The answer to this question really depends on your own personal expectations.
Losing belly fat is often desired based on vanity measures. But it is also issued by health professionals to combat associated risks of metabolic disorders, including heart disease and diabetes.
It took you years to pack on all that extra body fat and you certainly can’t get around doing the hard yards by laying down and wrapping yourself in herbs and plastic.
But before you lose hope, let’s dig into this a bit deeper.
Why do people get body wraps?
Body wraps are not a one-trick pony. Nowadays, there are a multitude of reasons people get them:
- Weight loss – refers to scale weight. This phrasing gives no consideration to body composition (changes in muscle and fat).
- Fat loss – some people think a body wrap can melt fat away through the skin.
- Cellulite reduction – similar to above, but some people bank on a body wrap reducing the appearance of the dimply stuff in their thighs and hips.
- Detoxing – “detox” is a cutesy marketing term but in reality, it is an ambiguous word that really doesn’t mean much. If you’ve been guzzling down copious amounts of toxins like lead and mercury, then a body wrap is like bringing a garden hose to a bush (forest) fire.
- Slimming – this is another ambiguous doesn’t-mean-much marketing term. The logic is that if you wrap yourself tightly in plastic, perhaps you can “girdle” away from the fat.
- Relaxation – some people like body wraps for stress reduction and relaxation. I can’t blame them. We all need that sometimes!
What Is It?
Before we go on, let’s define exactly what a body wrap is:
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.
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 (cautions below).
Types of Wraps
Let’s take a closer look at the types of wraps you’ll find out there in the consumer jungle:
Some promotional sites claim the algae can “hydrate the skin with minerals and enzymes, stimulate circulation, ‘invigorate’ skin tissue and elasticity, ‘detoxify’ the skin” and a long laundry list of other thing.
With a mud wrap, the skin is slathered in mud which can cause sweating.
Its proponents claim that the mud can slim and tone the body, hydrate, cleanse firm, and tighten the skin, relax and soothe muscles, and reduce stress.
Clay wraps are like the mud wrap’s cousin but might have some extra herbs and oils mixed in for extra purported benefits.
There are claims that clay wraps can promote “detoxification, improve circulation, ameliorate pain, and reduce weight (ostensibly through sweating).
Cellulite treatment wrap
Cellulite wraps are popular since they go straight to the problem spots like the hips and thighs.
Like the other wraps, this one also entails spreading some lotion or herbal mixture on the skin and wrapping it in cloth or plastic for a while.
Unfortunately, cellulite is chemically no different than any other fat in the body other than in cosmetic appearance.
So while the ladies love to loathe cellulite, there’s still no substitute for eating less and becoming more physically active.
Herbal wraps are reasonably self explanatory. Wrap yourself in a herbal solution. The purported benefits are the same as above (softer skin, detox, cellulite, etc).
Seaweed wraps entail much of the same as above, but the organic matter is now seaweed with plastic wrapped around you.
As above, this can theoretically “detox” you, help with cellulite, etc.
Compression wraps have been called mummy wraps and may give the impression of a reduction in inches.
In this case, you are wrapped tightly in bandages soaked in different types of materials including a mineral solution, herbs, clay, or other type of organic matter.
Weight Loss Wraps?
It’s true. You might “lose weight” from a wrap treatment.
However, this is more of a temporary illusion than any lasting effect – yeah, I know. Sorry to piss on the parade.
By the very nature of being wrapped in plastic and then heated, you will “lose weight” through sweating and dehydration.
While you may see 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.
Fat Loss Wraps?
If you’re a more discerning consumer, then you won’t be happy with a little dehydration effect.
You want the real deal: FAT LOSS! Unfortunately, you’re gonna be waiting a while.
I am unaware of any reliable medical evidence that wrap treatments cause localised fat loss.
As mentioned above, spot reduction is a myth, but it has a long history of lightening consumers wallets.
This claim is couched around reducing the appearance of that loathsome substance known as cellulite.
First, as I mentioned above, cellulite is just a name (great for marketing!) and chemically it is no different than any other fat on the body (despite what your naturopath told you).
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 localised changes in the fluid compartments rather than any lasting physiological change.
There are countless websites which claim body wraps will “detoxify” your body of “impurities.”
However, this terminology is ambiguous and undefined and really doesn’t give you much detail as to which toxins it will treat.
Because the procedure induces sweating, it is possible that a body wrap could help clean out your pores – and that’s fine if that’s what you’re expecting – but I have not seen any scientific evidence that it will “detoxify” your internal physiology (i.e., organs, blood, blood vessels, etc).
If you’re tempted by “detox” teas, don’t touch them until you’ve read my SkinnyMint Teatox, Skinny Teatox, and Fit Tea review articles first.
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 of 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 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.
Should I Get a Body Wrap Treatment? The Verdict
Before having a body wrap, arm yourself with the facts and make an educated decision if this is right for you.
What are your expectations?
If you want something temporary that will make you feel good in the short-term, then go ahead.
If you want lasting fat loss, then you will probably be disappointed.
You didn’t put all that fat on over night and you certainly aren’t going to lose it after a 30 minute wrap.
The best available evidence still holds that healthy eating, exercise, time on your feet, and incidental activity are the best combination for losing fat and keeping it off for the long-term.
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.
Body wraps are one of the more popular products claiming to help you lose inches, drop weight, and tone up your loose skin.
But how can a wrap do all of that? We explain what you need to know.
How do body wraps claim to help you lose weight?
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.
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 mid-section. 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.
But is this even safe? Not necessarily.
Here’s why: 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.
Other types of body wraps
Other methods of using body wraps include treatments you can get at a spa. The person applying the wrap may be a massage therapist or esthetician, but they can also just be an employee trained in using these wraps. There are many different types of body wraps used at spas, including:
- heat wraps that require you to apply heat cream on your skin and then wrap your body with a plastic film
- slimming wraps that use lotions or topical herbal products
- infrared body wraps
- “detoxing” wraps with ingredients that are said to pull toxins out of your skin
Strips of material that are covered in herbal ingredients are wrapped tight and pulled around your body in an attempt to detox your system. These topical herbs are said to decrease inches and rid your body of cellulite.
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.
Is there any science to back it up?
The majority of evidence that exists comes directly from the companies that market these wraps. There’s very little — if any — unbiased research or studies about the effectiveness of body wraps for weight loss.
How do you use a body wrap?
You can purchase DIY body wraps from private sellers or visit a spa that uses them. If you use a body wrap at home, make sure you stay hydrated, especially if you plan on wearing it while you exercise. Follow all of the instructions and don’t use the wrap for longer than it’s intended for.
Many of the luxury spa and DIY body wraps are herbal wraps that you can use on specific parts of your body such as your stomach or as a full-body wrap. The wraps are applied and left on your skin for a certain amount of time. Some of the neoprene wraps are left on for longer periods of time.
The wraps that require you to exfoliate before applying usually stay on for a shorter period of time (30-90 minutes). These body wraps often have ingredients such as mud, clay, herbs, and creams or lotions.
Once the time limit is reached, the wrap comes off, you rinse your skin, and apply a moisturizer.
What should you know before you try a body wrap?
If you’re going to try one of these body wraps, there are some things you should know before you wrap yourself up.
- If the wrap has any herbal ingredients, exfoliants, or moisturizers, you need to know what they are and if they’re safe for you to use.
- Since many of these wraps require you or a spa employee to tightly wrap the material around your body, you may have some unpleasant side effects from the compression.
- The risk of becoming dehydrated is also likely since body wraps work to increase your internal core temperature. Drink plenty of fluids.
- There’s no evidence that a body wrap will help you lose weight. While you may be down a few pounds after using one, this is mainly due to water loss. As soon as you hydrate and eat, the number on the scale will go right back up.
- The only proven way to lose weight is through proper diet and adequate exercise.
Actress Sofia Vergara is as famous for her bombshell body as she is for her comedic talents. The “Modern Family” star recently spilled her beauty secrets to US Weekly, including how she helps to keep her A-list figure so trim: by going to bed wrapped in Saran wrap.
“When I have time at home I’ll do masks, I’ll put coconut oil all over my hair,” she said. “When Joe [Manganiello] is out of town I even sleep in [plastic] wrap and coconut oil everywhere – I love products.”
Homemade body wraps have been around for centuries, dating all the way back to ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt (Cleopatra was also apparently a fan). The wraps are said to heal and detoxify the body, including removing excess fat and fluid from tissues, tightening and toning the skin, as well as nourishing and softening it.
So if body wraps are good enough for beauty queens like Vergara and Cleopatra, then should you be adding them to your wellness routine?
How Do They Work?
“Saran wrapping traps heat and increases sweat from the skin,” says Dr. Sonia Batra, dermatologist and co-host of “The Doctors” on CBS. “Usually, a mask or product is applied to the skin and then sealed in by wrapping the area of concern (such as the abdomen) with Saran or plastic wrap. Some people will then cover or seal the wrap with compressive bandages or warm blankets.”
Do They Work?
“The potential benefits are from the products used in conjunction with the wrap that may be helpful as antioxidants, hydrating, or exfoliating agents for the skin,” says Dr. Batra. For example, the coconut oil that Vergara uses is naturally antibacterial and antifungal and penetrates the skin better than most other oils.
“The benefit of the wrap itself is a temporary loss of water weight,” says Dr. Batra. “While exercising, using a wrap may enhance results by increasing body temperature and metabolic rate. Wraps work in the short term to slim down or lose inches by increasing water loss.”
Though wraps are effective, as Dr. Batra mentions, the key thing to know is that they are “short term.”
“It is a quick fix to dehydrate the skin and temporarily lose volume. However, the skin will return to its usual size when a person rehydrates,” says Dr. Batra. “If there are any long-term benefits, they would likely be from products used to hydrate or exfoliate the skin used in conjunction with the wraps. Wraps provide a temporary reduction in weight and bloat through water loss, but they do not provide any long-term fat reduction or improvement in cellulite.”
Are They Safe?
Wrapping your body tightly, even in coconut oil, does have its drawbacks.
“In the short term dehydration and fluid shifts can harm overall skin quality,” says Dr. Batra. “Dehydration can cause symptoms of weakness, dizziness and confusion. The seal or occlusion created by the wrap could clog pores and lead to breakouts. The warm, moist environment created by the wrap is perfect for harboring bacterial and fungal infections, especially if this is repeated frequently.”
And lest we forget that plastic wrap is not a natural material, thus, as Dr. Batra cautions, “Repeat exposure to Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in the Saran wrap may also leach toxic molecules into the skin.”
She also cautions that pregnant or nursing women and anyone with kidney disease or fluid dysregulation should avoid this treatment.
Though a homemade, or salon, body wrap like Vergara’s can soothe and nourish the skin, ultimately, it’s not a long term form of weight loss.
Says Dr. Batra: “Exercise and a healthy diet remain the safest and most effective ways to lose belly fat and reduce weight.”
The bottom line
While your skin may feel smooth and soft after a body wrap treatment, the odds of you experiencing long-lasting weight loss after a few wrap sessions aren’t in your favor.