Does Coolsculpting Really Work?

Reviewed on 5/6/2021

What is CoolSculpting?

CoolSculpting (medical term: cryolipolysis) is also called fat-freezing.
CoolSculpting (medical term: cryolipolysis) is also called fat-freezing.

CoolSculpting (medical term: cryolipolysis) is also called fat-freezing. This technique uses extremely low temperatures to break fat cells down in the body. It is one of the most popular techniques for nonsurgical fat reduction. Around 4,50,000 CoolSculpting procedures have been performed all over the world. The origin of CoolSculpting (destroying fat cells by freezing) has an interesting story behind it. The inspiration for this procedure came from kids eating popsicles. It was seen that when they kept a piece of ice popsicle resting against the inside of the cheek, the fat cells in the cheek died (necrosis). Samples taken from the cheek were observed under the microscope and showed destroyed fat cells with no injury to the skin. The first cryolipolysis technology for human use, named CoolSculpting, was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) in 2010.

Depending on the distribution in the body, fat can be divided into two broad categories: visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is the fat that is present around the internal organs, such as the liver and kidney. Subcutaneous fat is the one present under the skin. CoolSculpting targets the subcutaneous fat that is responsible for various aesthetic concerns, such as double chin and love handles. These fat cells are more vulnerable to cold temperatures unlike other types of cells in the body. Hence, during CoolSculpting, the fat cells freeze and die but the skin and other tissues are spared from injury.

Does CoolSculpting really work?

CoolSculpting is an effective way to reduce subcutaneous fat especially in people with a localized fat bulge. CoolSculpting destroys the fat cells in the fatty bulge while sparing the skin and other tissues. The procedure helps reduce the bulging areas of fat in sites, such as

  • Thighs
  • Under the buttocks
  • Back and side fat (love handles)
  • Under the chin
  • Around the jawline
  • Abdomen
  • Along the bra line
  • Upper arm
  • Upper back

Being a noninvasive and nonsurgical method, CoolSculpting is emerging as a hot trend to get rid of the fatty bulges resistant to diet and exercise. However, this procedure should not be considered a proxy for diet and exercise. This procedure must not be considered the sole way to reduce weight. Try losing weight by diet and exercise. The doctor may recommend CoolSculpting only if there are localized areas of stubborn fat that do not go away with lifestyle modifications.

CoolSculpting must be avoided if a person has any cold-related conditions, such as cryoglobulinemia, cold urticaria and paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria. It should also be avoided by people having loose skin or poor skin tone.

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Is CoolSculpting safe?

Cool Sculpting is generally a safe procedure that has a low complication rate and high satisfaction rate. The technique does not involve using a scalpel or anesthesia.

During the procedure, there could be sensations of pulling, tugging, cramping, intense cold, mild pinching, tingling, stinging and aching at the treatment site. Once the area becomes numb and the treatment progresses, these sensations subside. There may be temporary redness, swelling, blanching, skin bruises, stinging, tenderness, itching or skin sensitivity and sensation of fullness in the back of the throat after the chin and jawline treatment.

There is some risk of surface irregularities due to irregular or asymmetric fat destruction. Patients may experience some pain, aches or sting after the procedure. This generally goes away on its own or with medications prescribed by the doctor. A few patients may not be satisfied with the results.

A condition, called fat hyperplasia, may be rarely seen in less than 1 percent of people. It refers to an unexpected overgrowth of fat cells. Paradoxical fat hyperplasia is three times more common in men than in women. It is seen more in people of Hispanic or Latino descent.

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References
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What Is Cryolipolysis? https://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/nonsurgical-fat-reduction/cryolipolysis

Harvard Health Publishing. Is CoolSculpting Effective? June 2017https://www.health.harvard.edu/skin-and-hair/is-coolsculpting-effective

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