Contributed by: Eric Bernstein, M.D.
Is it possible to freeze your fat away? Thanks to an FDA-approved procedure called Cryolipolysis, performed with ZELTIQ’s CoolSculpting device, the answer is yes. The procedure is noninvasive, quick, and painless, requiring zero recovery time. Sound “cool” to you?
Here’s the Scoop
The CoolSculpting device — based on work originally done by Dr. Rox Anderson’s group at Wellman Labs — was first FDA-approved in the U.S. for skin cooling and anesthetic uses for several years, and used in Europe and Canada for fat reduction since mid-2009. Since then, it has gained approval for fat reduction and the technique’s popularity has spread wildly in the U.S. It’s not hard to see why! The device first cools the fat cells in the desired area and then causes them to slowly dissipate, which gradually but dramatically changes the body’s contours and leaves you with a shape that’s slimmed down, sexy, and chic. The idea for cryolipolysis came from the observation that children who eat a lot of ice and frozen popsicles are more likely to develop dimples, a condition commonly referred to as Popsicle Panniculitis. The dimples formed, in part, due to the fat cells in the cheeks being subjected to cold temperatures caused by the frozen treats.
How CoolSculpting Works
Here’s how it all happens. Interestingly, the cells in our body have a reaction to either heat or cold at different temperatures levels. The CoolSculpting device presses against the fat zone you want to shrink and becomes cold enough to target only the fat cells in that area. The fat cells react with an inflammatory response, which causes the body to naturally dispose of the damaged fat cells slowly; it can take up to two to four months. You won’t look dramatically different that same day – the transformation is more gradual, and therefore “natural” seeming.
ZELTIQ CoolSculpting treatment is performed in a doctor’s office, typically under the supervision of a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Word to any worrywarts out there: There is absolutely no anesthesia needed or recovery time involved. During the procedure, tissue is drawn into a suction cup using mild vacuum pressure. You may feel an uncomfortable sensation when the body’s contact with the cold first begins, but most patients report that the feeling recedes after a few minutes. (Of course, if it doesn’t and you still feel uncomfortable with the cold, let your doctor know.) Once it’s all over, you can immediately return to your normal activities – work, working out, you name it!
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The “Cool” Results
Several days after the procedure, the cooled fat cells begin a process called “apoptosis” and begin to shrink. Like a totally modern miracle of science, these damaged fat cells are then slowly digested over several months by your body and removed through the liver. The procedure is especially effective for localized areas of fat – areas like the love-handles or ‘man-boobs’ – rather than larger areas of fat. The best results for CoolSculpting are seen in patients who are in relatively good shape, but have modest but stubborn areas of fat bulges that they’d like removed. (Of course, CoolSculpting is not an alternative to healthy diet or lifestyle, but rather should be used in conjunction with both – but you knew that!)
Are There Side Effects?
CoolScultping side effects are usually very mild and related to the cold of the device (which, again, should go away after 10 minutes or so). Post-treatment, the skin may be red for several minutes to several hours. If this persists any longer, you should contact your doctor. Other side effects may include temporary bruising, tingling, tenderness, temporary dulling of sensation or cramping.
CoolSmooth and CoolFit
The CoolSmooth applicator was released in 2014 as an additional method for physicians to be able to treat areas of the body that are not “pinchable” and therefore not easily treated with the standard vacuum applicator. This applicator is especially useful for the treatment of the outer thighs. For targeting the inner thighs, there is the CoolFit applicator, realeased in late 2013, that features a lower profile vacuum cup with larger cooling plates to maximize the surface contact area.
In the past, it’s been reported that some medical offices were offering cold “chambers,” placing people inside a cold chamber for a period of time, as an alternative treatment for body contouring. Despite claims that this is akin to Cryolipolysis, it is not and is not advised. Accept no (somewhat creepy!) imitations! If you want the real thing with real results, CoolSculpting is your only solution.