CoolSculpting takes off.

Imagine being able to melt away stubborn fat areas without lifting a finger. Sure there’s liposuction, but the let’s say surgery isn't your bag. Enter CoolSculpting, a non-invasive fat reducing technique popping up in medi-spas and doctors’ offices nationwide.

CoolSculpting by Zeltiq is a popular brand name for cryolipolysis, a process that works by cooling and breaking down targeted unwanted fat cells, or freezing fat cells. Fat cells will freeze at 50°F if they’re kept at that temperature for long enough, eventually dying off.

We are born with a certain number of fat cells that shrink and expand as we lose and gain weight. This procedure reduces the number of fat cells in a treated area. It also stimulates the lymphatic system, so fat cells are naturally eliminated through the body’s waste over a few weeks to months. Because the fat cells in the treated area have died off, they won’t return there. However, and here’s where it gets tricky, fat may return elsewhere since remaining fat cells in other areas can still expand with weight gain. And so if you regain fat, it will go to your existing fat cells, sometimes creating a lumpy effect.

Joseph Eviatar, MD, the Surgical Director of Cosmetic Care at Chelsea Eye & Cosmetic Surgery in New York City says that in his experience, the CoolSculpting procedure has shown to be extremely effective on resistant localized areas such as back fat, love handles, isolated belly fat and even inner and outer thighs. 

Doctors warn it isn’t designed for overall weight loss; it’s best for stubborn, problem areas. Eviatar says that the ideal candidate maintains a healthy diet and exercises, but has resistant localized areas of fat. 

The whole process takes about one to three hours. A vacuum-like tool suctions the area to be treated and places it between two cooling panels that freeze the cells. The skin is cooled to the point of numbness but there is no damage to it or the surrounding soft tissue. Most people experience some slight pressure but are relaxed enough to either take a nap or work on their laptops. And there’s no downtime; you can return to your normal activities immediately after the treatment. The full effect (usually a 20-25% fat reduction in the problem areas) is noticeable in about 4-8 weeks. Some may also need multiple treatments to gain the best result—and you can always go back for more.

The long-term risks of this procedure are not fully known. In a 2012 Baltimore Sun article, “Budging the bulge with CoolSculpting.” Susan Fried, PhD, an obesity researcher at Boston University, says there is some evidence that manipulating fat cells can actually cause fat deposits to occur in more dangerous places, such as around abdominal organs, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

You’ve heard it before—there is no magic trick for weight loss. But freezing your fat comes pretty close. 


  1. CoolSculpting
  2. Joseph Eviatar, MD