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Is CoolSculpting Safe? SpaMedica Outlines the Potential Side Effects

Confident woman in a beige bikini posing with her hand on her hip.

Even when following a strict diet and consistent exercise, stubborn fat can be a source of frustration for many individuals. 

CoolSculpting is a branded form of a  cryolipolysis treatment; a non-invasive medical procedure that helps permanently destroy fat cells. This non-surgical fat reduction treatment has gained popularity in recent years as a way to contour your body without having to undergo surgery or downtime. 

That being said, it is crucial to understand the potential risks and side effects associated with any medical procedure, CoolSculpting included. 

At SpaMedica in Toronto, we are proud to offer CoolSculpting; however, your informed consent and safety is our top priority, and we want you to feel confident before undergoing your CoolSculpting. 

In this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of CoolSculpting, exploring the technology, potential side effects and risks, and the ideal candidate for the procedure.  

How Does CoolSculpting Work? 

CoolSculpting is a safe and effective non-invasive fat reduction and body contouring procedure approved by the FDA. CoolSculpting is the only FDA approved technology for fat reduction using cryolypolosis. 

Unlike traditional liposuction, CoolSculpting leaves no scars behind and has little to no recovery time, making it a preferred alternative to invasive fat removal procedures. 

Before discussing how CoolSculpting works, it is important to differentiate between the two types of body fat: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. 

Subcutaneous fat, which constitutes the majority of the body’s fat, is located in the layer beneath the skin and can be found around the arms, legs, and waist. On the other hand, visceral fat surrounds vital organs such as the stomach, intestines, liver, and the arteries, in some cases. 

Having a balance of both subcutaneous and visceral fat is crucial for proper bodily function. 

“CoolSculpting is based on cryolipolysis, a non-surgical fat reduction process in which the fat is cooled by an applicator on the skin. This procedure reduces localized pinchable pockets of subcutaneous adipose tissue, or fat. The frozen crystallized fat cells are gradually destroyed and flushed out through the body’s natural elimination system over the coming weeks and months.” 

 – Jennifer, Medical Aesthetician at SpaMedica  

On average, it takes 6-8 weeks for the body to process and eliminate the dead fat cells. The final results can take up to 6 months to be visible, with an average fat loss of up to 27% in the treated area reported by patients. 

According to Allergan, up to 20-25% reduction in body fat layer thickness is expected after a single session.

A CoolSculpting device in use.

Is CoolSculpting Safe? 

With claims of effective non-surgical fat reduction, the idea of CoolSculpting may seem too good to be true.  

The good news is, CoolSculpting, along with other cryolipolysis treatments, have been given the green light by the FDA and are considered safe for use. 

Studies conclude that, “cryolipolysis is a reliable and safe alternative to liposuction, with limited side effects.” 

What are the Risks/Side Effects of CoolSculpting? 

As outlined above, CoolSculpting is safe, but as with any medical procedure, you may experience some side effects. Any medical grade procedure comes with risk. What’s most important is being able to identify the risk, and what it would look like to correct it. The most common side effects of CoolSculpting include:

Pain or discomfort  

After undergoing CoolSculpting, mild discomfort such as cramping, or aching, or bloating around the treated area is common. Numbness to the area is to be expected, and in rare cases can last upwards of 6 weeks.   

However, research shows that these symptoms typically subside on their own within 2 weeks.   

Bruising or temporary hyperpigmentation 

The low temperature and suction used during CoolSculpting can also cause temporary skin changes such as discoloration, bruising, or increased sensitivity. These effects are temporary and typically resolve on their own within a week or less.  

The skin prep that goes into every application before treatment minimizes the risk of temporary hyperpigmentation significantly. If skin pigmentation changes such as hyperpigmentation last longer than 2 weeks, your provider may prescribe you a skin brightening agent to speed up the lightening process.  

Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia (PAH)

Although Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia is an exceptionally rare occurrence, it is definitely the most commonly discussed side effect of CoolSculpting. 

PAH stands for Paradoxical (meaning we don’t know why, something that goes against what’s typical) Adipose (Fat) Hyperplasia (enlargement). 

At these low freezing temperatures, the average patient’s fat cells should experience fat cell death, however, for some reason, there is a small percent of patients whose fat cells in the treatment area may expand. 

The reason for this uncommon phenomenon is still uncertain, but it has been observed more frequently in male patients. It is also more common with the old applicators which have been recalled as of last year.  

While this can result in a cosmetic issue, it does not pose any medical threat. If it does occur, it can be corrected through liposuction. 

Is it Painful? 

During the first 6 minutes of the fat freezing procedure, you may feel slight discomfort as your body tries to adjust to the controlled freezing temperatures. Some patients report feeling completely fine during these initial 6 minutes.   

Other patients, however, have reported feeling a cold, stinging sensation that may be accompanied by mild aching or cramping. Some patients have described this as feeling similar to a light menstrual cramp.  

Once the initial 6 minutes of treatments have passed, patients should become numb, and any discomfort should subside. Many patients catch up on work, watch Netflix, or nap through the duration of their CoolSculpting treatments.  

Does CoolSculpting Cause Nerve Damage? 

 It is expected to experience numbness in the treatment area for up to 6 weeks post treatment.  

However, this is not numbness that will affect your day-to-day life and is certainly not nerve damage!  

This sensation is to be expected after any CoolSculpting treatment, this will resolve itself naturally as the weeks pass.  

Tips to Manage Discomfort 

To help minimize risk of discomfort, we recommend the following: 

  • Tylenol or extra strength Tylenol can be taken before and after treatment if necessary. We ask you avoid Advil, aspirin or Ibuprofen for 2 days before and 2 days after treatment as these medications may increase your risk of bruising.  
  • Apply warm compresses when needed. 
  • Following up with your treatment provider on any discomfort lasting more than 5 days.

Am I a Good Candidate for CoolSculpting Treatment?  

CoolSculpting is a safe and effective method for permanent fat loss, with little to no downtime, and suitable for a wide range of individuals.  

That being said, this treatment may not be suitable for everyone. It is important to consult with a reputable CoolSculpting clinic for a consultation assessment prior to proceeding with treatment, to ensure you’re a good candidate for this cosmetic procedure.    

The Right CoolSculpting Candidate  

It is important to note that CoolSculpting is a treatment used for body contouring, not weight loss. It is not a solution for obesity, but rather focuses on removing small pockets of stubborn fat.   

Instead, the purpose of the treatment is to help reduce stubborn subcutaneous fatty tissue and to contour the body to appear slimmer.  It is suitable for individuals who desire to remove excess fat in specific areas that are resistant to diet and exercise.    

Ideal candidates for CoolSculpting are those who are in good overall health, have pinchable fatty tissue, and are within 20-30 lbs. of their ideal weight.  

The Wrong CoolSculpting Candidate 

CoolSculpting is less effective for individuals with a large amount of fat or those who are obese. CoolSculpting is also not appropriate for patients who present with visceral fat. 

Further, CoolSculpting patients may not have any of the following conditions: cryoglobulinemia, cold agglutinin disease, or paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria and may not be pregnant or nursing. 

Try CoolSculpting at SpaMedica 

Our team at SpaMedica is always welcoming and inclusive. We understand when patients feel unsure or nervous about starting anybody contouring treatments, including CoolSculpting. Let our team put your fears at ease! 

We start with a thorough 360° consultation and assessment to understand each patient’s goals, medical history, and lifestyle. We discuss the various treatments, and how we can effectively combine different technologies to achieve your desired outcome.  

With this, we design a customized CoolSculpting treatment plan and a full timeline for review. 

Once a treatment plan is established, our highly trained team of physicians, nurses, aestheticians, and technicians work closely with patients through each step of your CoolSculpting journey. 

Ready to get started? Book a consultation at SpaMedica Toronto today! 

By SpaMedica Infinite Vitality Clinic Non-Surgical

The team at Toronto's SpaMedica comprises a distinguished group of Canada's top dermatologists, nurses, and technicians, specializing in non-surgical cosmetic procedures. With a wealth of experience and credentials, the team expertly delivers anti-aging, body contouring, laser skin, skincare, and vaginal treatments. Known for their commitment to patient care and exceptional results, the medspa team continues to lead the industry in innovative techniques.
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