Contouring the Male Body
- Medical Community Member - February 28th 2019
For centuries, the ideal male body has been depicted as an athletic, lean, and muscular figure; this is seen in many historic art pieces, such as Greek sculptures. Today, many actors are considered body icons and are sprawled across the front pages of magazines globally. Research has found that the ideal male body shape is characterized by lean and well-defined muscle mass, and it is often a body type that many women prefer as well. This body type is considered a physical manifestation of traits such as discipline, dominance, resilience, attractiveness, and sexual experience.
It is possible to achieve this ideal physique by committing to regular exercise and a healthy diet, but some men do not have the time or inclination to spend hours at the gym. Physique also changes as men age, and it is difficult to get rid of the fat that may appear. Additionally, each man has his own goal of how his body should look, and the so-called ideal body is not necessarily everyone’s preference. As such, different approaches must be used as part of consultation and treatment when considering the option of body contouring procedures for men.
Consultation – Inquiries and Suitability
Not everyone is suitable for a body contouring procedure. Lifestyle should be discussed before any procedure occurs; diet, alcohol consumption, and exercise should be rated on a scale by patients. If men have negative lifestyles, their lymphatic systems will be unable to process the fat cells as they are being broken down, which means treatment will be ineffective. If a patient’s lifestyle is addressed and optimized during the treatment and follow up, results can be more noticeable. A healthy lifestyle is simply required to maintain the results; sometimes patients are advised to come back after they have improved their lifestyles.
The fat that requires treatment is also important. Body contouring targets subcutaneous fat, but many men usually present visceral fat that is stored around important organs and can only be targeted with diet and exercise. Patients should address this first and then come back to be assessed for treatment of any remaining subcutaneous fat.
Finally, the predominant reason many men do not go through with a body contouring procedure is price. This is especially common if they are unaware of how much the procedure(s) cost. It is important to discuss prices over the phone with patients and outline costs on clinic websites before patients come in for consultation.
The most common area of concern for men is the abdomen. In this area, men want to reduce fat and tone muscles. The second area is the flanks (also known as the “muffin top”), which is an area that is almost impossible to get rid of with exercise. The third area is a chest with gynaecomastia. Men’s chests can also droop, but they can be perked up relatively easily because men have less breast tissue. Outlined below are some common treatments used for contouring the male body.
During cryolipolysis, a high-pressure suction handpiece is used to target areas of the body that are then cooled to negative temperatures. The cold induces fat cell apoptosis, and the dead fat cells are eliminated from the body through lymphatic drainage. This procedure is especially useful for fat pockets that are hard to get rid of. The applicator is a good option for men, as it is a two-plate style applicator that usually covers the entire abdominal area. Thus, the fat doesn’t have to be squeezed into a suction handpiece.
Usually, it takes up to four to twelve weeks for the body to expel the dead fat cells. During this time, patients may notice tenderness and swelling. This form of treatment may be uncomfortable, as the area goes numb during the procedure, which can take up to 50 minutes. Numbing of the area for up to three weeks and cold burns are possible side effects. A possible complication is paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, which means that after cryolipolysis, there is an area of fat remaining that makes it look like weight was gained.
2. Laser-assisted lipolysis
Instead of freezing fat tissue, this option involves heating it using laser energy to permanently destroy fat cells in adipose tissue. The treatment takes 25 minutes and aims to destroy around 24% of treated fat in problematic areas, such as the abdomen and flanks. Results can be seen as early as six weeks, but optimal results tend to be visible at 12 weeks. Additionally, two to three treatment sessions are required to see results.
There is a risk of thermal injury and nerve damage, but the risk is low if practitioners of this treatment modality follow protocols carefully. Abdominal scarring should be considered a contraindication, as this can be a painful treatment.
3. Radiofrequency (RF)
RF offers body contouring through heating and melting away fat cells. Some devices can use RF energy alone or are combined with methods like suction. The fat layer is heated to 45°Celsius, and the RF energy induces apoptosis in fat cells while sparing the surrounding cells. Volume reduction follows three to eight weeks after the treatment. Venus Freeze is one example of a device that uses RF energy; it heats the tissue using a combination of multi-polar RF and pulsed electromagnetic fields.
Ultimately, patients should have eight to ten treatments once a week. Contraindications include metal implants in the treatment area, the presence of cancer, and a history of cancer. Although RF devices are programmed to prevent overheating the skin’s surface, burns may still occur. Older devices can also have uneven depths of RF penetration, which can result in uneven fat breakdown.
4. High-intensity focused electromagnetic technology
High-intensity focused electromagnetic technology builds muscle and burns fat. For example, Emsculpt is a high-intensity focused electromagnetic device that, in a non-invasive manner, induces supramaximal contractions that are not achievable through exercise or voluntary contraction. The muscle tissue responds and remodels its inner structure. This results in muscle building and the burning of fat. Patients achieve a flatter appearance and improve their core strength and posture; they can even reduce back pain. Four treatments are required, and it is a great option for people with a baseline level of fitness and muscle tone who want to be more defined. It is not a painful procedure.
Aside from mild soreness, no side effects or adverse reactions have been reported, though it is advised patients do not have metal in or near the treatment area. Practitioners should adhere to the treatment protocol.
5. VASER liposuction
VASER liposuction is a more invasive form of treatment, and it is for patients who are already in good physical condition and are looking to contour their body. This is an FDA-approved technology and involves injecting a tumescent liquid into the area being treated. Then, high-frequency ultrasound vibration is used to break fat cells apart using probes inserted into the fat tissue.
A gentle suction procedure is used to remove the emulsified fat and shape the body. Treatment is time-dependent, with the procedure time based on surface area and the site(s) treated. Patients are able to go home two to three hours after the treatment. Patients should plan for a week-long recovery, as the treatment is quite invasive. Compression garments are required for aftercare in addition to several lymphatic drainage sessions that should be done through gentle massage. Some side effects include pain, infection, and risks from the anesthesia. Additionally, probes can burn the skin if applied incorrectly. If lymphatic drainage is not performed, seroma may occur, which is the accumulation of inflammatory fluids. After gynaecomastia, there may be some asymmetry and nipple sensitivity as well.
Through body sculpting, there is a risk of feminization of the male patient’s figure. It is important for physicians to keep the male body type, which is usually in the shape of an inverted triangle. A masculine figure should not be compromised and demasculinized unless the patient has specifically requested this. Additionally, choosing an appropriate device for the clinic is also challenging, especially if a budget must be adhered to. It is important to consider the development of the device and whether the supplier will provide ongoing training for it. Branding is important and should be considered. Additionally, the device and the literature about it should focus on males. A clinical, safe, and effective environment should be maintained. Patients should be comforted and counselled in what their procedure will feel like.