Body Toning Technologies

Nonsurgical body contouring with Emsulpt, Cooltone by Coolsculpting and truSculpt flex are the newest muscle toning evolution, but which one should you incorporate into your practice?

The latest evolution in nonsurgical body contouring began last year with muscle-toning technology Emsculpt (BTL). Two other similar devices entered the market soon after to claim some of that noninvasive market share: Cooltone by Coolsculpting (Allergan) and truSculpt flex (Cutera).

The muscle stimulating devices noninvasively tone and stimulate muscle just enough to give reasonably fit patients a more sculpted look and feel.

Unlike volume reduction devices, such as Coolsculpting (Allergan), TruSculpt iD (Cutera) or SculpSure (Cynosure), muscle stimulating technology works to tone and shape by hyper stimulating the underlying muscle. The ideal candidate — one that is fit with minimal body fat — will likely by most satisfied from the investment, according to experts.

But results are temporary and treatments expensive, often in the range of $750 to $1000 per treatment area. And having one of these devices is a sizeable investment for an aesthetic practice.

So, how does an aesthetic practice decide whether to invest in one of these technologies?

We asked several aesthetic physicians to share what they’ve learned about what differentiates the technologies and more.

A Question of ROI

Plastic surgeon Christie Prendergast, M.D., Santa Monica, Calif., says Emsculpt has the advantage of being the first muscle-building and sculpting device on the market. That means it has more brand recognition to consumersthan the others.

Adding Emsculpt to a practice, however, comes at a hefty price.

“CoolTone… in terms of value can be more cost effective for those who already own a Coolsculpting machine,” according to Dr. Prendergast.

One of the differentiators with Cooltone is that Allergan claims its technology has a higher intensity than competitors’ devices. That could mean fewer sessions and time to see the same results, but the jury remains out on that until there’s more data, according to Dr. Prendergast.

“For truSculpt flex one of the things that Cutera is marketing, which I think has some clinical significance, is that truSculpt flex has multidirectional electromagnetic therapy,” Dr. Prendergast says.

In theory, truSculpt flex might result in a more even, balanced result because instead of stimulating superficial muscle, like Emsculpt and Cooltone, it stimulates the superficial and deep muscle fibers. That, too, remains to be seen with more data, she says.

Best candidates for all muscle sculpting or toning technologies are generally physically fit and should be counseled that results are not permanent and need to be maintained with diet and exercise. Treatment enhances what patients have at baseline and is ideal for busy professionals who cannot dedicate the amount of time in the gym needed to achieve their body goals, according to Dr. Prendergast.

The temporary boost in muscle tone and function comes at a pretty steep price, so proper patient selection and counseling patients on what to expect is very important.

“I don’t think patients will see good ROI if they’re using this as a substitute for diet and exercise,” she says.

Competition Among Devices

New York City cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, M.D., says having a muscle stimulating device can boost a practice’s bottom line but that’s not a given.

“The HIFEM magnetic field technology (electromagnetic energy) is similar to that of an MRI machine,” she says. “Having Emsculpt as a part of your treatment offerings can boost a practice’s revenue, as patient’s need approximately four treatments two to three days apart. The cost per treatment ranges from $750 to $1000 per treatment area. In addition, treatment can be done by a trained technician under the supervision of the physician.”

Cooltone, uses magnetic muscle stimulation to penetrate deep into the muscle layers, but Cooltone is only FDA approved for the abdomen, thigh and buttock area, according to Dr. Green.

“Emsculpt is the gold standard body sculpting device. It is FDA approved to treat the calves, biceps, triceps, abdomen and buttocks areas with good results,” she says.

One thing for practices to think about before taking the body toning device plunge is that the overall body sculpting market is saturated. Medspas offer services in this category at prices that can make it hard for physicians to compete, according to Dr. Green.

And these machines are expensive to maintain. While Dr. Green says the Emsculpt doesn’t use consumables, practices pay $10,000 to change the applicator pads after 300 to 450 treatments.

“The deciding factor is the open-ended question of ongoing maintenance treatments and how many treatments are needed after the initial treatment on an ongoing basis. Also, there are no studies that have been published analyzing the long-term efficacy of the treatments,” she says.

Dr. Green reports no conflicts of interest.

NEXT: Protocols for Muscle Toning Technologies