We Tried It: Can a Fat Laser Actually Get Rid of Flabby Arms?

We went under the laser to find out.


My poor arm post-treatment.

I don’t remember exactly when it was that I started hating my arms, but it’s been at least two decades. My wrists are okay. They are small and delicate, and bracelets hang off of them quite nicely. I’d even say I’m fine with my forearms. It’s the upper arm that’s a problem, the jiggly mess that stretches from my elbow to my shoulder.

Many women are uncomfortable with their upper arms. This is why the stilted hand-on-hip pose was invented in the first place, to fake upper-arm definition. Millions of women are photographed standing like stupid teacups just to disguise their arm flab. Surely there is a better, less awkward way?

Enter: The Fat Laser.

The fat laser is actually a treatment call TruSculpt, and it is offered at About Face Skincare, the Center City med spa owned by medical esthetician Naomi Fenlin. I’d like to say I was hesitant when she first emailed me asking if I wanted to try out the service, but two words have never been more enticing: Fat. Laser.

I set up an appointment with Fenlin one afternoon, and went in expecting to leave with toned, taut arms — arms with that little indent in them, right beneath the shoulder. Arms like Gwyneth Paltrow, or Jennifer Aniston, or Michelle Obama. That didn’t happen: Our first appointment was a general informational session. Fenlin explained to me how it all worked, when I’d see results, and what it would feel like. She told me that most people opt to get it on lower tummies (you know, that squishy bubble located just below your belly button that laughs at your futile sit-ups) or arms. A-ha! I knew was not alone. But was it all hype?

The science behind it all actually makes sense: You’re only born with a certain number of fat cells; when you gain weight, your fat cells expand rather than multiply. (Who knew?) In order to lose excess fat, you need to destroy these cells. Each fat cell is encased in a membrane. TruSculpt uses radio-frequency energy to disintegrate these membranes. The fat inside is loose and gelatinous, and it is eventually  eliminated through your lymphatic system. Lipo sucks out the fat, TruSculpt blasts it apart.

The radio-frequency energy is administered through a small handheld device, which Fenlin presses against the treatment area for four minutes at a time. She patchworks it over the skin, covering every single inch, and then she does it again. And it is painful.

I actually got the treatment on my second visit, and then again on three more visits. (It usually takes about three to four treatments to see the best results.) The device that delivers the pulses of energy gets hot and gradually increases in temperature. It’s measured in joules, so it doesn’t directly translate, but I’ll leave it at this: I needed to take a Vicodin each time, and I still gritted my teeth in pain. I thought of Gwyneth’s glorious arms to get me through it, and Fenlin’s soothing voice helped make it bearable. (Really, if this woman wasn’t a pro fat-blaster/skin savior, she’d make a great therapist.) Expect to be sore for a day or two after the treatment. And don’t plan on wearing a sleeveless shirt afterwards. (See the picture above. Yikes.)

The end result? I lost over an inch on the circumference of each arm. It took a little while for the results to really show, but I could tell that my arms felt firmer. And, hey, measurements don’t lie. I’m still not wholly comfortable with my arms — the treatment eliminates the jiggle, but it doesn’t give you magically toned muscles. Once there’s a laser treatment for that, count me in.

The Details: Treatments start at $299 (under the jaw) and go up depending on the size of the treatment area. For a size-8 stomach, expect to pay from $1,000 to $1,200. 1015 Chestnut Street, Washington Square West, 215-923-5001. Go here to schedule an appointment.