Everything You Need to Know About CoolSculpting (and Were Too Afraid to Ask)
As any perennial healthy-eater or exercise buff can tell you, sometimes it takes a bit more than a clean diet and regular sessions at the gym to blast through stubborn layers of fat. And for years, there really wasn't much one could do about that. But modern research and technology has paved the way to more advanced cosmetic procedures-and less-invasive ones at that.
One of the most prevalent of them all is CoolSculpting, a quick treatment in which a areas of fat are frozen on a patient's body. Over the course of a few weeks, the dead fat cells are absorbed and eliminated as waste. It can be a very effective treatment if your expectations are reasonable-but it's important to know what to expect and how to make sure the treatment is right for you.
What Exactly Is CoolSculpting?
CoolSculpting is a non-invasive body contouring treatment. It cools fatty tissue and, according to studies, destroys up to 25 percent of fat cells in the treated area through a process known as cryoliposis. Put more succinctly: "The treated fat cells are frozen and then they die," says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a New York City dermatologist and director of dermatolgic surgery at Metropolitan Hospital.
The machine (which looks like a small box) is placed over the area you've chosen to contour, where it applies a strong suction and freezes the fat cells underneath. In the weeks after the treatment, the crystalized fat cells will be broken down and eliminated by the body's lymphatic system as waste. (Your skin cells experience cell death after a much longer exposure, so they are unaffected.)
Who is a good candidate for the procedure?
Engelman explains that if you have a little fat to lose, CoolSculpting is a great option. Think of it as especially effective for areas that are tricky to diet and exercise away, i.e. love handles, arm fat, and double chins.
"I find it more effective in targeted areas," she explains, "though they do have applicators for larger areas. Fat gets sucked into the CoolSculpting applicator, so it's a little trickier with someone who has dense fat. I prefer Emsculpt for larger service areas."
How long does each treatment take?
CoolSculpting is generally a pretty quick treatment. A session usually takes about 35 minutes, so it's possible to get it done during a lunch break says Jeannel Astarita, licensed CoolSculpting Clinical Educator and founder of Just Ageless Spa in Manhattan.
Depending on the size of the area that you are hoping to treat, you will typically need two or more treatments over a three month period.
When do you start to see results?
According to Astarita, results are not apparent for the first four weeks of treatment. "Eight weeks after the first treatment, up to 90 percent of the improvement is visible," she says. Bulges will continue to reduce for another eight weeks, at which point the area will reach optimal smoothness.
Are there any risks?
As with any procedure or treatment, there are certain risks, says Astarita, but CoolSculpting is considered quite safe. The machine is an FDA-cleared device and it's important to seek out a licensed CoolSculpting practitioner. Astarita also recommends finding someone who is realistic about your goals. "It's always best to look for a provider who is honest, direct, and clear about expectations and the procedure themselves. Always read all disclosures prior to treatment and ask lots of questions!" she advises.
Additionally, according to Engelman, there is a risk for loose skin if someone has already experienced extreme weight loss.
Is CoolSculpting painful?
For the first five to ten minutes of the treatment can be quite uncomfortable. Adriana Martino, founder of New York City's Skinney Medspa, adds that after that initial discomfort, the area becomes numbed.
How much does each treatment typically cost?
Treatments start at around $600 per area, depending on your goals and the number of treatments that you will need to achieve them, says Martino.
Are the results permanent?
Yes (mostly), particularly if you've embraced the targeted approach. "However, you should try to maintain a healthy weight-and thus your results-as best you can," says Martino.
Does it help with weight loss?
CoolSculpting should be seen as a way to eliminate fat in specific problem areas-it's not an alternative to diet and exercise and won't result in major weight loss. "CoolSculpting is most effective when it is used as a supplement to a healthy and balanced lifestyle," Martino says.
What happens if you gain weight after getting CoolSculpting?
Astarino says that results are permanent as long as one maintains a healthy lifestyle. Those particular fat cells are never coming back. The procedure does nothing to change the body's ability to store fat-and CoolSculpting doesn't prevent the body from storing excess calories if someone gains weight.