CoolSculpting, known in medical terms as cryolipolysis, is an FDA-approved procedure that essentially freezes fat cells in certain parts of the body. A hose with cooling plates is attached to the desired region and left in place for a variable amount of time. Ultimately the fat cells will be destroyed. The body then processes the dead cells naturally over a period of weeks or months. There is no invasive technique required with CoolSculpting, and since no areas undergo cutting, recovery time is almost immediate, give or take some soreness or redness depending on where the procedure is done. Scarring is extremely rare, and in general, it is a low-risk process with results that look quite natural. But there are some caveats, and you should consult with a doctor to see if it’s appropriate for you to proceed with CoolSculpting.
Who is a good candidate for CoolSculpting?
If regular exercise and a change in your diet don’t help reduce fat in certain parts of the body, CoolSculpting could help. These areas include buttocks, back, stomach, thighs, chin, neck, and armpits. There has to be enough fat in the area for the applicator to grab onto, so it’s not as simple as cherry-picking undesirable spots and then easily getting rid of them. And destroying those fat cells evenly in one of the areas listed above reduces the risks of dimples or bumps.
But there are a number of pre-existing conditions that could rule the procedure out for you. It’s not recommended as a treatment for obesity, and someone with a weak immune system or intolerance to cold should not seek it as a remedy — the same goes for pregnant women. The following conditions might be contraindications for CoolSculpting and should be discussed with your physician before deciding if the procedure is right for you:
- Eczema, hives, psoriasis
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Chronic pain
- Use of blood-thinning medication, or anemia
- Raynaud’s disease
- Autoimmune conditions in which red blood cells die in response to temperature changes
Are the results permanent?
It depends. A 2014 study showed that CoolSculpting produced up to a 25 percent reduction in subcutaneous fat. Some doctors see reductions of 10 to 20 percent of the targeted fat. (In comparison, liposuction eliminates far more fat cells, but that procedure is much more drastic, and for a different subset of the patient.) When you switch to a healthier diet or increase your regular cardiovascular activity, fat cells shrink, but they also stay in your body. The ultimate result of CoolSculpting is a complete elimination of those fat cells, which is a much more substantial outcome — there is less chance that those areas will regain fat on their own, unless, of course, exercise and eating healthy are not implemented as regular habits. It’s not a procedure that can be substituted for activity, and it’s not a band-aid. Again, the idea here is that patients with stubborn areas that do not respond to diet or exercise can seek out CoolSculpting. You shouldn’t look at it as a natural response to eating too much pizza.
Are there any adverse effects?
Serious adverse events are rare. There have been a few reports of enlargement of fat cells, rather than elimination after cold has been applied. This condition, paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, occurs mainly in men, and surgery is the only way to deal with the reverse effects of the process. Other rare events are hyperpigmentation, scarring, and frostbite in the area. After the procedure, it is not uncommon to experience swelling, bruising, soreness, itching, stinging, and redness. If you have CoolSculpting done on your chin or neck, you might temporarily have reduced muscle movement in the tongue or lips, dry mouth, and reduced saliva. If you have the procedure done by someone who is not adequately trained, or who aren’t using authentic CoolSculpting equipment, you could be putting yourself at risk for untoward complications. Do your homework when looking for someone to do the procedure. Also, keep in mind that this is a cosmetic procedure, so most insurance will not cover it.