CoolSculpting – “Hey Doc, Can You Freeze My Fat Away?”

You’ve probably heard some of the hype about new technology that can “freeze” fat away. You may have seen CoolSculpting featured on “The Dr. Oz Show,” “Good Morning America,” or “Nightline.”

The media describes it as a simple, safe, noninvasive FDA-approved treatment to reduce unsightly fat bulges without downtime, needles, chemicals, or anesthesia. The press makes it sound great, but is it too good to be true?

For the right patient, CoolSculpting can probably replace a more costly and uncomfortable liposuction procedure or, at the very least, help your dress drape more smoothly or your jeans fit more comfortably.

Cryolipolysis, the technical term for what the popular press call “freezing fat,” is branded as CoolScupting by Zeltiq. The process involves cooling fat cells to the point that the water inside them crystallizes, rendering them inactive. Because these crystallized, inactive fat cells look foreign to our body, they are metabolized and excreted by the body’s natural defenses.

Now that you know how it works, let’s look at the bottom line. Is it easy? Is it painful? Is it costly? What’s the catch?

In short, cryolipolysis does not replace diet and exercise as the best practice for weight reduction. In fact, it’s not meant to cause large amounts of weight loss. But it is ideal for treating trouble areas (think bra bulge, tummy pooch, love handles) that just seem to stick around despite your being at or near your ideal body weight. Essentially, if you can grab a handful (or two) of fat, cryolipolysis may be perfect for you.

For the right candidate, studies have shown that patients typically experience a 20% to 25% reduction in the fat layer (measured on ultrasound), resulting in visible changes to the body’s contours after one treatment. Some patients experience much greater reductions. Results are seen as early as 3 weeks and continue to improve over the course of 4 to 6 months post-treatment as the patient’s body continues to flush the damaged fat cells. Treatments can be repeated for additional “slimming” effects.

Most patients do not describe the procedure as painful, though they do feel pressure and intense cold. The sensation is very tolerable without anesthesia or numbing, and most patients read, work on a laptop, listen to music or just relax during the procedure. In terms of cost, providers with the latest technology generally charge $750 to $1,500 per treatment, often discounting additional treatments to the same area.

So, is cryolipolysis too good to be true? Not for the right candidate with the right expectations!


Talia Emery, M.D., Medical Director of Remedy Skin + Body, is recognized as one of the top practitioners of aesthetic medicine in the country. She is a certified speaker and trainer for Allergan (the makers of BOTOX® and Juvederm®) and is part of the National Speakers Bureau for Latisse®. She trains physicians and their staffs throughout North America and speaks regularly on the latest noninvasive cosmetic treatments. Dr. Emery and her team can be reached at 805.497.9400.