So our team has been obsessed with finding alternatives to liposuction and the name Coolsculpting keeps popping up on our radar. Why? On the website, the company shows an outlandish picture of a woman squatting on a skateboard while balancing on an exercise ball. All the while she’s also on a treadmill. The alternative is Coolsculpting. Well, research does support the effectiveness of the exercise. Maybe not in the same manner as the picture, but moving more is always a good thing.
Also, there’s the before and after pictures showing results, but after 12 weeks at times. Could there be an easier and more importantly cost-effective solution? Our research team wants to you read to the truth, so they headed in different directions. One tackled the benefits, potential side effects, and results. The other team compiled facts about the company, any important research connecting the procedure to weight loss. Finally, we came together with the facts to give you the bottom line.
Coolsculpting is an FDA-approved, targeted fat loss treatment. The process uses freezing temperatures to remove body fat. Coolsculpting is non-surgical and non-invasive. But how does it work, what are the side effects, and who is Coolsculpting right for?
The discovery of the concept behind Coolsculpting came about accidentally. Dieter Manstein, MD, and R. Rox Anderson, MD noticed children who ate popsicles tended to have dimples. They concluded the popsicles froze and eliminated small pockets of fat.
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The Process of Coolsculpting
From a scientific standpoint, Cryolipolysis is the process by which fat cells are killed by the application of controlled cooling, usually in the range of -5 degrees Celsius to 5 degrees Celsius (41 to 23 degrees Fahrenheit).
This causes cell death in subcutaneous fat while not harming the skin. No nerve damage was observed in people who received Coolsculpting treatments in a clinical study.
Once the fat cells die, the body’s natural clean up processes kick in.
The immune system cleans the dead cells out of the fat layer, and they’re metabolized by the liver. Once that process is completed, the remnants are excreted along with the body’s normal waste.
The process of removing and excreting those dead cells generally takes two to three months, though in some cases has been reported as happening a little faster or slower.
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What Does Coolsculpting Do?
Throughout a Coolsculpting treatment, a technician places the targeted fat area between two cooled surfaces with a wand. Those surfaces are cooled to near-freezing or freezing temperatures. The technician works the wand over the targeted area over about an hour for a typical session.
This has the effect of killing some percentage of the fat cells in the area. After the Coolsculpting session, the fat cells will be dead. However, the person receiving the Coolsculpting treatment won’t notice any difference yet. This is because the body still needs to flush out the dead cells, and that process takes time, as stated on Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Over the next weeks and months, those fat cells will be processed through the liver and excreted out of the body naturally. According to the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology states, this is a built-in process the body has for dealing with dead cells and other wastes, and it doesn’t cause any known harm to a person.
Some have reported seeing visible results in as little as three weeks, though most see results in two to three months.
Does it Work
Does Coolsculpting Work?
Coolsculpting has been proven to work, though it’s not a miracle treatment, and there are limitations.
In a clinical study by the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Coolsculpting was shown to remove up to 25% of fat from targeted areas in people who underwent the treatment. This means that while Coolsculpting can remove fat, it’s not going to remove all fat or dramatically alter your body.
Proponents of Coolsculpting emphasize that the treatment is best suited for people who have areas that stubbornly store fat even when targeted with diet and exercise. For instance, some people tend to maintain a bit of a belly even when the rest of their body sheds fat. Others store fat in their thighs or rear ends, while others have stubborn excess fat in their chins or upper arms.
In these cases, Coolsculpting has the potential – though it’s not guaranteed – to get rid of that fat and make a noticeable visual difference in a person’s appearance.
It should be noted that some people are more likely to be helped by Coolsculpting than others. Certain factors, like the thickness of a person’s skin, can make the treatment more or less effective, as people with thicker skins tend to see less benefit from Coolsculpting.
Coolsculpting proponents also emphasize that Coolsculpting removes fat for good, but that it does nothing to prevent more fat from forming in the future. If a person gets a Coolsculpting treatment and then lives a lifestyle with a calorie-rich diet and little to no exercise, it’s entirely possible – in fact, likely – that the fat will reform in the areas targeted by Coolsculpting.
The bottom line is that Coolsculpting is a legitimate treatment which has shown demonstrable results in a clinical setting, according to the journal Dermatologic Surgery. The results take weeks or months to show themselves, and the fat reduction is up to 25% on average.
What Does a CoolSculpting Treatment Feel Like?
At first, the area being targeted by the Coolsculpting wand will feel intense cold. This will last for the first few minutes. After two to three minutes, that intense feeling will dissipate, and within five to ten minutes the area should feel numb.
Depending on the individual Coolsculpting wand being used, patients may feel a slight pulling sensation due to light suction being applied.
Generally, past the first five to ten minutes, the feeling is not particularly bothersome. Some people undergoing Coolsculpting treatments even manage to sleep during the procedure.
When the treatment is finished, some people feel a tingling sensation in the area targeted by the Coolsculpting procedure for a few minutes. This should go away in a relatively short time, and most people can resume their everyday routines without further interruption.
Potential Coolsculpting Side Effects
When receiving a Coolsculpting procedure, the skin in the area targeted will feel cold at first, though not excessively to the point of significant pain. Within a minute or two, the area should go numb, and a person receiving the procedure shouldn’t feel anything.
As Coolsculpting isn’t an invasive procedure, there are no needles or blades to cut the skin.
After a Coolsculpting procedure, a person can usually go about their day like normal. This marks a clear advantage over procedures like liposuction, which are invasive and require substantial recovery time.
In the immediate aftermath of the treatment, some people report some cramping, tenderness, and itchiness in the area targeted by the Coolsculpting procedure. Sometimes the area will be lightly bruised and slightly inflamed. These symptoms should vanish within days.
In the weeks after receiving a Coolsculpting treatment, it’s common to observe a loose stool or diarrhea. This is as a result of the body flushing out the dead fat cells.
Diarrhea, if observed, should not be excessive or enough to cause worries of dehydration. Processing the dead fat cells has not been observed to harm the liver, as stated on Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.
This can lead to frostbite that can permanently disfigure the body, requiring cosmetic surgery to correct.
A professional Coolsculpting wand is built so that it can deliver a cold that kills fat cells without harming the rest of the body. Any amateur Coolsculpting attempts should be avoided.
Are There People Who Should Not Undergo Coolsculpting?
In general, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor before having any procedure, even a non-surgical one. This is true for Coolsculpting as well.
CoolSculpting has been involved in a couple of lawsuits due to their FDA clearance and side effects.
According to Top Class Actions, the company was sued in 2017 for misrepresenting their FDA approval status. Apparently, the procedure is only approved through a “premarket notification clearance” and was not fully approved by the FDA.
The company was involved in another lawsuit in 2018, according to AP News. A woman who received CoolSculpting treatments was not informed of the potential side effects and experienced a rare, “plumping” effects in her body.
A defective CoolSculpting device put the company in trouble again in December 2019, according to the New York Post. An individual undergoing the CoolSculpting procedure suffered from third-degree burns and scarring. Though a faulty device is in play, it is believed that the center performing the procedure also put ice on the treated area after completion, which is against protocol.
There are many ways to lose weight, though most involve modifications to the diet or dietary supplements. Coolsculpting is unlike all of these because it kills fat cells rather than attempting to cause the body to burn them for energy.
Probably the closest alternative to Coolsculpting is liposuction. In both cases, they are procedures that attempt to get rid of fat cells externally rather than inducing the body to use them as an energy source.
However, liposuction and Coolsculpting have several major differences.
Liposuction can remove dramatically more fat than Coolsculpting generally does, as the liposuction procedure directly removes fat. Coolsculpting relies on the cold to kill fat cells, but can’t target specific fat cells or kill all of them. In cases where a person wants to remove all or nearly all fat in an area, liposuction is the better alternative.
With that being said, liposuction is an invasive surgical procedure in which a surgeon cuts into the body. There are far more risks involved any time you breach the integrity of the body, and liposuction is certainly in that category.
Coolsculpting is non-invasive and non-surgical. This means several things. First, there are far fewer risks of the body having an adverse reaction, developing an infection, or other negative surgical outcomes. Second, the recovery time of Coolsculpting is much faster than for liposuction.
When weighing Coolsculpting vs. liposuction, there are pluses and minuses to either. Coolsculpting is safer and less of an inconvenience, while liposuction is a more powerful weight loss option.
What is the Cost of Coolsculpting?
Coolsculpting costs around $2,000 to $4,000 for the average person. This covers Coolsculpting treatments applied to multiple parts of the body.
If you’re only looking to target a single area of the body with one treatment, that cost may be anywhere from $500 to $1,200. Usually, you’ll be paying either by the hour or for a whole Coolsculpting plan as a single amount.
Coolsculpting costs can vary significantly both between individual vendors and also by region. It’s always a good idea to get a price quote if you’re considering Coolsculpting. Most Coolsculpting facilities are happy to consult with you and develop a plan that fits both your budgetary needs and your fat-loss goals.
The process of Coolsculpting is simple from the patient’s end and requires very little in the way of effort or special instructions.
During the procedure itself, the patient sits or lies still while the technician applies the Coolsculpting wand. A patient can read, use a laptop or mobile device, or most other portable and sedentary activities. The technician (and the wand) do all the work.
Once the procedure is finished, a patient can go back to their daily routine just as though nothing had happened to them. And in the days, weeks and months after a Coolsculpting treatment, there’s no special instruction or series of steps needed to be followed.
The benefits of Coolsculpting are simple: A reduction in body fat.
It should be again noted that any fat cells killed by Coolsculpting are gone for good. Those particular cells will never return. However, if your lifestyle after receiving Coolsculpting treatment would result in weight gain, it’s entirely possible that you’ll end up with fat in the areas previously targeted by the Coolsculpting.
There are no additional benefits known with Coolsculpting treatments aside from the fat reduction.
For most people receiving Coolsculpting treatments, there will be a modest but noticeable reduction in body fat in the area targeted by the Coolsculpting.
This is not guaranteed, as some people will lose a degree of body fat but not enough to make a noticeable difference.
On average, results should start to be noticeable within a couple of months. Some have reported observing results in weeks, but this isn’t common.
Coolsculpting Weight Loss
Coolsculpting shouldn’t be considered as a primary weight loss technique.
If you’re looking to lose significant weight, your best bet is to change your diet and exercise routine to put yourself into a calorie deficit. This will cause the body to burn fat for energy to keep your systems running. Certain dietary supplements can help with this as well.
Coolsculpting will usually produce some modest weight loss as the dead fat cells are flushed out over several months. However, it should not be used or counted upon as a primary means of weight loss for people looking to lose large amounts of weight.
Coolsculpting is a proven fat reduction treatment. It’s FDA approved, and clinical studies back its effectiveness.
Coolsculpting isn’t the answer if you are significantly obese and are trying to lose massive amounts of weight. You should turn to other solutions if that’s your situation.
However, if you have certain areas of your body where fat seems to cling despite your efforts to get rid of it stubbornly, Coolsculpting should certainly be in your list of options for dealing with it.
What Users Are Saying
“CoolSculpting is a Game Changer! – I recently got a cool sculpting treatment on my abdomen at Geria Dermatology and the results were great. The office is beautiful first of all and the staff makes you feel so comfortable. I was a little nervous when I first decided to do it, whether it would work or not but after just one treatment I saw results and have continued to go back for the recommended treatment schedule (everyone is different in how many they need) and have been loving this procedure and what it has done for my belly.”
“Not Worth Your Time – Tried it on abdomen and flanks But barely saw any change. Very expensive for small results. Not very painful. I would save money and get liposuction instead! Wish I’d saved the money or gone on vacation instead.”
“The procedure was not too bad at all – I had my abdomen treated yesterday with four applicators, nowhere near as bad as I was expecting! I’d describe it as intensely uncomfortable overall but not really painful. It aches for the first 10 minutes of cold, but after that, it’s just slight discomfort. The upper abdomen was a bit worse as there’s less fat there. As others have said the massage is the worst part, quite painful but only lasts two minutes and wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I was worried about feeling sick or faint as I often get this with just a blood test, but I felt absolutely fine throughout. Afterward, the area just feels numb and sore.”
The Bottom Line on Coolsculpting
Okay, the benefits of Coolsculpting center around it being a safer alternative to liposuction. The non-invasive procedure has the chance of causing fewer side effects than its surgical cousin. The Coolsculpting before and after pictures are impressive and offer hope to lose looking to lose weight. One of the concerns noted was long-term results. On the website, there are only pictures with results from 12 weeks after the first procedure. We’d like to see the long-term results.
However, there’s always alternatives and additions to Coolsculpting. One is a weight-loss app backed by research.
One of the best programs we’ve seen is one called Noom. The program was designed by doctors and offers human coaching and personalized meal plans. We love that you get all the traditional functions like food and exercise tracking, partnered with some clinically-proven methods to help you reach your goal.
Also, the team behind Noom is confident in their program, so they’re offering a free trial to Dietspotlight readers.