What Is CoolSculpting?
CoolSculpting is the brand name for a fat-freezing method that aims to get rid of stubborn fat in certain parts of your body. The method is called cryolipolysis. The FDA approved it in 2010.
Scientists came up with the idea for cryolipolysis by studying what happens to fat during frostbite. Fat freezes at a higher temperature than skin. The cryolipolysis device cools your fat to a temperature that destroys it while leaving your skin and other tissues unharmed.
Cryolipolysis isn't surgery and doesn't use needles. The device holds the part of your body your doctor wants to target between two paddles. The paddles cool quickly and your doctor leaves them in place for about 35 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. During that time, the process destroys about 20%-25% of the fat cells in the area that's targeted.
The final results may not show up for a few months, but you may start to see some changes within a few weeks. Your immune system clears out the dead fat cells slowly over this time.
Who Is It For?
Cryolipolysis isn't a way to lose weight. Your doctor might suggest it if you've tried diet and exercise and haven't been able to get rid of certain fat bulges.
You should also avoid cryolipolysis if you have:
- Loose skin
- Poor skin tone
- Cryoglobulinemia (a condition where abnormal proteins in your blood thicken in cold temperatures)
- Cold urticaria (a skin condition that causes hives on your skin when it gets cold)
- Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria (a type of anemia that destroys your red blood cells when you're in cold temperatures)
- Raynaud’s phenomenon
You should also avoid it if you:
- Can’t handle cold well
- Are pregnant or nursing
- Have obesity
Cryolipolysis should not be done on areas where there are:
- Varicose veins
- Nerve problems
- Rashes or lesions
A doctor can use cryolipolysis to help you kill fat cells in areas of your body such as:
- Under the chin and jawline
- Back and sides
- Under the butt
- Along the bra line
- Upper arm
You can get cryolipolysis done at your doctor's office, and you don't need to schedule recovery time afterward. It's OK to drive yourself home from the appointment.
There are a few side effects. During the process, you may feel a pulling or tugging on your skin and an intense cold. Afterward, you may feel sore, like you've been exercising. You may also swell a little.
Rarely, cryolipolysis can cause mild or moderate pain afterward. You're also at a slight risk of nerve pain.
Sometimes your skin can look less smooth afterward. Less than 1% of people who get it done have a complication called paradoxical fat hyperplasia. When this happens, the number of fat cells in the area of treatment increase instead of decrease.
Paradoxical Fat Hyperplasia
Paradoxical fat hyperplasia, or paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), is when the number of fat cells in the treatment area go up instead of down. Research suggests it’s rare, occurring in less than 1 percent of cases. The complication can cause a large, firm, and typically painless mass under the skin in the treatment area. You might also notice a change in bodyweight.
PAH usually happens about 2 to 3 months after treatment. It can occur wherever you were treated. Research suggests this is more likely to happen if:
- You’re male
- You're of Hispanic descent
- A large handpiece was used during treatment
- The procedure was done on your abdominal (or belly) region
Other genetic factors may also play a role.
Experts don’t think PAH can go away on its own. You may need:
- Liposuction, a surgery that takes out fat from specific parts of your body
- Abdominoplasty or tummy tuck, a procedure that removes extra skin and fat from your stomach
Waiting a few months after your PAH occurs is suggested before getting liposuction.
Studies show that cryolipolysis is safe and effective. The risks are few and rare. There's no damage to your liver. Side effects are mild, too, and go away after a short time. On average, it lessens the amount of fat in targeted areas by 10%-25%.
Cryolipolysis is considered a cosmetic treatment. That means insurance won’t cover it.
How much you’ll pay for cryolipolysis depends on several things:
- The body part you want to treat (smaller areas cost less)
- How many sessions you have
- Who does your procedure, and your location
Cryolipolysis for the arms, for example, may take only one session per arm and would cost less per session than larger areas, such as the stomach or love handles. According to the CoolSculpting website, a personalized treatment plan typically costs between $2,000 and $4,000.
Other procedures to remove, shrink, or break down fat include:
- Liposuction, a type of plastic surgery that removes fat deposits
- Heat treatments (SculpSure) that use lasers to remove fat
- Deoxycholic acid injection (Kybella), which breaks down fat cells (used only for the chin area)
- A radiofrequency procedure (truSculpt, Vanquish) that kills fat cells with heat
- A cold laser treatment (Zerona) that shrinks fat cells
- Electromagnetic treatment (Emsculpt), a procedure to break down fat cells and tighten muscles.
Talk to your doctor before having any cosmetic procedure.