You may believe CoolSculpting (the non-invasive method that solidifies fat cells and has a brief recovery period) sounds too extravagant to be genuine. CoolSculpting can be performed on different areas of the body including the abdomen, thighs, lower back, upper arm, and sides, as well as beneath the chin and jawline. Each body part takes approximately an hour to treat and it is carried out directly in a medical professional’s office.
No abdominal exercises? No planks? A leaner abdomen just a few weeks later? But what is CoolSculpting and does CoolSculpting function? We break down the methodology, the cost, and the possible adverse effects, as well as one writer’s encounter with CoolSculpting.
What Is CoolSculpting?
Also commonly referred to as cryolipolysis, CoolSculpting — which is executed by medical professionals and aestheticians — is a non-surgical procedure to eliminate fat. The process entails freezing fat and is intended to naturally eradicate deceased, frozen fat cells throughout your body. Advocates assert that CoolSculpting results can be observed in just a few weeks — even though sometimes it takes up to three months.
How Safe and Effective Is CoolSculpting?
A study in the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons on the safety and effectiveness of CoolSculpting discovered that the procedure is a secure and efficient substitute for liposuction. The procedure provides a decrease in localized fat and has limited side effects.
How Much Does CoolSculpting Cost?
The average expense of the CoolSculpting procedure is $3,200. The price may vary depending on geographical location and the number of treatments.
What Is the Recovery Time After CoolSculpting?
As reported in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, the recuperation period following CoolSculpting is minimal. Since the procedure is non-surgical and does not necessitate anesthesia, most patients do not require extensive downtime and can promptly resume regular activities.
Potential Side Effects of CoolSculpting
According to the CoolSculpting website, the following are potential side effects that may arise during or after the procedure.
Common side effects during the CoolSculpting procedure may include:
- Gentle pinching
- Extreme cold
After the procedure, patients may experience:
- Temporary redness
- Reactivity to touch
Rare side effects:
According to the CoolSculpting safety information disclosure, the following rare (may occur in 1 to 10 out of 10,000) or very rare (less than 1 out of 10,000) side effects can occur.
- Unusual tissue growth
- Severe pain or pain occurring later
- Increased pigmentation
- Cold burn
- Visible treatment area boundary
Consult your healthcare provider to ensure you are a suitable candidate for CoolSculpting and do not have any existing skin conditions or sensitivities prior to scheduling the procedure. Patients should be aware that negative reactions can occur up to six months after treatment.
CoolSculpting: An Individual Experience
My abdomen has always been a problem area for me. I am also open to trying nearly anything once, so when I was given the opportunity to test out the treatment, I thought I would give it a try. As a dedicated runner with a fondness for pizza, I believed I had nothing to lose. Since CoolSculpting claimed to have “no downtime,” I could immediately return to training for the consecutive 10K and half-marathon races I had scheduled about eight weeks later. I wouldn’t need to take any time off work either, and hopefully, I would soon achieve firmer abdominal muscles. It seemed like a win-win situation, right?
So, I entered a sleek medispa in Tribeca on a quiet Saturday morning. However, with no one else in the waiting room, I suddenly felt alone and anxious about my impulsive decision to undergo CoolSculpting on my abdomen. “As a journalist, I should have conducted more research on this before agreeing to it,” I pondered to myself.
I realized I had no clue about what I was getting myself into – a departure from my usual, meticulously organized approach to anything concerning my health or body.
A technician swiftly escorted me into a sterile room and provided me with an elaborate paper bra and a pair of underwear to wear instead of my own. (They were truly glamorous.)
After I transformed, she instructed me to stand in the corner under a few intense lights so she could capture a few pictures for my CoolSculpting before and after snapshots and to determine which sections of my abdomen were optimal for the treatment.
Grasping my abdomen, my technician happily exclaimed, “Oh, you’re going to be an excellent candidate. This roll is the perfect kind of fat for CoolSculpting.” Gee, thanks.
Not exactly something you’re thrilled to hear while someone holds onto your abdomen roll.
I’ve struggled with my body perception my entire life, but I attempted to agree with her sentiment and nodded. But that was before she produced the marker (yes, a marker). Sorority-style, she used some kind of branded ruler to my belly and sketched lines to mimic where my fat reaches its peak.
Okay, perhaps I should have anticipated that at a fat-freezing treatment. What I wasn’t expecting: to feel as devastated by her evaluation of my stomach as I did.
We selected my lower abdominal area and I jumped into the chair, not quite prepared for what was to come.
The technician provided me with an explanation of how CoolSculpting works: She would place a towel soaked in a freezing agent on the marked area. This would then be clamped down by the CoolSculpting device. The device buzzes for an hour, eliminating fat cells, and I’d be able to watch Netflix (score). Then, she would return, spend two minutes massaging away my fat, and we’d repeat on the other side. Overall, this would amount to a two-hour duration. A bit quicker than countless crunches, don’t you think?
I was already feeling defeated by my evaluation, but at her description of the procedure, I became outright terrified. She explained that the clamping of your abdomen can feel like someone is depriving you of breath, but it was much worse than that. The excruciating pain of a large machine sucking your stomach (imagine a vacuum) is quite hard to put into words in the most awful way.
Thankfully, you become completely numb after about 10 minutes (which is when I turned on an episode of SVU). The rest of the hour is a blur of Mariska, cold temperatures, and sporadic pain. I monitored the countdown clock second by second on the CoolSculpting machine.
As for that two-minute massage? Well, after the hour, your once chubby roll of fat has condensed into something that feels and looks like a solid stick of butter. The technician returned to spend what were the 120 most agonizing seconds of my life rubbing my right lower abdomen. This, she explained, would help reduce swelling and assist in the drainage of the now-deceased fat cells. (So much for any future comfortable connotation with the word “massage.”) With tears streaming down my face, I informed her that the pain was too intense. I would have to return another day to do the other side, I informed her.
The Side Effects
Shaky and emotionally drained, I returned to my apartment, where I had laid out my jogging clothes, thinking I’d recover quickly and be okay to run. When I walked in the door, my husband asked how it went, and I raised my shirt to show him enormous bruises the size of grapefruits on my right side.
He didn’t say much — I believe he was completely shocked — but I gasped, realizing just how much pain I was in.
Notwithstanding the presence of contusions and puffiness being two of the more prevalent secondary outcomes, I failed to comprehend the extent of my physical distress. Was this truly worthwhile in exchange for the pledge of an “unswollen midsection”?
Even more: Another potential side effect of CoolSculpting is persistent, tingling nerve discomfort. However, you cannot take a handful of Advil for it: CoolSculpting induces an inflammatory reaction in the body, and any ibuprofen suppresses that desired inflammation. The nerve discomfort, which can last for up to six weeks, was sporadic, stabbing, and anxiety-inducing.
Thankfully, the discomfort and bruising subsided after approximately three weeks. And when I returned for my left side (where I discovered my fat peaked far less, hallelujah), I did not experience the same post-treatment nerve discomfort. However, I did have another set of significant bruises. Sigh.
CoolSculpting is purported to be a non-intrusive treatment with no downtime. The truth? I couldn’t engage in running, yoga, or strength training for two weeks — and I have never felt my personal space more violated than during the treatment. I was hyper-aware of my stomach fat and somehow felt more self-conscious than ever. The inflammatory reaction also results in a slight swelling during the first week or two, so your stomach actually becomes larger before it becomes smaller.
Which brings me to the outcomes: the slimmer stomach I desired. Did I achieve it? Three months later, I must admit: My stomach is significantly flatter. My once-familiar round belly was more like a washboard, and muscle definition was becoming visible near my more accentuated hipbones. (The spa never followed up to take after photos, so I never received the exact details of how many inches I lost.)
Two points worth mentioning: The weeks away from physical activity (due to the pain from the treatment) do not contribute to anyone’s fitness goals. Additionally, a family vacation at the three-month mark (when the best results from CoolSculpting are observed) made my abs less washboard-like. The familiar old curvature of my belly reappeared. And despite many sweaty runs, planks, and downward dogs, I couldn’t get my stomach as flat as it had been before that trip.
So yes, in my personal experience, CoolSculpting is effective, but only if you are truly disciplined with your diet and exercise regime, which I was, for the most part. And remember, just a few weeks off completely disrupted progress towards a six-pack.
Considering how negatively the procedure impacted my self-esteem, I’m also unsure if I would ever undergo it again. Despite my slightly flatter stomach, I would advise you to skip spending thousands of dollars on CoolSculpting and invest some extra time in your abdominal workouts (like this 4-week plan for a toned midsection) instead.
No one needs their fat peaks highlighted with Sharpies — ever.
Thanks for your input!