Presenting part two of our look into the world of body treatments (both mechanical and otherwise) aimed at “slimming,” “toning,” “firming,” and “contouring' with minimal effort on your part. First, we sent Alessandra Codinha to be prodded, measured, and zapped to see if one can get a six-pack at the spa. Now, she reports on the over-the-counter products that promise similarly firm results:
For those unlikely or flat unwilling to forcibly (by way of electrode pads) twerk atop spa tables to target your 'less-than-toned’ areas, it seems like just about every brand offers a lifting/tightening/firming wünder-potion for your body (BioElixia’s BodyShaper cream even comes with a travel-size tape measure, should you ever feel the need to recreate that lovely part of the spa experience at home).
Anyone who has visited my bathroom in the past month has been slightly-to-very alarmed by the array of products I’ve been testing, from machines that look like dust busters and body massagers that look like curry combs to bottles and tubes and tubs announcing all manner of unsightly bodily woes. (The products are likely to stay there, as well, considering that unlike my other ITG assignments, the fruits of this one are decidedly difficult to regift: ‘Happy birthday! I think you have ‘problem areas!’) On the whole, I’m going to tell you right now, I am unlikely to make any real promises about this genre of products, as I am not a snake-oil salesman, and I think it should at this point be quite obvious that your corporeal dreams cannot be won through buying something off a shelf. Unless that thing you’re buying is a gym membership, at the gym-membership store (...is that not where they keep them?). Or running shoes. Or the Lululemon yoga pants you’re going to go work out in.
But this is not a waste of your time, as there are some pleasant side-effects to be had from these creams (lasting moisture! Some increased “firmness”... I think. More on that below...), if not complete bodily transformations. I’ve called out the cream of the crop (or at least the somewhat creamy), here:
THE CLAIMS Elemis cites clinical studies that show slimmed-down body contours and inhibited fat storage and improved skin elasticity, thanks to marine and plant extracts. Both products are intended to be used in conjunction with the “Elemis Body Sculpting Self-Massage Technique,” which involves applying the cream in circular movements, stimulating circulation by squeezing the skin between your fingers, firmly patting cupped hands up and down over the targeted area, and then lightly pounding yourself with a closed fist.
THE VERDICT Both are slick, emollient, and thin enough for summer (wahoo!). The serum melts into your skin, and the follow-up firming cream is still absorbent and smooth, and intended to be massaged in—admittedly, I did not do a lot of self-pounding. Daily application led to smoother (looking, and feeling) skin that stayed moisturized, which did in fact seem “firmer,” Thumbs up.
THE CLAIM Aveeno cites their “Active Naturals®” Natural Shiitake complex with visibly improving firmness and elasticity in a consumer study in which 100% of women claimed visible improvement in two weeks.
THE VERDICT It’s thick, hydrating without feeling heavy, and has a very light scent. It dries quickly and contains ingredients that sound like a halfway-decent summer salad and can be found at a drugstore near you for around $8.00 (which is pretty damn near free, in comparison to everybody else on this list). If your skin tends to be on the drier side of things, this is a winner. I am inclined to think that the 100% of women they’re citing in that study might have had dry skin before, as I don’t know how much “firmer” anything got.
THE CLAIMS The Scrub is said to polish skin and enhance penetration of follow-up FatGirl products. FatGirl Slim claims to help visibly reduce cellulite and firm and tone the skin via “QuSome®”encapusulated caffeine. FatGirl Sleep is a “soothing overnight cream with an encapsulated extract-rich complex.”
THE VERDICT The scrub contains 60% Himalayan pink salt, and I just kind of loved it as an exfoliant (it also holds together well in the shower, which is not always true of body scrubs). It doesn’t really claim to do anything other than increase circulation and allow the other products to penetrate more deeply, which I think is fair. The caffeine-rich FatGirl Slim cream is softening, tightens the skin immediately (caffeine dehydrates fat cells and constricts the blood vessels for a short period) and causes a nice tingling sensation, though I’m not sold on any real results. FatGirl Sleep cream is intended as a soothing nighttime counterpart (and also a prime opportunity for “Sleep tight,” jokes), but just seemed like a thick moisturizer. Also, I was not crazy about the scent. Of any of 'em.
THE CLAIMS The Resculpting Serum is touted as helpful in lifting and contouring, hydrating and softening, smoothing stretch marks, and brightening and evening out the skin. Martyn's website reminds you—gently—that there are no guarantees about slimming down, though they recommend a healthy diet and exercise routine. The Resculpting Body Cream offers the same with more hydration and antioxidant action.
THE VERDICT Your skin feels slightly tighter after using the serum, wherever you use it (thighs, neck, jawline, abdomen, etc.). At $98, it’s expensive, but it’s the only product that left me feeling immediately and noticeably spring-ier, which may or may not be due to the mixture of ultra-hydrating Silver Tremella (a fungus used commonly in China and Japan for its anti-aging effects and antioxidant properties and the energizing (collagen-production-stimulating) power of peptides and amino acids. The cream is v. swell, too (though pricey, at $155), smells great, can be used anywhere (Kate Winslet uses it all over her body), and feels lovely and light. It’s even good for the under-eye area, we've been told. I’m sure as hell bringing it with me to the beach this summer.
THE CLAIMS Targets cellulite and prevents future incidents through a blend of “blue button flower, baccharis and celosia cristata and aquatic mint,” which are “NEW body-refining plant extracts that target...fatty tissue.” Clarins has their own self-massage method (watch the video here) that incorporates holding certain Pilates-like positions for three counts as you apply the product, which is sort of ingenious, because it tricks you into exercising (a very small amount) as you go.
THE VERDICT Cellulite was not my chief concern, but it’s kind of a dreamy lotion. When applied, there is a noticeable sort of Icy Hot, all-over-tingling feeling, which at first was sort of confusing and then, when the temperatures climbed way past 90 degrees Fahrenheit in New York, was kind of amazing. The Pilates moves also make sense to me (and hey, I love Pilates), so, go Clarins!
Survey says? All of these products are intended for use by those who are exercising and otherwise healthy—nobody’s really promising any miracles. Especially not in the fine print. Behold the sort-of-brilliant disclaimer on Soap & Glory’s Sit Tight Intense XS Super-Strength Body Firming Serum: “Listen ladies, when it comes to fat, there’s no such thing as a free French fry. If you want to lose weight, consume less (calories) or exercise more. Or better, do both. Contouring solutions can help to smooth and visually firm (and are a good part of a holistic slimming program) but they will not move mountains on their own.”
Well. So now you tell me. Can’t blame a girl for trying. (Speaking of which: anyone out there find a magic one I left off?)
[1-6] photos by Elizabeth Brockway,  Photographed by Emily Weiss