Does CoolSculpting Work?

Medically reviewed by Catherine Hannan, MD on May 18, 2017Written by Erica Cirino

Does it really work?

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.

How does it work?

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 study 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:

  • thighs
  • lower back
  • belly
  • sides

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.

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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 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.

Who does CoolSculpting work for?

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:

  • cryoglobulinemia
  • 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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How long do results last?

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.

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Is CoolSculpting worth it?

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:

  • nonsurgical
  • noninvasive
  • 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.

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