The Zerona Laser is the first non-invasive body contouring procedure to effectively target excess fat without the negative side effects associated with surgical methods, according to experts.
This “cold laser technology” with no downtime can shrink fat cells and is said to reduce the circumference of the thighs, hips, waist, back, stomach and arms for the right candidate.
This review takes a comprehensive look at Zerona laser technology, including how it works, overall benefits, the best and worst candidates, as well as how to maximize the results of your Zerona laser treatment.
We’ve obtained input from five top experts on this topic, including a principal at Erchonia Corp., the company that manufacturers the Zerona; a doctor in South Carolina who uses the Zerona laser at his practice; a massage therapist and wellness counselor with a background in nutrition; a Doctor of Chiropractic; and a certified advanced Rolfer who incorporates Rolfing with Zerona.
Keep in mind that this article is not intended as medical advice. Before you decide to try Zerona, talk to your medical provider, first.
What Is the Zerona Laser and How Does It Work?
Zerona is a noninvasive laser treatment that has been proven to shrink fat cells by creating a pore in the cell wall allowing the contents to leak out – resulting in a reduction of the waist, hips, and thighs, explained Charlie Shanks, one of the principals at Erchonia Corp., the company that manufacturers the Zerona.
“Zerona has been proven in multiple clinical trials where no diet or exercise was allowed,” said Shanks, adding that Zerona has received FDA market clearance for overall circumference reduction of the body. “The result of those trials revealed an average inch loss of 3.7 inches in two weeks, in the waist, hips, and thighs.”
The way it works is through cold laser technology, which disrupts the fat cells membrane, allowing the contents of the fat cell to release, said Dr. Philip Jordan, founder of HealthFirst Integrated HealthCare Solutions in Aiken, South Carolina.
This laser has been shown to emulsify, or melt, the fat in the cells and open pores in the cell membrane to allow the fat to dump into the extracellular space, which is where the cells dump waste for lymphatic drainage, further explained Patricia Kallenbach, owner of The Healing Place Your Holistic Source in Crystal River, Florida.
“The fat is then lymphatically drained, processed through the liver, and excreted via the bile in to the intestines,” said Kallenbach.
As a massage therapist and wellness counselor with a background in nutrition, Kallenbach works the Zerona Laser into her client’s lives as a way to jump-start a change towards a healthier, slimmer person – or as a shorter reason to get a tune-up or trim-down for a special event.
From 1998 to 2004, Erchonia – in conjunction with plastic surgeon Dr. Rodrigo Neira – began researching the effects of the Erchonia laser on fat cells, said Carl Yamamoto, DC, owner of Yamamoto Chiropractic, Inc. in San Diego, California.
“What they found through MRI imaging, was that fat emulsification (liquefying) occurred at a depth of 5cm (2.58cm = 1 inch),” said Yamamoto.
Since 2008, he has utilized cold lasers within his practice to relieve pain, decrease healing time in injured tissues, and to normalize function between nerves and the body parts that they innervate.
“Erchonia was the first company to get FDA clearance for this purpose in 2002,” he said.
When attending chiropractic continuing education classes sponsored by Erchonia, the company would inform the attendees of the new and developing devices that were available to the practitioners, Yamamoto noted.
“Originally I thought the Zerona was more of a cosmetic device, but my perspective evolved as I began to realize how effective the Zerona was at decreasing the fat that was distorting our spinal posture,” Yamamoto said. “Toxins can be found everywhere, in the air we breathe, the food we eat. Toxins can impair our immune system. If we do not have an enzyme to break the toxin down, the body will store the majority of it in our fat.”
The laser light makes the fat within the fat cell more fluid, Yamamoto noted.
“This allows the fat to leak from pores in the fat cell into the surrounding interstitial fluid,” he explained. “After the treatment, there is a window of 48 to 72 hours in which the fat stays emulsified, so movement and hydration are key to maximize fat elimination.”
What Does a Zerona Laser Treatment Feel Like?
The Zerona laser treatment itself is a treatment that a person generally does not feel at all, so they have a bit of time to relax, 20 minutes on their back and then 20 minutes on their stomach, while the laser continually fans in a circular pattern over the torso and thighs, Kallenbach said.
“The Zerona laser treatments are completely painless – you cannot feel anything,” Dr. Jordan said.
Shanks agreed, “Most people feel very little to nothing at all during the treatments. They are completely pain-free.”
At Yamamoto’s practice, “we place the 6 heads of the laser over the areas of concern. The person is face up for 20 minutes, face down for 20 minutes, and then 10 minutes on a vibrating platform, which is equal to 30 minutes walking.”
Yamamoto agreed that Zerona laser treatments feel like “nothing,” further adding that in his experience, the only people that feel the laser on their skin have active shingles.
What Are the Ideal Body Parts for the Zerona Laser?
While many areas can benefit from the Zerona laser, it is shown to have its effect over the waist, hips, and thighs, Kallenbach said.
“But I measured neck and arms and knees as well as torso, waist hips and thighs, and found overall, the body slimmed down even in areas we were not directly treating,” she noted.
The Zerona laser can be used to treat any area of the body where there is unwanted fat, Dr. Jordan said.
“Most patients focus on the stomach, back, thighs, and buttock,” he said.
Zerona Laser Benefits
Zerona is a safe and proven procedure to reduce fat in unwanted areas of the body, Shanks said.
“It is a completely noninvasive procedure that does not kill fat cells; it reduces them in size allowing for quicker results than other devices that claim fat reduction,” Shanks explained.
It’s a treatment to allow fat to be diminished from the body in a non-invasive manner to provide some of the same benefits – inch reduction – of surgical liposuction, without the pain, surgery, risks and saggy skin, Kallenbach said.
The main benefits of the Zerona laser include absolutely no downtime, no needles, and no incisions, Dr. Jordon noted.
“These treatments are done in office, take about 40 minutes, and are completely pain-free,” he said.
Zerona Laser Costs
According to Shanks, Zerona protocol requires 6 treatments that can be performed 3 times a week for two weeks, 2 times a week for three weeks, or 1 time a week for six weeks.
“The average cost of a Zerona treatment is $200 per session,” Shanks said.
At Kallenbach’s practice in Crystal River, Florida, “my Zeronas are much more affordable than other locations simply due to the smaller community that I live in.”
A single day treatment is $200, including the Zerona, body wrap, and steambed with body brush to take home.
Her 4-week package, which costs $1,000, includes 9 lasers, 9 steambed sessions, 3 body wraps, a body brush, and one month of 4 supplements: digestive enzymes, probiotics, and 2 liver supportive supplements.
“Many other facilities have more expensive treatments,” Kallenbach said. “Others still have multi-packages for less, but they only include the Zerona, not the other supportive services and supplements.”
At Dr. Jordan’s practice, 12 Zerona laser treatments cost $1,425.
“There is no additional cost for different areas of the body,” said Dr. Jordan.
How Long Do the Zerona Results Last?
Once the fat has been excreted from your body, that fat is forever gone, Kallenbach said.
“But this service does not destroy or remove the fat cells, so the person can carelessly gain weight again,” she warned.
According to Dr. Jordan, Zerona laser treatments are accompanied by a healthy diet and exercise for best results.
“These treatments will not work if you do not eat healthy, whole foods, and maintain an active lifestyle,” Dr. Jordan emphasized. “Zerona helps get rid of unwanted fat, and as long as you keep it off, the Zerona laser treatments will last a lifetime – but that is up to the patient.”
Shanks noted that “we did a long-term study on the arms with a 6-month follow up, and those that maintained a calorie neutral diet retained their results.”
Downtime and Side Effects of the Zerona Laser Treatments
There is no downtime whatsoever with the Zerona, said Kallenbach, adding that her sessions last about two hours.
“You can do this on a lunch break and return back to work with no issues,” she said.
Shanks agreed that because there is no downtime, “you can leave the office performing the procedure and carry on your day with no restrictions.”
Zerona has been through multiple clinical trials and has no recorded side effects, Shanks added.
“It is very safe, and does not cause any pain during or after treatment,” he said. “The FDA considers Zerona a non-significant risk device and cleared it for over the counter use in 2015.”
Ways to Maximize Zerona Laser Treatments
Depending on the person’s goals, Kallenbach incorporates the Zerona with a variety of additional services to maximize their experience and enhance the slimming effect.
She commonly includes a mineral body wrap, a session in a steam bed, and/or a session of Ionithermie, a non-invasive method for cellulite and body contouring, to enhance the lymphatic drainage part of the process.
“If we are doing our longer 4-week program, I include a set of supplements to enhance how the body is functioning and detoxifying to aid the liver in this process,” Kallenbach said.
She also gives some general guidelines to not only enhance their slimming during the sessions but also to begin an overall better lifestyle, having encouraged more positive nutritional habits and discouraging lifestyle choices that might just reverse the effects.
“In this program, we provide 9 Zerona laser treatments, usually every other day, followed by one of the following: a steambed session with essential oils, a mineral body wrap and steam bed session with essential oils, or an Ionithermie session,” Kallenbach explained. Additionally, “we provide a body brush for the client to use every day to further increase circulation to their toughest areas.”
Zerona Laser Works Best with Healthy Lifestyle
Kallenbach advises her clients to avoid drinking alcohol, consume only one caffeine drink a day, and have no nicotine products during her 4-week program.
Additionally, she recommends the following:
- Avoid fatty, deep fried and fast foods
- Eat at least 1 pound of veggies and fruits a day
- Drink an appropriate amount of water
- Avoid sports drinks and sodas
- Walk or do other light exercises 10 minutes a day
- Achieve a full body sweat each day
- Take the appropriate supplements
- Keep your appointments
“Some don’t want to do this,” Kallenbach said. “Some clinics only do the laser and do not incorporate this into it, and their clients don’t get much result, which is sad as that person reached out for help and did not get it.”
Best Candidates for Zerona Laser Treatments
According to Shanks, Zerona laser treatments are considered ideal for anyone who would like to reduce fat without surgery, with a BMI of 20 to 40.
Any patient that feels like they have failed with just diet and exercise alone is a good candidate for Zerona, Dr. Jordan said.
“Zerona is a great way to target problems areas like stubborn belly fat,” he noted.
Kallenbach has had both men and women who’ve had a few targeted areas – thighs and waist – to trim down a bit, as well as significantly overweight individuals looking to have a jump start in their lifestyle.
“I have had some people achieve the 3½ to 4-inch reduction the company reports from the studies done and I have had others have over 15 inches decrease in our 9 session program,” Kallenbach said.
She’s also had individuals come in for a few inches to go to a special event, and others come in to trim down after a cruise.
“I have had people get ready for their wedding, men and women,” she said. “So really, the person who is ready to achieve a slimmer body for the short-term or long-term can both benefit from Zerona.”
Worst Candidates for Zerona Laser Treatments
Individuals with a compromised immune system, those undergoing treatment for cancer, and women who are pregnant should avoid Zerona laser treatments, Shanks said.
According to Dr. Jordon, individuals not ideal for Zerona laser treatments are patients unwilling to commit to a healthy lifestyle.
Others that don’t make good candidates are recent post-partum patients, and those with certain metabolic conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, Kallenbach said.
“I do a complementary consultation for my potential clients who are interested in the Zerona,” she noted. “I want to know what their expectations are, what their level of commitment to the treatment is, as well as health issues.”
Kallenbach has had a few people come in who want great results, “but not want to do their part.”
“And I have declined to provide the service as I would rather have a person upset I did not accept their money over a person who did spend the money and did not get what they wished.”
This may be due to their unrealistic expectations, she said. “No, you cannot go from a size 22 to a size 2 in 3 weeks.”
Zerona Laser Combined with Rolfing
James Schwartz, a certified advanced Rolfer at The Embodied Self in San Rafael, California, has been a Rolfer for 30 years, and in the last 10 years, has had a strong focus on working with nerve and chronic and acute pain issues.
As he began to get referrals of increasingly serious cases, he decided to consider adding a cold laser to his practice.
“At first I meant to use it for issues related to myofascial dysfunction and for nerve and pain issues,” Schwartz recalled. “But as I explored the other possibilities in the protocol manual, I began to experiment with settings related to other health issues like sinus and allergy problems, gut health and boosting immune response and particularly for preparing for and healing from major surgeries.”
The results he found led to another category of referrals for health issues.
Eventually, he kept hearing about the Zerona in laser seminars put on by Erchonia, “but did not think that it fit into my practice, as I only saw the fat emulsification and body sculpting aspect.”
“But I kept hearing more about how it could help with gut inflammation problems of all kinds, and had the potential to help with high blood pressure and cholesterol and diabetes,” he said. “With some concern over the expense of buying the Zerona I did invest in one.”
Schwartz uses it in an unusual way. Rather than doing stand-alone treatments, he runs the Zerona while he’s doing his Rolfing sessions, which offer a systematic approach to releasing strain and imbalance in the myofascial system.
“The results have been significant and sometimes quite dramatic,” Schwartz said. “For some, it was an immediate shift in longstanding problems with IBS and bloating and intestinal distress.”
With clients who have completed 4-10 sessions, “I have seen reductions in waist and hip circumference in the 4- to 8-inch range,” said Schwartz, adding that there is absolutely no discomfort or side effects to the treatments.
These days, his clients are mostly through referral by other clients, chiropractors, acupuncturists and coaches of athletic teams.
“Incorporating the Erchonia lasers and the Zerona have expanded the reach of my practice dramatically to include people with more severe and complex dysfunction and chronic pain problems than I could have helped before,” Schwartz said. “Some of them have not experienced significant relief from any other therapies before coming for Rolfing, nerve and laser work.”
Factors to Keep in Mind When Considering the Zerona Laser Treatments
Before anyone decides to undergo a Zerona laser treatment, Kallenbach advises people to have realistic expectations, as well as remain committed to the program and their schedule.
According to Dr. Jordan, “the most important factor to keep in mind is that this laser is not a magic weight loss laser. You must have a healthy well-balanced diet, and exercise regularly. This laser effectively helps patients target stubborn fat that diet and exercise alone does not pulverize.”
Zerona, like all medical procedure, requires patient compliance for best result, Shanks added.
“Individuals who chose Zerona treatments will experience the best results if they make sure they are properly hydrated and reduce caffeine and alcohol while going through the six-treatment protocol,” he said.
A person considering treatment needs to understand that a healthy diet, an exercise regimen (walking) and increased hydration must be adopted, otherwise you are throwing good money after bad, Yamamoto said.
“The Zerona will non-invasively remove the fat, but the individual must proactively keep it off.”
Our Bottom Line About the Zerona Laser
Zerona is the only device to undergo numerous level 1 placebo-controlled, multi-site clinical trials to prove it efficacy, Shanks said.
“We have been studying low-level laser effects on fat since 1998, and have been granted 7 FDA market clearances proving the safety and efficacy of this procedure,” he said.
Kallenbach has been utilizing the Zerona for 7 years now, “and I am very happy with what I provide for my clients, and my clients are satisfied with their accomplishments.”
She has still had clients that slipped back at some point after they were done, “and I think that will always be a condition as keeping weight off is very hard for some people based on their jobs and life that may be stationary, their health issues that may predispose them to gaining weight, and other life situations that just make it hard to take the time to be healthy.”
America is in a rush, working long hours at desks or other sitting jobs, then rushing to family or children’s events, and then maintaining life at home, Kallenbach noted.
“I understand it can be hard, and I try to really get my clients to not only set reasonable expectations but to not beat themselves up if they slip,” said Kallenbach, who teaches a nutrition class as well as other health classes throughout the year to further her clients’ drive to just be a little healthier each day.
“I think so many people put unrealistic expectations on services such as these and when they are not met, the client is upset and disappointed and the practitioner has failed to do their job and is taking the cop out to take the money and run,” Kallenbach added.
» For Further Reading:
- How to Get Rid of Cellulite: Surgical and Non-Surgical Methods That Can Help
- How to Find the Best Plastic Surgeon: Expert Tips & Warning Signs
- How Does Coolsculpting Work: Learn Its Effectiveness, Side Effects & Cost