Do Body Wraps Really Work For Losing Weight?

Losing weight to some people is so hard that it feels criminally unfair.

When it comes to losing weight, there’s definitely not a shortage of ways to go about it. From extreme diets to the latest fitness craze, Americans are desperate to drop their pounds. So, it’s no wonder that new products hit the market every day.

Losing weight to some people is so hard that it feels criminally unfair. When diets and exercises do not work, they look for alternative ways of cutting weight that is fast and efficient. One method is the use of weight-loss body wraps – products claimed to be effective for losing weight. They are the new trend for body slimming and can be found in salons or spas.

Body wraps are one of the more popular products claiming to help you lose inches, drop weight, and tone up your loose skin.

In short, today’s wraps entail covering you in a body mask (or parts of your body) comprised of plants and/or herbs such as algae, seaweed, mud, clay, or creams/lotions.

Some of the ingredients used in spa treatments – rosemary, honey, butter, clay, chocolate, eucalyptus – sound like they belong in a kitchen or garden rather than in a spa. But these ingredients are used in various types of body wraps, a popular spa treatment.

You’re wrapped in plastic for approximately 20 minutes, give or take, depending on the specific protocols at your spa.

Then they cover you up to keep you warm or, in some cases, the treatment may take place in a heated room.

Getting a body wrap can feel good. Some spas promote body wraps as a relaxing, moisturizing treat.

Others, though, tout specific body wraps as a way to lose fat, slim down, or deal with cellulite – claims that may go too far.

These treatments fill up spa menus and clog Instagram feeds as celebs prep for big events, looking like snug burritos lounging on spa tables or in colorfully lit saunas. But what even are body wraps, and are they actually a legit way to lose weight? The answer: it’s complicated.

Can a wrap really help your body lose weight and become slim? And if it can, how does it exactly do it? Keep reading to get an explanation of what you need to know.

What to expect

When body wraps were first offered decades ago, linen sheets were used, spa experts explain. The wraps were then mostly called herbal wraps. “Body wraps” is a term that came to mean more than herbal wraps. They became popular in the 1980s and '90s.

Eventually, plastic or thermal blankets replaced the linen sheets.

Although the service varies from spa to spa, body wraps are often done in a darkened room with flickering candles, soft music, and a massage table.

To start, spa and wellness locales offer all different types of body wraps, and the (alleged) benefits related to weight loss and/or your overall health may vary depending on the specific treatment. Many spots do body wraps as a full-body treatment, though you can get wraps for specific areas, like the tummy or thighs, at some wellness joints.

One popular type is body wraps, which may start with an exfoliating scrub before a spa therapist puts herbal or botanical oils/creams/moisturizers on your skin and wraps you tightly with warm towels or thermal blankets to help the products absorb into the skin. Some spas claim this type of body wrap can help reduce cellulite, tighten and detoxify the skin, and help you lose inches.

Or, you may come across heat body wraps that involve the application of a topical heat cream, followed by you getting wrapped up in plastic or another non-breathable fabric. The idea behind this one is that you’ll sweat, and in turn, lose weight and cinch your waist (or whatever body part you get wrapped).

Some proponents go even more high-tech with an infrared body wrap, which is kind of like burrito-ing in an infrared sauna. Basically, you’re wrapped up in a heavy blanket and placed under infrared light, which is said to boost circulation, improve metabolism, rid the body of toxins, and make you sweat to lose weight.

As you can see, there are lots of different iterations of this treatment. But let's get back to the Big Question:

Can your weight and fat “melt away”?

Like most weight loss products, body wraps claim to be “the answer” to your battle with the bulge. And depending on the type of wrap, the claims range from losing a few pounds and inches in 30 to 90 minutes, to several dress sizes over a longer period of time.

Once the wrap is taken off, your skin may have a tighter appearance. This can be one of the reasons people think body wraps work for weight loss. But unfortunately, this side effect is often temporary.

While they can make your skin feel nice and smooth, the idea that a body wrap can whittle away inches from your waist or thighs is debatable.

Most of the claims are anecdotal and come from people who have tried using body wraps for weight loss. It can be difficult to trust these results because you don’t know what other methods they’re using to lose weight at the same time.

Some people use a neoprene body wrap, which is similar to wrapping plastic wrap around your midsection. The makers of these wraps claim that you lose weight by increasing your core body temperature. In other words, you sweat a lot — especially if you wear it while exercising.

This can cause you to lose water weight, so if you hop on the scale immediately after using one, the number may be less than it was the day before.

When you sweat, your body loses fluids. If you’re not replacing those fluids, you can become dehydrated. Plus, raising your core body temperature can lead to overheating, which isn’t always safe. Slimming body wraps have a simple function: they make you sweat and lead to loss of water from the body.

So, basically it’s true: you might “lose weight” from a wrap treatment. However, this is more of a temporary illusion than any lasting effect. When you get a body wrap, you may indeed see a temporary change in the appearance in your butt and thighs, but this is more to do with localized changes in the fluid compartments rather than any lasting physiological change.

By the very nature of being wrapped in plastic and then heated, you will “lose weight” through sweating and dehydration. While you may see a small reduction in weight on the scale or inches on the tape measure, the actual composition of your weight loss is not body fat.

The concept of “spot reduction” has long since been debunked. You cannot melt away fat through the skin. Once you leave the spa and consume food and water, you will replace what you lost in sweat weight from the treatment.

Safety first

Still, doctors say, body wraps are safe to try if you want to, as long as you keep a few things in mind.

Body wraps are often dehydrating because they cause you to sweat a lot, so it’s important to drink plenty of water before, during (if possible), and after your body wrap treatment.

What are the health risks and associated dangers of body wraps?

Most healthy people are unlikely to experience any adverse effects from a wrap treatment, but it is still important to accept that any procedure does carry risks, however small they may be.

If you have pre-existing health conditions, then you will need to be particularly careful. If you have any heart or vascular problems (i.e., heart attack), then the dehydration effect from excessive sweating could cause your blood volume to drop which could make your blood more viscous. If this happens, then your heart must work harder to pump blood to maintain blood pressure. Best case scenario is that you just feel a bit dizzy and light-headed.

The compressive forces associated with a tight wrap could plausibly cause circulation problems which could also stress your organs. You also run the risk of dehydration which might interfere with your electrolytes and predispose you to cramps or cardiac arrhythmias if you have underlying atrial fibrillation.

By the very nature of the procedure, body wraps increase your internal (core) temperature and may lead to hyperthermia (overheating). Some procedures may take place in a hot sauna or during exercise which makes it particularly difficult for your body to dissipate the heat.

This can be particularly dangerous during prolonged body wrap treatments.

Hyperthermia may cause symptoms such as the absence of sweating (i.e., the body is conserving water for vital internal processes), dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and possibly fainting – all associated with stress to your brain and other key organs.

Bottom line: if you have any serious health condition, get medical advice before undergoing a body wrap.

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