When it comes to getting rid of stubborn fat, sometimes no amount of diet or exercise can make those last little pockets of extra padding disappear. But the fat-freezing procedure known as CoolSculpting has gained steam in recent years because it provides the results that many people haven’t been able to achieve in the past — and it’s cutting the fat in a safe, non-surgical way.
"CoolSculpting is a great alternative to liposuction; it’s non-invasive, doesn’t require anesthesia and has a much shorter recovery time," says Dr. Jennifer Holman, a board-certified dermatologist at Center for Aesthetic and Laser Medicine (CALM) in Tyler, Texas. Using a special applicator handle, a practitioner can use controlled cooling to freeze targeted areas of fat.
"Once those fat cells are frozen, they’re dead forever — which means they can’t come back," Dr. Holman says. "Then, over the next few weeks and months, those dead cells are processed by your body and eliminated as waste. It's a very simple and effective process."
Dr. Holman says it’s important to note that CoolSculpting is not a weight loss program or a substitute for diet and exercise; instead, it’s a way for people who have “love handles” or problem areas like the belly, hips and thighs get rid of that “little extra.” It’s also very effective in eliminating a double chin or jowls. While it’s not a treatment that is right for everyone, it has become extremely popular because of the lasting results it provides in a short amount of time.
Are You a Good Candidate for CoolSculpting?
To know if CoolSculpting is right for you, you’ll have to look at what you want to achieve from the procedure. If you’re overweight or obese, you aren’t a good candidate since this is not a weight loss treatment. It’s also not for women who are pregnant or for anyone who has had recent surgeries. It’s also not a good treatment for anyone with diseases of the lymphatic system.
"While the results do begin to show shortly after treatment, this isn’t an instant fix, so if you need immediate changes, this might not be what you’re looking for," Dr. Holman says.
However, CoolSculpting might be exactly what you’re looking for if:
- You are close to your ideal weight. Yes, CoolSculpting can help you lose some weight, but it’s most effective when you are near your target weight and just have that extra muffin top or other problem area that you can’t seem to get rid of, no matter how hard you try. Keep in mind that this isn’t a substitute for diet and exercise; it is most effective for people who have an active, healthy lifestyle but need help in certain stubborn spots.
- You have enough fat to get rid of. What you may see as “too much” might actually not be as much as you think. Make sure you can pinch at least an inch before considering CoolSculpting.
- You’re healthy overall. While this is a safe procedure, it’s not good for individuals with chronic health issues, so you’ll need to talk to your doctor about any ongoing health issues or concerns, including discussing what medications you’re on.
What to Expect During CoolSculpting Treatments
Once you’ve determined that you’re a good candidate for CoolSculpting, you and your practitioner can decide on a treatment plan. This tailored plan will look at the areas you want to change, and that will determine how many treatments you’ll need. The number of treatments and how long each will take depends on how many areas you want treated and how much you want to do at one time.
After the selected areas are covered with gel (to protect the skin from freezing), your practitioner will use the vacuum-based handle to apply controlled cooling. While you might feel some tugging, pulling or mild pinching throughout the procedure, it is generally only a low level of discomfort. Throughout the treatment, you will feel an intense cold sensation on the areas being treated, and there could be some tingling or cramping at the areas where the procedure is being performed.
By the end of the treatment, you may have some temporary side effects that will go away over the next few hours or days. These can include redness, swelling, bruising, tenderness, aching, itching or skin sensitivity and can vary from one person to the next, so it’s important to address any concerns you have with your practitioner.
How Soon to Expect Results
Although you’ll begin to see results in as quickly as three weeks after receiving treatment, those results will continue to improve as your body flushes out more fat cells. In most cases, people see dramatic results after two months, but you may continue seeing changes for as long as six months.
And, as mentioned before, the results are permanent because the fat cells are frozen and eliminated from your body.
What to Look for in a CoolSculpting Practitioner
While CoolSculpting has gained acclaim because it can help get rid of those stubborn deposits of fat, it’s important to make sure that you have the right practitioner working with you. A reputable, experienced service provider can make a big difference in the results you get.
Although some practices will offer bargain prices for the procedure, you want to make sure that you’re comfortable with the facility and with the individual providing the treatment. Without proper knowledge of how to use the equipment and how to successfully target the areas you want to improve, you could end up with asymmetrical changes or indentations caused by an improperly placed applicator.
Do your research and have a conversation with your practitioner before having the procedure; when done right, CoolSculpting can be exactly the kind of non-invasive spot treatment you’ve been waiting for.