Have you ever seen commercials on daytime TV for CoolSculpting and wondered if it really works? Heck, the commercials basically present it as some type of magic wand that eliminates fat without ever giving you a good idea of what it is. Well, let’s shed a little light on the mystery and talk about what CoolScuplting is and whether it really works. And we’ll also look into another, lesser-known alternative known as SculpSure.
You work out. You diet. You exercise. But you still have those certain spots that you just can’t seem to change. Maybe it’s some extra fat under your chin, or you have love handles that simply won’t go away no matter how ripped the rest of your midsection is. For those of us in similar positions, cosmetic surgery might be an option to consider.
For many years, liposuction reigned as king of cosmetic surgery when it came to body contouring – removing fat from very specific areas of the body. But, in 2005, a procedure known as CoolSculpting came onto the market that took a major bite out of liposuction’s share of the glory.
CoolSculpting, and its complementary counterpart SculpSure, promised similar results to liposuction without surgical incisions and the resulting scars that typically come with it. There are also countless examples of botched liposuction procedures that leave a patient in worse shape than they started. The world of cosmetic surgery was truly ready for the next big thing in body contouring options.
After an effective marketing campaign on TV that made CoolSculpting treatments look like a day at the spa, it naturally became a highly sought after procedure.
Disclaimer: Always talk to your doctor before undergoing any type of procedure. CoolSculpting and SculpSure are not weight-loss options.
What is CoolSculpting?
The medical term for CoolSculpting is cryolipolysis. While the advertisements will state that CoolSculpting “targets, freezes, and eliminates treated fat cells”, this is simply a nice way of saying that fat cells are permanently killed by exposing them to freezing temperatures.
The CoolSculpting machine is placed on the area to be treated, and it uses a vacuum suction to hold onto the skin. Then over a period of 30-60 minutes, the machine cools the area to a point where the fat cells are irreversibly damaged, thus killing the fat cells.
After the treatment, the damaged and dead fat cells remain under the skin until the body disposes of them. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a 4 months. So if you have the procedure done, you won’t know how your true results will look until some time later.
Is CoolSculpting Safe?
The overall safety record for CoolSculpting is encouraging for those who are concerned about complications. While less invasive than liposuction, freezing cells to death does come with an element of risk. Fortunately, there’s practically zero instances of debilitating or life-threatening complications from have the procedure done.
CoolSculpting is considered safe and approved for use by the FDA (since 2012) for treatments in specific areas:
The CoolSculpting® procedure is FDA-cleared for the treatment of visible fat bulges in the submental (under the chin) and submandibular (under the jawline) areas, thigh, abdomen and flank, along with bra fat, back fat, underneath the buttocks (also known as banana roll) and upper arm. It is also FDA-cleared to affect the appearance of lax tissue with submental area treatments.CoolSculpting Website:
While the safety record of CoolSculpting is impressive, and the medical risk is very low, it’s not for everyone. People who have certain pre-existing conditions should not undergo the procedure. Those conditions include the following:
- cold agglutinin disease
- paroxysmal cold hemoglobulinuria
You should be cleared by your doctor of these conditions before undergoing CoolSculpting as it can have severe & serious complications.
What is SculpSure?
In general, the body’s response to extreme cold and extreme heat are the same: irreversible cell damage. SculpSure works on the same principle as its more popular counterpart, except instead of using cold temperatures to kill the fat cells, it uses hot temperatures.
When getting a SculpSure treatment, a belt or device is wrapped around the area and a laser is used to increase the temperature of fat cells while avoiding damage to the surrounding tissue.
The end results are similar to what you’d expect from CoolSculpting where the dead fat cells are disposed of by the body’s natural processes of the course of a few months after treatment.
A typical SculpSure treatment takes about 25 minutes and has costs similar to those of CoolSculpting.
Is SculpSure Safe?
SculpSure is relatively new. It received FDA approval in 2015, so it doesn’t have a long history just yet to draw from – particularly when it comes to long-term effects. That being said, since the mechanism of how the body handles dead and injured fat cells is well understood, there’s little reason for concern.
Side effects from the procedure can include bruising and soreness, but serious side effects are practically nonexistent. Again, since the SculpSure is relatively new, information on long-term effects is unknown.
Do CoolSculpting & SculpSure Really Work?
In general, studies have shown both CoolSculpting and SculpSure to be highly effective means of spot-treatment for removing visible fat. It’s important to understand however, that because the fat cells are gone forever, it’s critical after treatment to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Body contouring procedures are not an alternative to healthy eating, diet, & exercise. In fact, if you gain a lot of weight after a procedure, you might end up looking very unbalanced as the trouble spots will remain small while the rest of your body gets bigger.
On the other hand, there are plenty of examples on YouTube from patients who have not been happy with their results. Some complaints include uneven removal of fat, or the amount of fat simply didn’t meet their expectations for the expense of the procedures.
Whether you choose to use a body contouring option, and which one you use, will depend on your overall fitness level and how important it is for you to ‘fix’ those trouble spots. Before you do anything though, make sure you consult with your doctor and and board-certified cosmetic surgeon first.
Sources & Additional Reading:
1. Wikipedia: Fat Removal Procedures
3. Healthline: Understanding the Risks of CoolSculpting
4. Healthline Understanding SculpSure for Nonsurgical Fat Reduction