When it comes to fat reduction, there are dozens of medical and non-medical treatments that promise to help you achieve your body goals, and some of them are quite effective. In recent years, many patients have been turning to cryolipolysis, marketed under the commercial name “CoolSculpting,” to help them lose a few pounds or to eliminate fat in key areas. And while the Food and Drug Administration approved cryolipolysis for fat reduction in 2010, there are some drawbacks and side effects to this medical procedure. Read on to learn more about the side effects of CoolSculpting and some effective alternatives for non-invasive fat reduction.
How CoolSculpting Works
CoolSculpting involves the use of paddles that can rapidly cool. The technician will place the paddles against the skin near the area where you want to reduce fat. When the temperature of a fat cell drops far enough, it dies. The dead cells then release the lipids contained inside where they can be disposed of by the body’s lymphatic system. The process can take anywhere from 35 to 75 minutes, depending on the targeted area. About 20% of the fat cells close to the skin are destroyed in each session. While there are some drawbacks to CoolSculpting, there are also a few advantages:
- This is a non-invasive procedure.
- It is less expensive than surgical procedures like liposuction.
- It’s an outpatient procedure, but there are some activities you should refrain from immediately after each session.
Side Effects of CoolSculpting
While the FDA has approved cryolipolysis for most healthy adults, there are known side effects, and you should only undergo CoolSculpting sessions once you’ve been made aware of the risks:
Aches and Pains
Some aches and pains are normal. How quickly you will be able to fully function with this discomfort largely depends on your individual pain tolerance. For most patients, these symptoms subside in 3 to 11 days.
Skin Damage and Irritation
In order for the cold to reach the cells — or more accurately, for the paddles to draw enough heat from the cells — it has to be in contact with the skin. It stands to reason that if you are damaging fat cells, you will sustain some skin damage. Not to worry, too much. Skin cells are more resilient. Still, CoolSculpting often results in redness, bruising, irritation, and skin sensitivity. You can equate the damage to moderate sunburn.
Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia (PAH)
This is fortunately an uncommon side effect of cryolipolysis that occurs mostly in male patients. With paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, the fat cells grow. While this isn’t a particularly dangerous side-effect, it is the opposite result of what CoolSculpting patients are looking for. In many cases, the expanded fat cells have to be surgically removed. Again, this is not a common occurrence, but it is a side-effect you should be aware of if you’re considering this procedure.
Before undergoing CoolSculpting treatments, you should discuss your health with your doctors.
Who Should Avoid CoolSculpting?
Most healthy adults qualify for CoolSculpting, but some individuals should not undergo the treatments, and ethical providers will not perform them on individuals in these categories. You should not get CoolSculpting if any of the following apply to you:
- You are pregnant or planning to be pregnant soon. There is insufficient information about the effects of CoolSculpting on pregnant women.
- You have a serious medical condition, or your doctor advises against it.
- You have not made lifestyle adjustments to minimize fat gain. CoolSculpting is not a replacement for diet and exercise. If you overconsume, you will gain weight rapidly.
- You are preparing for an athletic competition soon. You may not fully recover from the adverse side effects in time for your event.
There have been multiple lawsuits surrounding cryolipolysis, with one highly-publicized case garnering a great deal of attention. In 2015 and 2016, nineties supermodel Linda Evangelista underwent seven CoolSculpting procedures to remove fat around her hips and thighs. Unfortunately for Ms. Evangelista, she was one of the patients who suffered paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH). Ms. Evangelista claimed that the fat cells in the treated area grew and became hard, forcing her to wear girdles in order to hold the protrusions in. She removed herself from the public eye, and her attorneys filed a lawsuit for $50 million. This year, Zeltiq settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.
CoolSculpting manufacturers claim that the rate of PAH is about 1 in 4000 procedures. However, most people undergo multiple treatments, which raises the odds of any individual developing PAH.
Alternatives to CoolSculpting
If all of these warnings have made you a little reticent about getting cryolipolysis treatments, there are a number of alternatives to the procedure.
Diet and Exercise
There is no substitute for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and if you have more than just a few pounds to lose in a few key areas, you should probably examine lifestyle choices. At Body Details, we recommend a calorie-neutral diet for individuals who are otherwise healthy. Calorie neutral means that you only consume the calories you burn through daily activities. If you consume a few hundred more calories, you may be able to burn them through exercise. From there, you can lose weight by adjusting your intake or increasing your exercise. This is an effective approach that you should consider even after any fat reduction treatments.
If you have a substantial amount of weight to lose, your doctor may recommend surgical options, like liposuction, a gastric bypass, or a gastric sleeve. There are numerous drawbacks to any surgery, but for some patients, this may be their best course of action. Remember that surgery requires you to undergo anesthesia and the recovery time for these procedures can be weeks or months.
Laser Lipolysis (Laser Lipo)
Laser lipolysis works by targeting the fat cells with a non-invasive and non-surgical laser. The beam passes through the skin and penetrates down to the fat cells, destroying them. As is the case with CoolSculpting, once the fat cell is destroyed, it does not grow back. But unlike cryolipolysis, laser fat removal uses a targeted beam instead of wider paddles. That way the technician can narrow their focus. It’s a much more accurate approach to body sculpting.
Why is Laser Lipo a Better Option?
Many people who are considering cryolipolysis also explore laser lipo. But how do the two stack up against each other:
- Effectiveness – Both destroy fat cells beneath the skin over multiple sessions.
- Recovery time – Both have short recovery times, but you can resume normal activities immediately after laser lipolysis in most cases.
- Side effects – Laser lipo causes some redness — similar to a mild sunburn — but your skin should not bruise as it does with CoolSculpting.
- PAH – Laser lipo is not linked to Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia (PAH)
If you’re uncertain about which treatment is right for you, come into Body Details True Laser® Centers for a free, no-obligation consultation. While we do not offer CoolSculpting, we have performed thousands of laser lipolysis procedures. We will help you determine whether you are a good candidate for laser lipo.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fat Removal
If you are considering any sort of fat reduction, you should research the process first. Our medical professionals are happy to discuss your questions in person. In the meantime, here are some of the most common questions from our patients.
Why Does Body Details Only Offer Laser Lipo for Fat Reduction?
Frankly, our experience has shown us that laser lipolysis, when performed by our trained medical professionals, offers more consistent results with fewer side effects. Since both treatments aim for similar outcomes, it made sense to exclusively offer laser lipolysis.
Does Laser Lipolysis Hurt?
We do our best to make our clients feel comfortable, but the process is not particularly painful. There may be a slightly unpleasant sensation, but compared to other non-invasive procedures, laser lipo is relatively painless.
How Soon Will I See the Results?
With laser lipo, you may notice a slight reduction immediately. As the lipids drain from the cell, you will notice some improvement. After several sessions, you should notice a significant improvement.
What Body Areas Can Laser Lipo Target?
Laser fat reduction can be used to reduce deposits of fat nearly anywhere on the body, including the stomach, hips, love handles, thighs, calves, behind the knees, shoulders, arms, upper back, and neck.
Florida Laser Lipolysis Centers
With locations throughout Florida, Body Details True Laser® Centers has successfully treated thousands of patients for excess body fat, tattoo removal, laser hair removal, skin rejuvenation, and more. Your initial consultation is free and you’re under no obligation to commit. We have generous financing terms, so schedule your appointment at Body Details today!