- There is now a range of FDA-approved nonsurgical techniques capable of contouring the troublesome inner thigh area.
- Noninvasive body sculpting uses heat or cryolipolysis to destroy fat cells, which are then eliminated by the body as waste.
- CoolSculpting is the most popular fat-melting technique.
- Satisfaction rates for these inner thigh sculpting techniques are high.
The inner thighs are a part of the body that are notoriously difficult to contour and shape. While you can practice inner thigh lifts until you’re red in the face, the truth is that inner thigh shape is determined by genetics: where and how your body stores fat is a hereditary factor that is largely beyond your control. The much-coveted “thigh gap” so commonly seen on models gracing magazine covers and swimsuit runways is unrealistic for the majority of women.
However, for women (and men) who are fit, healthy, and close to their ideal weight, there are some transformative noninvasive procedures that can slim the inner thigh area without the need for plastic surgery. Of these, CoolSculpting, SculpSure, and Vanquish are among the most popular, FDA-approved fat-melting techniques.
We consulted with our panel of experts to hear their views on CoolSculpting, the most popular noninvasive technique for sculpting the inner thighs, and will compare it to some other nonsurgical fat-melting treatments.
Without a doubt, the most popular and transformative nonsurgical procedure for inner thigh contouring is CoolSculpting by Zeltiq. CoolSculpting was first approved for the reduction of fat bulges around the flanks (love handles) by the FDA in 2010 and approved for use on the inner and outer thighs in 2014. Its success was almost immediate, as it offered an alternative to liposuction. Clinical studies showed it reduced subcutaneous fat by up to 25% after one treatment, with 86% of subjects noticing an improvement in the treated area.
“There is literally no other method that allows freezing stubborn fat away like CoolSculpting,” explains Dr. Hilinski, a plastic surgeon and expert CoolSculpting provider based in San Diego.
“Typically, patients should expect to see 25–30% reduction in excess fat after just one treatment. And one treatment is done in as little as 45 minutes to an hour or so.”
The science of CoolSculpting was initially inspired by a Harvard study, where some doctors observed that children who ate popsicles got dimples in their cheeks. They later realized the popsicles were freezing and eliminating small quantities of fat cells–a process known as cryolipolysis–leaving the skin and surrounding tissue undamaged. The fat cells were eliminated because they were more susceptible to cold injury than the surrounding water-rich cells.
This revolutionary insight provided the impetus to create CoolSculpting. The technology was developed to deliver precise and safe cooling to target fat cells beneath the skin. Built-in sensors monitor the temperature of the skin. If the sensors detect that the skin is getting too cold, the system automatically shuts down.
The fat cells take several weeks to die off, after which time they are naturally expelled by the body. These fat cells are permanently removed from the treated area.
CoolSculpting is particularly effective for inner thigh shaping. In one study, 45 subjects aged between 18 and 65 underwent one 60-minute CoolSculpting treatment for their inner thighs with the following results:
- 93% of patients were satisfied.
- 89% would recommend inner thigh cryolipolysis to a friend.
- 91% were likely to undergo a second treatment.
- 84% noticed a visible fat reduction in their inner thighs after one treatment.
Benefits of CoolSculpting
- The CoolFit Advantage vacuum applicator facilitates the use of the device on the inner thighs.
- A CoolSculpting procedure can be performed over one’s lunch break with no downtime. This resonates with patients who want quick, noninvasive aesthetic procedures that produce real results without prolonged recovery periods.
- The average individual loses 25% of their inner thigh fat after one session.
- There is no risk of post-procedural problems with skin laxity because the fat reduction is gradual, allowing the skin to retract.
- The CoolSculpting system is well-suited to the treatment of smaller, more defined areas of fat accumulation around the inner thighs.
Disadvantages of CoolSculpting
- Dr. G. Philip Barnsley, a plastic surgeon at Synergy Medical Aesthetics in Nanaimo, BC, explains that CoolSculpting is effective for the inner thighs as long as the pockets of fat are relatively small, and centered in one place on the inside of the leg. “Patients who are overweight and/or those with large pockets of fat they want to correct should consider an alternative to CoolSculpting,” explains Dr. Barnsley.
- However, patients with very small quantities of fat may not be ideal candidates for CoolSculpting as the technology uses suction to target fat cells. There needs to be sufficient skin to suction into the applicator for the treatment to be effective.
- Effective inner thigh sculpting using CoolSculpting depends on using the correct applicator, and proper placement of the applicator. Incorrect use can lead to an indentation or concavity in the thigh. For this reason, finding a certified CoolSculpting practitioner with extensive experience is essential.
- Some patients experience some mild discomfort or numbing sensations with CoolSculpting.
>>Want to find out more about CoolSculpting for your inner thighs? Read Zwivel’s complete guide to CoolSculpting here.
SculpSure is another very popular noninvasive fat reduction treatment. This technique uses a 1,060 nm wavelength laser to destroy fat cells without causing damage to the skin. Research has shown that this wavelength heats fat to the required temperature to destroy it—without harming skin or body tissue.
During a SculpSure treatment, four flat application plates are placed on the inner thigh area. The first few minutes are spent warming the targeted area to heat the fat cells. Over the next 21 minutes, alternate warming and cooling cycles are interspersed to continue heating the fat while preventing skin from overheating.
Fat cells are damaged by the heat and eliminated by the lymphatic system as waste over time. While skin tightening is not the main goal of the treatment, the laser does promote mild skin tightening and collagen production. One 25-minute SculpSure treatment can destroy up to 24% of fat cells in the treated area, with no downtime. One study showed that 85% of patients who have undergone a SculpSure treatment for the flanks were satisfied.
The treatment has been approved by the FDA for use on the inner thighs, with patients reporting excellent results.
Benefits of SculpSure
- The thermal heat from SculpSure tends to extend slightly beyond the immediate treated area, helping to create a natural-looking transition between the treated and untreated parts of the thigh.
- SculpSure has a shorter treatment time than CoolSculpting: 25 minutes vs. 35.
- The four SculpSure plates can be configured to fit and treat the inner thigh as desired. Because the technique does not require suction, it can be used on patients with only very small amounts of fat, unlike CoolSculpting.
- Both thighs can be treated simultaneously.
Disadvantages of SculpSure
- Patients with a greater fat mass experience a little more discomfort during treatment.
- Some patients develop nodules or lumps of fat beneath the skin as a result of treatment, however, these usually resolve on their own over time.
- There may be some mild soreness or swelling following treatment, although this can be managed with pain relief.
- SculpSure cannot be performed in conjunction with other laser treatments such as laser hair removal, or laser skin resurfacing because the body may absorb too much energy from different laser wavelengths. It is a good idea to wait two weeks between laser treatments.
>>Want to find out more about SculpSure? Find out about one patient’s experience here.
Vanquish uses radio frequency to generate precise heat and kill fat cells without ever coming into contact with the patient’s body. Sensors built into the device calculate the amount of energy that should be delivered based on the individual’s body fat, and the applicator is suspended an inch from the patient’s body.
The outer layer of skin is heated to 101 degrees, and the underlying adipose or fat layer is heated to 120 degrees to destroy fat cells. The applicator panels are flexible and can be positioned to target the inner thigh. Radio frequency waves heat the fat cells, leading to thermal damage that causes a natural, controlled form of cell death. The destruction of fat cells results in a decreased thickness of the fat layer in the area of Vanquish treatment. The cells may take some weeks to be eliminated from the body.
The procedure lasts approximately 30 minutes and must be repeated weekly for four to six weeks for optimal long-term results.
Benefits of Vanquish
- Vanquish is most efficient at treating larger areas, rather than sculpting or contouring more targeted pockets of fat on the inner thigh. It is most effective for patients with a larger BMI who are looking for a more circumferential thigh reduction.
- There is no pain or discomfort during or after treatment, although some patients experience mild sweating.
Disadvantages of Vanquish
- Vanquish does not have the targeted specificity of SculpSure or CoolSculpting because the applicator is not in contact with the skin.
- Patients with metal implants such as hip replacements, surgical staples or surgical screws near the area of treatment cannot undergo treatment with Vanquish—neither can people with pacemakers.
- Some patients experience lumps of firmness beneath the skin, which is a sign of fat necrosis (death). These usually dissipate over several weeks.
» If you would like to receive free expert medical guidance regarding your options for inner thigh shaping, start an online consultation with a plastic surgeon on Zwivel.
The final word on the best noninvasive inner thigh treatment
While CoolSculpting remains the most popular noninvasive method of contouring the troublesome inner thigh area, it is clear that each of these FDA-approved treatments boasts their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and are suited to different individuals.
A board-certified surgeon or dermatologist can advise you on the most appropriate treatment for you, based on your aesthetic goals, weight, and thigh shape. A successful outcome strongly depends on the competence and experience of the surgeon or practitioner delivering your treatment. Expert practitioners understand how to utilize these technologies to get the best result possible, while keeping the patient safe.
» If you are interested in noninvasive treatment for shaping your inner thighs and would like to weigh your treatment options, use our online virtual consultation tool to contact a board-certified plastic surgeon near you. You’ll be able to provide pictures, videos, and all the necessary personal information for your selected doctors to provide an assessment.
» Want to find out more about your options for financing nonsurgical thigh contouring? Read our CareCredit financing guide.