Since it was approved by the FDA in 2010, six million people have had stubborn fat removed by a nonsurgical procedure called cryolipolysis. But the big question is: can ‘freezing’ your fat off really work? The fat-freezing procedure formally called cryolipolysis was first discovered after (According to rumor) , doctors noticed that children who ate a lot of ice pops experienced fat degradation in their cheeks.
In 2010, CoolSculpting was first approved by the FDA. It gained attention when it was rebranded from minor spot treatment to a noninvasive alternative to liposuction. It promised to eviscerate love handles and bra bulge with the wave of a cooling paddle. Recently, the non-surgical fat reduction tool was cleared to tackle loose skin under the chin, a smaller area that is more difficult to alter through natural means like diet and exercise.
HOW DOES COOLSCULPTING WORK?
CoolSculpting procedures use rounded paddles in one of four sizes to suction your skin and fat pretty much like a vacuum, while you sit in a reclined chair for up to two hours, cooling panels set to work crystallizing your fat cells with a mild discomfort that people seem to tolerate. You experience suction and cooling sensations that eventually go numb. As a matter of fact, the procedural setting is so relaxed that patients can bring laptops to work on, enjoy a movie or simply nap while the machine goes to work.
A 2009 study looked at the clinical efficacy of Cryolipolysis and the researchers found that Cryolipolysis reduced the treated fat layer by as much as 25 percent. Also, the results were still present six months after the treatment. Frozen, dead fat cells are excreted out of the body through the liver within several weeks of treatment, revealing full results of fat loss within the space of three months.
Some people who do CoolSculpting often opt to treat several parts of the body, usually:
- lower back
It can also reduce the appearance of cellulite on the legs, buttocks, and arms. Some people also use it to reduce excess fat underneath the chin, a very stubborn area that is difficult to lose fat.
It usually takes an hour to treat each targeted body part and of course, treating more body parts requires more CoolSculpting treatments to see results. Larger body parts may also require more treatments than smaller body parts.
Some likely side effects of CoolSculpting include:
- tugging feeling at the treatment site when the doctor places the fat roll between the panels
- sensations of pain, stinging or aching at the treatment site two weeks after treatment that tend to go away on their own without any additional treatment
- short-term redness, swelling, bruising, and skin sensitivity at the treatment site
In extremely rare cases, CoolSculpting can lead to an increase in the volume of fat cells in treated body parts. The cause of this is not known but it appears to be more common in men than women. It’s seen in less than 1 percent of cases. While rare, it’s worth being aware of this possible side effect. Most people who experience this effect, called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, choose to pursue alternative fat-removal treatments, such as traditional liposuction.
CoolSculpting, or cryolipolysis, is a cosmetic treatment to remove areas of body fat. It works by freezing the fat cells from specific parts of the body.
Similarly to liposuction, plastic surgeons and other therapists use CoolSculpting to target areas of the body where it is more difficult to remove fat by diet and exercise.
CoolSculpting is noninvasive, meaning it does not involve surgery, cuts, or anesthetic, so it carries less risk than liposuction. The procedure is mostly safe, but people should be aware of some potential side effects.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at CoolSculpting, including how it works, its effectiveness, cost, plus side effects and risks of the procedure.
CoolSculpting is a branded form of cryolipolysis.
CoolSculpting is a branded, FDA-approved form of fat reduction called cryolipolysis.
CoolSculpting and other forms of cryolipolysis use freezing temperatures to break down fat cells. Cold does not damage other cells in the way it does fat cells, and so there should be no damage to the skin or underlying tissue.
During the procedure, the practitioner vacuums the skin above the area of fatty tissue into an applicator that cools the fat cells. The cold temperatures numb the area, and some people report feeling a cooling sensation.
Most CoolSculpting procedures take around an hour. There is no recovery time because there is no damage to the skin or tissue. Some people report soreness at the site of CoolSculpting, similar to that they might have after an intense workout or minor muscle injury.
After the procedure, it may take around 4–6 months for the fat cells to leave the body. In that time, the area of fat will decrease by an average of 20 percent.
CoolSculpting and other forms of cryolipolysis have a high success rate. They are effective for removing areas of fat from the body, and have fewer side effects than other procedures, such as liposuction.
Though this procedure can remove areas of fat, it is not a miracle cure, and people should not expect to see a complete removal of fat. The procedure will not work for everybody, and some people may experience worse side effects than others.
Lifestyle and other factors may also play a role. A person who continues to eat an unhealthful diet and remains sedentary while undergoing CoolSculpting can expect less fat reduction.
Likewise, CoolSculpting cannot tighten loose skin. If the skin has stretched around fatty buildups, a person may have excess skin after the procedure to remove the fat.
Researchers have found CoolSculpting to be relatively effective.
Research generally points towards CoolSculpting being a relatively safe and effective treatment for removing some areas of fat.
A 2015 review published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery analyzed 19 previous studies of cryolipolysis.
Researchers found that when the studies had measured fat reduction with a caliper, which is a tool similar to a ruler, people lost an average of 14.67 to 28.5 percent of the fat in areas treated by cryolipolysis. When the studies measured the fat reduction with ultrasound, people lost 10.3 percent to 25.5 percent.
The authors found no major health risk factors associated with the procedure. There was no reduction in liver function or lipid levels, meaning that CoolSculpting is purely a cosmetic procedure. Moreover, freezing away fat without making other lifestyle changes may not improve a person’s overall health.
A separate 2015 review published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal that looked at 16 studies, reported that people had an average fat reduction of 19.55 percent.
The study’s authors emphasize the need for longer-term data on the procedure. Most of the studies included in their analysis were small and did not compare the results of CoolSculpting against results people would get from other cosmetic procedures or lifestyle changes.
Massaging the area immediately after treatment may improve fat reduction, though more research is needed. A 2014 study found an increase in fat reduction following massage 2 months after treatment. After 4 months, however, the difference was no longer statistically significant.
Cryolipolysis is a noninvasive procedure, so it does not require cuts, anesthesia, or medications that could cause an allergic reaction. This means that the rate of complications and side effects is lower than with more invasive procedures, such as liposuction.
The Aesthetic Surgery Journal analysis found that, of 1,445 people, only 12 people—which is less than 1 percent—reported complications. The most common complication was having less sensation than beforehand in the treated area.
Other complications may include:
- skin redness
- localized pain
A 2015 review found no serious complications, such as bleeding, skin pigment changes, or scarring.
A 2014 article describes an isolated case of a condition called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia following cryolipolysis.
According to the article, this complication is rare, affecting just 0.005 percent of people. People with this unusual side effect experience an increase in fat cells that can cause the treated area to bulge. It is more common in men and people of Latino or Hispanic descent than in other races.
CoolSculpting destroys fat cells, and those particular cells will not return.
However, science knows little about the long-term effects or effectiveness of CoolSculpting. Most studies have followed subjects for only a few months after treatment.
Destroying existing fat cells will not prevent new fat cells from appearing. Hence, why a healthy lifestyle is vital to preserve the results of CoolSculpting. A person who does not exercise or who eats an unhealthy diet may soon see the fat return.
CoolSculpting may cost anywhere between $700 to $1,500 or more.
Because CoolSculpting is a cosmetic procedure that does not treat an underlying health condition, insurance does not typically cover the costs.
Prices vary depending on geographic location, the skill of the treatment provider, and the size of the applicator used. It is sensible also to consider the number of treatments necessary. Areas with more fat may require more treatments.
Procedures using smaller-sized applicators, such as those used under the chin, can cost around $700 to $900. Procedures using larger applicators may cost $1,200 to $1,500 or more per session.
For people who want more rapid results in a single treatment, liposuction may be a better option. Because liposuction is more invasive, it also carries a much higher risk of complications than cryolipolysis.
A 2015 review reports that the rate of minor complications with liposuction is 21.7 percent. Significant complications occur at a rate of 0.38 percent.
Other types of nonsurgical fat reduction include:
- injection lipolysis, such as Kybella, which uses an injection to destroy fat cells
- laser lipolysis, such as SculpSure, which uses a hot laser to melt fat cells
- radiofrequency lipolysis, such as Vanquish, which uses radio waves to kill fat cells
CoolSculpting is a cosmetic procedure, so it will not address the underlying cause of unwanted fat. A person who has a metabolic condition, diabetes, or an unhealthy lifestyle may quickly regain fat lost through this procedure.
People considering CoolSculpting should know that, while stubborn areas of fat are common, they can also be a sign of another health condition. It essential to talk to a doctor before choosing to have any fat-removal procedures.
CoolSculpting is just one option for removing fat. A person should discuss options for fat removal with a doctor, as well as the benefits and risks of these procedures, which may vary between individuals.
- Boey, G. E., & Wasilenchuk, J. L. (2014, January). Enhanced clinical outcome with manual massage following cryolipolysis treatment: A 4-month study of safety and efficacy. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, 46(1), 20–26
- Derrick, C. D., Shridharani, S. M., & Broyles, J. M. (2015, September 1). The safety and efficacy of cryolipolysis: A systematic review of available literature. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, 35(7), 830–836
- Ingargiola, M. J., Motakef, S., Chung, M. T., Vasconez, H. C., & Sasaki, G. H. (2015, June). Cryolipolysis for fat reduction and body contouring: Safety and efficacy of current treatment paradigms. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 135(6), 1581–1590
- Jalian, H. R., Avram, M. M., Garibyan, L., Mihm, M. C., & Anderson, R. R. (2014, September 23). Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia after cryolipolysis. JAMA Dermatology, 150(3), 317–319
- Outlaw, K. (2016, November 22). How much does CoolSculpting cost? Retrieved from
- What is cryolipolysis? (n.d.)
- What is nonsurgical fat reductions? (n.d.)
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Studies show that CoolSculpting is an effective fat reduction procedure. CoolSculpting is a noninvasive, nonsurgical medical procedure that helps to remove extra fat cells from beneath the skin. As a noninvasive treatment, it has several benefits over traditional surgical fat removal procedures.
CoolSculpting‘s popularity as a fat removal procedure is increasing in United States. It received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010. Since then, CoolSculpting treatments have increased by 823 percent.
CoolSculpting uses a procedure known as cryolipolysis. It works by placing a roll of fat into two panels that cool the fat to a freezing temperature.
A 2009 studyTrusted Source looked at the clinical efficacy of cryolipolysis. The researchers found that cryolipolysis reduced the treated fat layer by as much as 25 percent. The results were still present six months after the treatment. Frozen, dead fat cells are excreted out of the body through the liver within several weeks of treatment, revealing full results of fat loss within three months.
Some people who do CoolSculpting opt to treat several parts of the body, usually:
- lower back
It can also reduce the appearance of cellulite on the legs, buttocks, and arms. Some people also use it to reduce excess fat underneath the chin.
It takes an hour to treat each targeted body part. Treating more body parts requires more CoolSculpting treatments to see results. Larger body parts may also require more treatments than smaller body parts.
Some possible side effects of CoolSculpting include:
- tugging feeling at the treatment site when the doctor places the fat roll between the panels
- sensations of pain, stinging, or aching at the treatment site two weeks after treatment that tend to go away on their own without any additional treatment
- short-term redness, swelling, bruising, and skin sensitivity at the treatment site
In very rare cases, CoolSculpting can lead to an increase in the volume of fat cells in treated body parts. It’s not known why this happens, but it appears to be more common in men than women. It’s seen in less than 1 percentTrusted Source of cases. While rare, it’s worth being aware of this possible side effect. Most people who experience this effect, called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, choose to pursue alternative fat-removal treatments, such as traditional liposuction.
CoolSculpting is not for everyone. It is not a treatment for obesity. Instead, the technique is appropriate for helping to remove small amounts of extra fat resistant to other weight-loss attempts such as diet and exercise.
CoolSculpting is a safe and effective treatment for reducing body fat in many people. But there are some people who should not try CoolSculpting. People who have the following conditions should not do this treatment because of the risk of dangerous complications. These conditions include:
- cold agglutinin disease
- paroxysmal cold hemoglobuinuria (PCH)
Whether or not you have these conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor before seeking out a plastic or cosmetic surgeon to perform the procedure.
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Your CoolSculpting results should last indefinitely. That’s because once CoolSculpting kills off fat cells, they do not come back. But if you gain weight after your CoolSculpting treatment, you may gain fat back in the treated area or areas.
CoolSculpting is most effective with an experienced doctor, proper planning, and several sessions to maximize results and reduce the risk of side effects. CoolSculpting has many benefits over traditional liposuction:
- requires no recovery time
You can drive yourself home after your treatments and return to your regular activities right away.
If you’re considering CoolSculpting, you should weigh the benefits against the risks, and talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you.Healthline ChallengesCurious about mindful eating? Take our free 21 day challenge
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CoolSculpting is the brand name for a fat-freezing method that aims to get rid of stubborn fat in certain parts of your body. Its medical name is “cryolipolysis,” and the FDA approved the process in 2010.
Scientists came up with the idea for CoolSculpting 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 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)
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
What Are the Risks?
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.