Can Body Wraps Help With Weight Loss?

Health benefit claims may only be skin deep

Body Wrap
Steve Mason / Getty Images

When trying to lose weight, it is not uncommon for people to explore other tools to can aid in their quest. While diet and exercise are central to the cause, the results tend to gradual and sometimes frustratingly so.

Thus, people often resort to other methods of weight loss in the hope of a quicker, easier fix. One of the products frequently touted for its quick slimming benefits is the body wrap. Body wraps come in many forms and are found on the menu of practically every health spa in the U.S.

But, as a weight loss product, do they actually work, or are they simply a form of pampering that feels nice? To evaluate the claims, it's important to understand how they are meant to achieve these results. Here's a look at some of the more popular products on the market.

Herbal Wraps

Herbal wraps are a mainstay of luxury spas and salons. They are offered either as a full-body wrap or just for certain parts of the body (such as the hips and thighs). While they are primarily used to smooth and tighten the skin, some spas claim that people can lose inches and melt away cellulite during the 45- to 90-minute procedure.

Typically, the herbal wrap starts with an exfoliating scrub. After showering, the chosen wrap product (such as eucalyptus or rosemary) is applied to the skin, and the body (or portion of the body) is encased in a thermal blanket. After around 30 minutes, the blanket is removed and, following a cooling down period, the skin is finally rinsed and moisturized

Proponents say that when used in this manner, the topical herbs can effectively reduce cellulite and detoxify the skin. From the cosmetic point of view, the skin will typically look and feel firmer and smoother.

Heat Wraps

Heated body wraps and tummy belts are designed to burn fat and quickly shed pounds. Many of these products require you to apply a thin layer of topical heat cream to the skin which is then wrapped in a non-breathable plastic film. By creating heat and perspiration, the benefits are said to extend beyond the skin to the fat cells below.

Some products also come with strict dietary guidelines, including the avoidance of salt, sugar, and processed foods a day or two prior to the procedure. Consumers often compare the feeling of a heated wrap to being in a sauna and commonly report losing several pounds immediately following the wrap.

Infrared Body Wraps

Infrared body wraps are another weight loss and detox product commonly found in medical spas and weight loss clinics. Proponents believe in them so strongly that they are frequently advertised as a means to "contour" specific parts of the body (such as the belly, hips, or upper arms).

Many of the newer devices use far infrared heat (FIR) which is meant to activate sweat glands, increase circulation, and burn calories all at once. Multiple treatments are typically recommended to achieve the desired result. Home versions are also available.

Do Body Wraps Work?

While many of body wrap products will leave the skin feeling soft and smooth, the majority of weight loss will not be due not to the burning of fat but rather the loss of water through perspiration.

This is particularly true with infrared body wraps that are frequently touted for their fat-burning properties. The claims stem largely from the fact that infrared light heats the body from within rather than from the surrounding air.

By penetrating the skin, say the manufacturers, the light is better able to detoxify the body by inducing more sweat. The problem with this argument, of course, is that the kidneys and liver are responsible for removing toxins from the body. The sole purpose of sweat is to cool us down.

The claims in support of weight loss are even thinner. There is simply no evidence that heating the skin can either melt, burn, or liquify fat from within. If this were the case, people would be able to skip the gym and head straight to the sauna to slim down. While saunas may offer benefits to cardiovascular health, there has never been anything to suggest that they play a tangible role in weight loss.

In fact, as far back as 1984, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer warning advising that there was "no scientific or clinical evidence to support the use of body wraps or sauna suits for controlling weight. Nor is there any data to back up promoters' claims that these products will eliminate cellulite and bulging fat or make 'spot reductions' possible."

A Word From Verywell

While body wraps can give the impression of weight loss due to the tighter appearance of the skin, it is related more to dehydration than anything else. Usually, all it takes is a day or two before the skin returns to its former state.

With that being said, there is no denying the fact that body wraps can make people feel better about themselves, and that's a big plus. But, in the end, when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, the only true path to success is diet, exercise, and a little perseverance.

View Article Sources