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Know Before You Book: Everything To Know About Emsculpt, The Beloved Body-Contouring Treatment

Jamie Schneider
July 21, 2023
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
By Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Emsculpt review from a beauty editor
Image by Jovana Rikalo x mbgcreative
July 21, 2023
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Welcome to Know Before You Book, a beauty series where we explore innovative noninvasive skin treatments on the market today—all of which are safe, effective, and designed to improve the health and longevity of your skin. We'll share what to expect, costs, and when possible, firsthand experiences so you can feel confident booking your next treatment.

There are no quick fixes when it comes to beauty and well-being. Whether you're looking to smooth fine lines, heal breakouts, or build lean muscle, long-term results stem from consistency, intentional effort, and, oftentimes, a great deal of patience. 

So when you hear that Emsculpt can immediately give you tight, toned abs in 30 minutes (while, gasp, lying down!), you might raise a brow—I know I did. 

It sounds way too good to be true, so in the name of beauty journalism, I decided to try the celebrity-loved treatment for myself. Here, you can read all about my experience and results before booking your own session. 

Emsculpt review from a beauty editor
Image by Jamie Schneider / mbg beauty editor / mbg Creative

What is Emsculpt?

Emsculpt is a noninvasive, FDA-cleared body-contouring treatment that stimulates your muscles using electromagnetic energy—high-intensity focused electromagnetic (HIFEM) technology, to be specific. Just one session ignites 20,000 muscle contractions within 30 minutes; that's 20,000 crunches or 20,000 squats, depending on where you place the paddles. 

The science was discovered by a physical therapy equipment manufacturer called BTL Industries. "They were approached by NASA to help devise a treatment that would help the astronauts return to function faster after they had been exposed to zero gravity," explains double board-certified facial plastic surgeon Jennifer Levine, M.D. After folks noticed its power to successfully and quickly build muscle, it quickly became a popular noninvasive treatment to tighten and tone. 

Now, there's classic Emsculpt and Emsculpt NEO (I received the latter), which uses HIFEM and radio-frequency to break down fat cells and simultaneously tone muscle, promoting upward of 24,000 muscle contractions. "Clinical studies on Emsculpt NEO showed on average a 25% growth in muscle volume1," explains board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. Given these extra benefits, providers typically offer Emsculpt NEO, but you can still find classic Emsculpt in some settings. 

4 benefits of Emsculpt

Here's what you can expect from the body-contouring treatment: 


Tones & strengthens

As I mentioned, one Emsculpt session is equivalent to around 20,000 muscle contractions. Imagine if you did that in the gym on your own—chances are you'd see some impressive changes to your lean muscle mass!   

"After four 30-minute sessions spaced one week apart, there is a 25% increase in muscle mass, [and] a 30% decrease in fat," notes Levine. 

It's not a complete substitute for regular exercise (more on that later), but it can certainly help move the needle if you have specific areas you'd like to tighten and tone, like your core. "The treatment can also be used on the buttocks, inner and outer thighs, as well as biceps and triceps," Levine adds. 


Burns fat cells

If you opt for Emsculpt NEO, the extra radio-frequency can burn fat cells in addition to toning muscle. "Clinical studies on Emsculpt NEO showed on average a 30% reduction in subcutaneous fat," says Engelman. And once those fat cells are destroyed, she adds, "they cannot return." 


Great for postpartum 

While anyone who wants to benefit from more muscle is a solid candidate, both Levine and Engelman note it's especially helpful for new moms. "These treatments are particularly helpful for strengthening the core, so it is really beneficial to moms postpartum," Engelman adds. 

After four 30-minute sessions, you'll see a 19% improvement in diastasis recti2, Levine shares, which occurs when the stomach muscles separate during and after pregnancy. It's super common, affecting up to 60% of women3 during pregnancy or postpartum, and it usually results in a noticeable bulge in the middle of the belly. 

This condition can totally correct itself as your ab muscles regain strength (and if it doesn't bother you, then it's nothing to worry about!), but if you'd like to speed up the process, Emsculpt may be a worthy avenue to look into. 


Helps with posture 

"It can be used on older people to help with posture and balance," says Levine. Supporting your core muscles is key for improving posture since you have abdominal and low-back muscles that connect to your spine and pelvis. 

What to expect

"What's great about Emsculpt and Emsculpt NEO is that it requires no pre- or post-treatment care," says Engelman. Levine does recommend drinking lots of water before and after to maximize the results, but other than that, you don't really have to prep for your Emsculpt treatment. 

"Each treatment is 30 minutes with zero downtime required," Engelman adds. Once you lay down on the treatment chair, your provider will place a paddle on the treated area—either your core, glutes, arms, calves, or thighs. 

"There will be a feeling of warmth, and the machine goes through cycles of contractions and then tapping to help release the lactic acid from the muscle so it can be restimulated," Levine explains. 

As for the comfort level? "You can expect to feel slight pressure as the machine is stimulating your muscles, but it really is a painless, and time-effective treatment," Engelman notes. "With Emsculpt NEO, you will also notice a heating sensation in the treated area that many patients compare to a hot stone massage." 

I personally wouldn't describe it as relaxing as a massage, but it's certainly not painful. See below for my experience with Emsculpt NEO on my abdomen. 

Jamie's before and after results from emsculpt
Image by Jamie Schneider / mbg beauty editor / mbg


I'll be honest: I really did not know what to expect as I walked into Levine's NYC office. All I knew about Emsculpt is that a bunch of celebrities credit it for their toned, strong bodies. (And if it's good enough for the Kardashians, then it's certainly good enough for me.) 

That said, my morning routine proceeded as usual: I drank my coffee, had some work calls, then took the train uptown. 


After chatting with Levine and receiving a brief evaluation, she strapped me into the Emsculpt NEO machine. I swapped my jeans for a pair of stretchy scrub shorts. I kept my own shirt on but hiked it up so the paddle could lie across my entire core. 

The machine powered on, and I started at a medium setting. Again, I had no idea what to expect from the treatment, so when I felt the first contraction, my body did convulse a little (out of surprise or discomfort, I'm still not sure). I wouldn't describe the sensation as painful, but it's definitely not comfortable. 

I will say: It doesn't feel like you're just lounging in a chair doing nothing. My abs were certainly working! It almost felt like doing crunches—just, you know, lying down. 

Every few minutes, the contractions would stop, and the paddle would start tapping for several beats before resuming the treatment. Says Levine, those taps help the lactic acid release from my muscles, which prevents soreness. 

Once I got used to the sensation, Levine and her team left the room. Aside from someone checking in on me periodically, it was just me and my Emsculpt, and for the remaining 30 minutes, I was able to scroll through my phone and relax.

Jamie receiving emsculpt
Image by Jamie Schneider / mbg beauty editor / mbg c


Once my 30 minutes were up, I was unhooked from the machine and stood to assess my results. I was surprised to notice some immediate changes! My stomach definitely appeared less bloated, and the sides of my body looked way more defined. 

My abs themselves were a little red from the radio-frequency, but already I could notice them looking more toned—and that was after just one session. The redness should dial down on its own, but Levine said I could apply a soothing cream on the area to reduce inflammation; she also recommends moisturizing the area regularly with a nourishing, firming cream or oil to enhance firmness (see my product picks below). 

After the treatment, I went about my day as usual. I took a Pilates class the next morning with no issues; Levine even said I would fly through the core exercises with ease! My abs were a bit sore for the next three days, but it was a delicious, satisfying kind of sore—like I just demolished an intense workout. 

Who it's best for & who shouldn't get it

Let's make one thing clear: Emsculpt should not replace a healthy lifestyle. You cannot ignore your diet and exercise plan and expect the body-contouring treatment to perform miracles. 

In fact, most people who see the best results already have a solid workout routine in place. "The ideal candidates are patients who are in good shape but are looking for some extra help to their existing workout regimen," notes Engelman. 

It's the same way we view supplements: No capsule or powder will replace healthy, whole foods, but you can consume additional nutrients and bioactives to help optimize your health. Think of Emsculpt and Emsculpt NEO as supplements to your exercise routine. And as I mentioned up top, it's great for new moms experiencing abdominal separation postpartum. 

In terms of who should steer clear of the treatment, both Levine and Engelman advise against it if you have a pacemaker or metal plates in the area. Engelman adds, "If you have metal implants in your body, such as an IUD, you should steer clear of both versions of Emsculpt. Women who are pregnant should avoid these treatments as well."

Other than that, there really are no warnings to note, aside from feeling a bit sore post-treatment. "Of course, you should always consult with your provider before undergoing treatment to ensure you are a good candidate," she adds. 


Emsculpt is great for those with an existing workout plan looking to level up their regimen, as well as new moms experiencing abdominal separation. Those who are currently pregnant or have a pacemaker or metal implants (such as an IUD) should steer clear. 


How much does Emsculpt cost?

The price will vary by provider and location, but I'll be honest: Emsculpt is generally a pretty expensive treatment. One session at Levine's office is $1,200, and a full course of treatment (four sessions) is $3,600. 

How long do results last?

"If you follow the treatment course as it is, four sessions is enough time to see results in both classic Emsculpt and NEO," Engelman shares. "Each patient's results will vary, but on average, the optimal time to see results is three months post-treatment." 

You can maintain results for six months to a year, assuming you keep up with a healthy diet and exercise. 

Does Emsculpt get rid of fat permanently?

Classic Emsculpt does not get rid of fat permanently. Emsculpt NEO, on the other hand, does destroy fat cells. "Thanks to Emsculpt NEO's radiofrequency heating, it does burn and get rid of fat cells," says Engelman. "Once those are destroyed, they cannot return." 

Is Emsculpt really effective?

Yes, it really is! You do have to keep up with a regular exercise regimen, but it can be a great complement to a healthy lifestyle. Clinical research backs up its claims, proving it's great for those who want to level up their muscle gains. 

The takeaway 

While it shouldn't replace your regular workout routine, Emsculpt and Emculpt NEO are fabulous options for those who want to elevate their exercise and receive an extra nudge for tight, toned muscles. As someone who got an abdominal treatment, I can now attest that Emsculpt can, in fact, give you abs. They won't last forever—at least not without consistent upkeep—but the magic of electromagnetic technology is very much real. 

Jamie Schneider author page.
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.