A machine that helps you lose weight by releasing 'electrical micro-currents' to break down toxins that cause unsightly cellulite and stubborn fat deposits is bound to be greeted with a certain amount of scepticism. Still, spurred by new technology, these machines have a growing fan base among spa-goers and celebrities around town. Spa industry veterans say there is no substitute for exercise and a healthy diet in the battle against the bulge, but many accept that these machines do appear to work as a supplement to that weight-loss regime and may make you appear slimmer. The machines are '500 times more effective than manual massage designed for lymphatic drainage', says Sense of Touch spa owner Anna Orvay. 'This is because manual massage is more time-consuming, whereas machines are very fast - in 45 minutes you have immediate results. 'The manual technique of lymphatic drainage can also be very painful because the therapist has to pinch and squeeze the skin, so if you're prone to bruising it's best to use a machine.' Popular with celebrities, earning it the nickname of a 'non-surgical facelift', the CACI Quantum is used at Sense of Touch. About 12 electrode wires that transmit micro-currents are attached to the body, depending on the area being targeted. Orvay says it's possible to lose up to 1kg after one treatment, as long as you follow a healthy diet 24 hours before the procedure. 'Normally people who are bloated will really notice the difference,' she says. Most spas will perform a manual massage first and then offer a specific contouring treatment for the buttocks, hips thighs or arms. These areas are often the biggest problem for westerners, says the Beautiful Skin Centre's manager and skin specialist Justine Grier, adding that Asians are mainly concerned with their stomach. Grier uses the TriPollar machine, which harnesses radio frequency technology to convert hard fats into fatty acids or a more liquid state, making them more easy to be metabolised and eliminated from the body. Grier says the latest technology has come a long way since traditional wraps and massage techniques, although they still hold an important place in the beauty industry. Four Seasons Hong Kong spa director Helen Greene agrees, saying: 'Hands-on therapies can work on many more levels than machines, as the power of touch on the body's energy and emotions cannot be replaced or underestimated. But for those looking for dramatic results, machines can be consistently effective and are quicker at delivering them.' Grier says the TriPollar works deeper than hand manipulation of the skin to alter the fat cells and break them down, making it easier for the body to burn off lipocytes. 'The heat stimulation also strengthens the collagen in the skin and encourages the fibroblasts [cells that produce collagen and elastin fibres] to increase their metabolism, therefore regenerating the skin's structure and support network,' she says. 'I'm not suggesting that people measure loss with one treatment - it's like weighing yourself after one session at the gym,' says Grier. 'You can actually see a physical difference with each treatment, and I suggest you ask your therapist to do one side and compare before completing the other body part. I am quite a cynic when it comes to seeing results after just one session but the TriPollar is pretty amazing and has even challenged my cynicism.' Hyatt International area spa director Niamh O'Connell says although slimming treatments are effective, it is necessary to incorporate them into a proper diet and exercise programme as nothing can replace these. Orvay agrees, saying it's important for clients to cut down on the amount of sugar and salt in their diets, which can cause water retention and eventually turn to fat. Drinking water is also important before and after any treatment to help flush out toxins. At the Grand Hyatt's Plateau, the Renovateur Minceur Corps treatment uses Carita technology to help correct the appearance of cellulite and remineralise the skin to resculpt, firm and tone the body's shape. The skin is exfoliated, detoxifying coffee bean and juniper oils are massaged in using the machine that 'works by using a current to lift the muscles up - much like you would do if you went to the gym', says O'Connell. 'This current helps the products penetrate down into the skin. It's also going to really improve your circulation and flush out the toxins in your lymph nodes.' O'Connell says machines are best at breaking down the toxins but the manual massage that follows helps drain them so they can be excreted by the body. Although the machines break down cellulite, the number of treatments you will need will vary from case to case. 'For instance, if it's stage one cellulite, where you have to squeeze your thigh to see it, then it hasn't been there for that long and is easier to work on,' O'Connell says. 'If it's a later stage, where the toxins are built up, then it's harder.' Greene says contouring results can also vary dramatically. The spa uses the M6 Endermologie machine which has special treatment 'heads' that have a suction mechanism to hold onto the skin, creating a 'roll'. Motorised roller heads massage the roll. 'This technique has been proven to speed up the metabolism of the fat cells, allowing them to go through a life cycle quicker, reducing them in size and thus minimising the appearance of cellulite,' says Greene. 'Starting with three treatments a week helps reduce fat cells quicker than the body can produce them and is perfect for sluggish areas such as love handles, in which the fat cells metabolise more slowly and tend to be resistant to diet and exercise.' For more problematic, stubborn areas, the M6 Lipomassage is used. This requires guest participation through a series of muscle relaxation and contraction exercises during the treatment. This makes it less relaxing, but guests will feel better when they see the results after a number of treatments, she says. 'Many of our health and fitness-conscious guests are very fond of our M6 treatments as they are able to contour areas that the gym sometimes has challenges working off,' she says. 'Executive male guests whose work involves a great deal of entertaining and dining, and who want to maintain a trim waistline, enjoy the treatment and its results.' But be warned: none of these machines can perform miracles. 'Most of the anti-cellulite contraptions do not get rid of cellulite but temporarily smooth out the surface of the skin, usually by inflaming the tissue around the fat cell, making the area look smooth,' says Denise Fair, registered dietitian at Central Health Medical. She says cellulite is caused by cell fat storage. It occurs in more than 90 per cent of women, regardless of size, and is a result of anatomy, genes and hormones. Anti-cellulite treatments are a billion-dollar industry but, unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for cellulite. Some products and treatments do temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite, but the affects are short lived and costly, Fair says. 'As for the muscle-stimulating machines, these are not effective for weight loss. They are used with athletes to focus on and stimulate a particular muscle. It does not burn extra calories ... you need to get your heart going [cardiovascular exercise] to get real weight loss.'