Honestly, what’s the deal with body wraps? Do they really help you shed the pounds or belly fat? Are they the same as waist trainers? Are they even safe? So many questions provoked by endless Kardashian waist-snatching selfies and weight loss ads.
Body wraps 101
Unwrapping the truth about body wraps can be overwhelming. Here are the fast facts.
Do body wraps help you lose weight?
Nope. Any slimming is probably just temporary loss of water weight.
Are they safe?
Mostly, yes. But you should consider the risks of dehydration and restricted breathing. (More on that in a sec!)
Can I DIY body wraps at home?
Of course! We’ll dive into the DIY details and types of body wraps below.
They typically involve applying a skin care mask or cream and then covering the area with a fabric or plastic wrap. Together, these elements are said to “melt” fat away while giving you perfectly taut skin, but they can come with some risks.
Find the right type of body wrap for you.
1. Waist trainers
Picture super-spanx reminiscent of old-timey corsets. They come in tons of styles and fabrics, but they all focus on cinching your midsection into an hourglass-like figure.
Waist trainers claim to make your waist smaller by physically squeezing it in, but the results are temporary. Once the trainer’s off, your muscles will happily return to their natural shape.
PSA for the preggo peeps: There are lots of waist trainers and compression garments marketed toward pregnant women and new mommas. Research is still iffy on their effectiveness, so check with your doc before wrapping your changing belly.
2. Spa wraps
Classic wraps are supposed to work by making you sweat off inches. Fans say that using a mask or cream with the binding boosts the effect by drawing out even more fluid and toxins.
In the past, folks used linen or muslin that had been coated to make the fabric less breathable. Today, DIYers prefer plastic wrap. Whatever the material, it’s usually ripped into strips to wrap around the treatment area — belly, thighs, etc.
Many wrap products claim to help your body detox. Science shows that some compounds, like bentonite clay, can help detoxify your body by absorbing negatively charged ions and speeding up natural detox processes (like, erm, pooping).
But can it do all that through your skin? That’s up for debate.
Types of spa wraps
Get the DL on the most popular spa wraps.
- Chocolate. Packed with super-moisturizing cocoa butter! Some peeps say chocolate wraps are also detoxing and anti-aging.
- Paraffin wax. Not just for candles, the cooled wax hardens to help your skin hold in moisture and possibly sweat out toxins.
- Seaweed. Said to hydrate and tone your skin.
- Mud. Depending on the mud used, folks say these wraps can soothe sore muscles, tighten saggy skin, and pull out excess water and impurities.
- Herbal. Oil-and-herb wraps might nourish your skin, relax you, or have a temporary slimming effect (it all depends on the herbs used!)
- Cellulite. These products claim to suck out dimply fat cells, which is impossible. What they *might* do is pull out water to temporarily smooth and tighten.
- Slimming. Like cellulite wraps, slimming wraps are supposed to tighten your skin, melt fat, and contour jiggly bits. It’s all hype, but some ingredients could boost circulation and flush short-term bloat.
3. Sauna suits and space blankets
The idea here is to encase your whole body in an impermeable sack that makes you sweat a whole hell of a lot. Yep, you’ll look and feel like a foil-wrapped baked potato.
These devices use hot air, infrared technology, or another heating element to get you cooking. They’re supposed to work by making you sweat off excess weight and inches, but the weight loss effect is water weight not fat.
This is not an effective long-term weight loss strategy. A more reliable, and safer bet? Large cross-sectional studies have shown that health benefits such as maintaining healthy mental well-being and sleep habits can aid in long-term weight loss.
Note: Make sure to stay hydrated if you’re using sauna therapy!
Wrap your brain around these stats:
- Over 70 percent of American adults are clinically overweight, and almost 40 percent of that group is classified as obese. (That’s about 25 percent of the population. #math)
- Almost 50 percent of adults, and an even higher percentage of women, have tried losing weight.
It’s no wonder folks are seeking fast weight loss solutions that work.
But are body wraps the answer? Probably not.
Research suggests that swaddling yourself in nonbreathable fabric can raise your body temp, but there’s just no evidence to support long-term weight loss from body wrapping. In fact, the FDA has investigated several companies for making false claims about their body wraps.
Still, body wrapping might help you:
- Lose a little water weight for a short time. But as soon as you eat or drink again, you’ll likely regain the weight.
- Temporarily smooth and tighten your skin, reducing the visibility of cellulite. This gives the impression of fat loss.
- Amplify other weight loss efforts. One study of 19 women did find that a clay-based wrap applied in combination with aerobic exercise got rid of extra belly fat compared to women who used exercise alone.
First, decide whether to wrap your entire body or just part of it. Partial wraps can be applied to just your thighs or belly, for example.
Next, follow the instructions for the specific body wrap you’ve chosen. The process will look something like this:
- Gather your materials. If you’re DIYing a mask, now’s a good time to mix it up.
- Wash up with a cleanser that won’t leave a residue on your skin.
- If you’re incorporating a mask or cream, it’s time to exfoliate. A good scrub-a-dub will help your skin absorb the product.
- Dry off.
- Slather on the mask or cream according to the product instructions.
- Bind the treatment area with your wrap. For strip wraps, firmly wrap the area 6 or 7 times. For infrared body wraps, follow the device instructions.
- Most most wrap treatments last 30 to 90 minutes, but, again, pay attention to the product’s instructions.
- When time’s up, unwrap, rinse off, and moisturize the heck out of your skin. Don’t forget to clean or discard your materials!
If you’re on a budget or enjoy whipping up your own lotions and potions, you’re in luck. There are millions of recipes on the interwebz for exfoliants and wrap masks and creams.
As for making your own strip wraps? You can literally go buy a roll of plastic wrap. At-home spa enthusiasts rave that it’s easier, cheaper, quicker, and more sanitary than cloth strips. It’s also great at sealing in the mask-and-sweat goo.
There are a few risks to body wrapping. Follow these tips to stay safe:
- Don’t get wrapped up in body wrapping. Daily is too much. Once or twice a week is probably okay.
- Stay hydrated. Wraps draw water out of your cells. Drink extra H20 before your treatment, and keep some handy while you’re trussed up like a mummy.
- Cool it with the heat. Avoid setting temperature setting too high or staying in hot conditions for too long. No one wants burns, heat exhaustion, or to pass out.
- Use high-quality products. Don’t “pamper” yourself with junky ingredients or harsh chemicals. Skin care pros suggest wraps made from organic or minimally-processed ingredients — preferably ones from Mama Earth’s mercantile. Beware snake oil salespeople pushing harmful products.
- Go pro. Don’t be afraid to seek out a professional body wrap treatment. A qualified spa practitioner knows what they’re doing with your skin.
Remember: healthy is the ultimate goal
Consider these nuggets of weight loss wisdom:
- Dropping one to two pounds per week is the safest way to pace your weight loss.
- Avoid toxic diet culture. Instead, ask your doctor to help you figure out the healthiest weight for *you.*
- Frame your weight loss in terms of overall wellness as opposed to a fad diet blitz.
- Remember a certain number on the scale ≠ health. There are other markers of wellbeing (like A1C and blood pressure!)
- If you have underlying health conditions, consult with your doctor before starting any new diet or exercise routine.
While you can give body wraps a go, there are def more effective, sustainable options for healthy weight loss.
Scientifically proven ways to lose weight include:
- Change your diet. Switching up the foods you eat could help you lose weight. This might means eating fewer calories, changing the timing of your meals, and approaching food in new ways.
- Exercise regularly. Science shows moving your bod burns calories and helps your muscles to work more efficiently. Try a mix of cardio, strength training, and balance and flexibility moves. Pushing yourself into the “fat burning zone” gives your weight loss efforts an edge. Switch up your routines to keep them interesting and effective.
- Get a hobby, a pet, or a therapist. Or all three! Folks are more likely to make poor diet and exercise choices when they’re in a negative frame of mind. (Hello, emotional eating!) Try being mindful and intentional about your habits, and reach out to a mental health professional if you need help.
Body wrap treatments come with a list of wellness claims, including quick weight loss, but most experts agree they’re not a good option for weight management. You might shed water weight, but the result is a temporary appearance of a slimmer bod and extra-luscious skin.
Instead of looking for a fast weight loss fix, aim for a healthy-for-you weight. Stick with this tried-and-true formula for safe, meaningful weight loss and weight management:
- Eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
- Move your body.
- Get enough quality sleep.
- Find ways to destress and engage your mind.