Beauty

COVID-19 gave me a double chin, TruSculpt melted it off

TruSculpt gave me my face back... but there's a catch.

Look, obviously we've all gained a lot of weight during the COVID-19 crisis. That's just an established fact.

If, by some miracle, you're one of the precious few to maintain all diet and exercise and hormone levels and bloating over the last year, I'm asking you to suspend your judgment. In the rush to ready ourselves for the post-vaccine era, many people are becoming pragmatic and solution-minded towards reversing these changes. Which is how I found the fat contouring system TruSculpt.

Though I have been on the huskier side since my mid-20s, I've generally felt comfortable enough with myself to accept the state of things. Except for my chin. My entire family has a propensity towards plump faces which, in regards to aging at least, isn't such a bad thing. But, on me, all of my weight seems to show up on the lower third of my face, giving me a rather pronounced double chin — turning video calls on apps like FaceTime and Zoom into torture chambers of self consciousness.

Outside of losing enough weight around the entire body, to meaningfully reduce the submental (under the chin) fat would mean dropping quite a bit of weight, something I knew I would eventually do but wouldn't produce results fast enough to my liking. In my search for a solution I turned to my old reliable: science.

It looks like a portable air conditioner.Cutera

TruSculpt is a non-invasive solution to unwanted fat. To be clear, it doesn't make you "lose weight" in the same way diet and exercise do (shrinking fat cells), but it actually destroys the fat cells permanently by using targeted energy. It's the latest in a long line of non-invasive solutions to unwanted fat but, unlike CoolSculpting, TruSculpt also tightens the skin on the areas it targets — perfect for use on something like a double chin.

If you're not visualizing it yet, the TruSculpt machine creates radio waves that pass through the skin but stop when they reach a specific layer — the fat. Then that energy heats the fat up, killing the fat cells and passing the heat through the skin. The skin reacts as skin does to targeted heat, tightening and firming.

So I figured what the hell and booked a session to see if it would even do half of what its manufacturer claimed. To give it a go, I booked an appointment at BeautyFix Med Spa, one of the most popular aesthetic facilities in New York.

Full disclosure: I love beauty products. I love them like some people love exercise or crossword puzzles or keeping their home organized and stylish. But, as a male-presenting person, I've always felt a twinge of uncomfortability asking about products or to have things done — despite the fact that I'm an out-and-proud queer person with little-to-no shame around my masculinity or femininity. Telling people what you feel are your flaws is a vulnerable position to be in, even more so if self-confidence and acceptance are ideas you take seriously.

Telling people what you feel are your flaws is a vulnerable position to be in.

However, the team at BeautyFix are friendly and perky and all the things you'd want people to be in such a setting and did their very best to calm my nerves and make sure I was informed on the technology and procedure. Dr. Steve Fallek, M.D., the medical director at the Med Spa, gave me a tour of their facilities, taking time to point out their different equipment and explaining how each works.

On the topic of non-invasive fat contouring, he explained: "Basically, all these are just energy systems. TruSculpt is radio frequency energy. CoolSculpting is just cold — it's removing energy by freezing those areas. [TruSculpt] will heat up to about 40 to 44 degrees Celsius. It uses radio frequency to help break up the fat through a process called apoptosis. It will kill the fat cell and that will be absorbed through the body over the next couple of months."

CoolSculpting can be a great option for certain areas and certain skin types, but I had been correct in assuming TruSculpt would be the method for me. "We seem to see a little bit more natural skin tightening because of the [heat]," Dr. Fallek explained. A tight, slim neck? Let's get going immediately.

The actual system itself is either a handheld wand or a series of square bricks placed on different areas of the body. For my chin we used a handheld wand with a flat, square applicator end applied directly to my face in three areas for five minutes each.

"Many people obviously don't want to do any type of surgical procedure," explained Dr. Fallek. A non-invasive procedure can achieve similar results with less of the pain and mess associated with plastic surgery. He's absolutely correct that TruSculpt is quick and easy — had we not been living through a pandemic, I could easily have gone directly back to the office with nobody the wiser — but it's not magic. The actual application produces a dull ache in the area being treated, as well as enough heat to get my face sweating almost immediately.

TruSculpt is quick and easy but it’s not magic.

"In terms of the neck area, this is probably the easiest recovery," said Dr. Fallek. "Kybella [a nonsurgical injection that liquifies and kills fat cells] can, for a day or two, feel a burn reaction to the chemical and there could be some swelling. Then there's chin lipo, which we do here under local [anesthetic]. It's got some bruising and swelling. But all of these can really get you back to work with or without a mask in a day or so."

After a TruSculpt treatment, many patients can experience mild swelling (though I did not) and an extremely dull ache while the body clears away the remnants of the fat cells. It can take anywhere from six to eight weeks to appreciate the full results of each treatment and it's recommended that you get the procedure performed once a month for two to four sessions, depending on what your particular area may require.

My skin gets red at the slightest touch — ignore that.Ryan Houlihan, Input

After all that, you'll see enough of a difference to merit the trip. The average patient can expect a 24 percent reduction in fat cells after just one treatment. Take a look at my profile photos and you'll see why I have no complaints — the system works as described. Every time I pass a mirror I get a little smile on my face knowing that I'm no longer dealing with such a dramatic change to the face I'd known my entire life.

Unfortunately, there's a catch. (There's always a catch.)

While I love the results I've seen from this treatment… it definitely makes you want more. Now that my chin is closer to my old normal, should I try TruSculpt on my abdomen and get a new torso to go with it? What if all I needed all along was some cheekbones? Should I get filler done to shape and define my face a bit more? (I got a little.) You can see where I'm going with this.

While I love the results I've seen from this treatment… it definitely makes you want more.

Non-invasive beauty treatments and plastic surgery are nothing to be ashamed about, but they are addicting and quite expensive; TruSculpt will run you $750 a session. It's important to keep in mind a few things when doing such procedures: 1) Have realistic expectations for what can be accomplished. 2) Have a very defined budget of what you can afford — especially during these volatile times. 3) Take it slowly. You're not a contestant on The Swan. There's no rush.

Would I do TruSculpt again? Absolutely. It's the kind of science fiction every normal person staring at themselves in their bathroom mirror wishes they had. But is it right for you? That's something you need to work out with your doctor, your bank account, and your loved ones.

If you do decide to get it, please consider showing off your before and after photos! The more transparency and realism that surrounds this kind of technology, the healthier of a relationship people will have with it.

Disclosure: TruSculpt ID treatment was provided to Input for review by BeautyFix Med Spa.