearance certainly doesn’t hurt. My form-fitting clothes look better than ever, and I’m less self-conscious about the area of my lower abdomen that seemed to cling to my clothes and hold onto extra fat. I’ve already seen significant results and am excited for even more progress in the months that follow.
Anyway, hit me up in six months, Marvel. My body is ready.
I Tried Emsculpt—a Body-Contouring Device—and Now I Have Actual Abs