The Ultimate Guide to CoolSculpting in 2023

If you’ve been trying to lose fat through diet and exercise, but haven’t achieved your goals, CoolSculpting may be the solution you’ve been waiting for. This FDA-approved procedure can help you remove stubborn bulges of fat from your body. But how does this procedure work? What are the side effects? In this guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about CoolSculpting.

What is CoolSculpting?

CoolSculpting, sometimes referred to as body sculpting, is an FDA-approved treatment that removes stubborn fat safely and effectively. This procedure is often used for fat bulges around the abdomen, thighs, upper arms, love handles and the buttock. If you are seeking to remove unwanted fat that is non-responsive to any regimens of diet and exercise, CoolSculpting can be used to selectively target those isolated areas of fat without any pain.

Above all, CoolSculpting is a non-invasive procedure that offers you the benefit of little to no recovery time while delivering long-lasting results. At most, you may feel a slight numbing sensation in the treated area, but it only typically lasts a couple hours or days.

How does CoolSculpting work?

During the procedure, intense cold temperatures are delivered to your treatment area(s) to cause subcutaneous fat cells to die permanently. Subcutaneous fat is targeted because it is the type of fat that hides your muscle growth and shape, resulting in a distorted figure. Freezing away this fat will visibly reduce the appearance of unwanted bulges.

If you have areas with pinchable pockets of fat, removing the subcutaneous fat will visibly improve your body shape.

How does this work? The extremely low temperature used in CoolSculpting breaks up the fat cells underneath your skin and crystallizes them. Over the next few weeks, your body is able to naturally eliminate the dead fat cells on its own (and for good).

With the use of cooling cups, CoolSculpting will target one specific area of fat without disturbing or affecting surrounding tissue. This technique will give you results for your specific needs. The infographic below shows visually how CoolSculpting works.

coolsculpting infograph mobile
For a more detailed explanation of how CoolSculpting works, visit Cornell University’s Library article: Cool-Sculpting: Optimizing Total Fat Loss During Cryolipolysis.

Cryolipolysis vs. CoolSculpting

If you are doing your research or checking out the article we linked above, you may be wondering, “what is cryolipolysis?”

Cryolipolysis is the medical term for CoolSculpting. CoolSculpting, on the other hand, is an FDA-approved brand name for a cryolipolysis procedure. The prefix “cyro” means extreme cold while “lipolysis” means the breakdown of fats. Put together, cryolipolysis means “freezing fat”.

In other words, there is no difference between CoolSculpting and medical-grade cryolipolysis. One is simply the medical term while the other is a name-brand.

CoolSculpting vs. EmSculpt

CoolSculpt and EmSculpt are both popular body contouring procedures and both offered at our medical spa. What are their differences?

EmSculpt is a procedure used to build muscle and sculpt your body through high-intensity electromagnetic therapy. A single EmSculpt session can stimulate thousands of muscle contractions, which tones and strengthens your muscles.

In contrast, CoolSculpting freezes and rids fat with extreme coldness. While EmSculpt can reduce fat cells, CoolSculpting is the top procedure for non-invasive fat reduction on the market. For more information on CoolSculpting and EmSculpt, check out the videos below.

Coolsculpting and EmSulpt can be very complimentary in achieving customized results for your body. Our spa specializes in offering both therapies to maximize your appearance.



CoolSculpting Treatment Areas

Areas of the body that can be treated with CoolSculpt are areas with subcutaneous fat. In other words, CoolSculpting is often used to remove pinchable fat from your abdomen, hips, thighs, back, buttocks, chin, and small areas of your legs and face. Here we will provide a specific list of problem areas that can be treated with CoolSculpting:

  • Chin: Around and underneath your chin.
  • Upper arms: Anywhere along your triceps and biceps or smaller problem areas, such as pockets of fat near your underarms.
  • Abdomen: Belly pouch, muffin top, unwanted pinchable rolls or fat in the waist area
  • Back: Areas that are particularly sensitive to undergarments and cause bulges around them, such as “bra fat.”
  • Flank: “Love handles,” or excess fat that clings on to your lower waist and the sides of your body
  • Hips: Fat that contributes to love handles around the bottom of your torso, but above your thighs.
  • Thighs: Both the inner and outer thighs can be targeted.
  • Knees: Patches surrounding the front or back of your knees.
  • Buttocks: Areas that are are malleable enough to make contact with the device, which usually cause a saggy buttock look, or “banana rolls.”
CoolSculpting treatment areas include under the chin, below the jawline, the abdomen, obliques, thighs, bra fat, upper arm, back fat, and underneath the buttock

Before and after pictures demonstrate the results real patients have seen. Because your treatment is customized for your body, your results may be different than the results shown in these galleries.

Stomach Before and After

This before and after gallery shows the visible results CoolSculpting can have on your stomach. If you are looking to rid stubborn lower abdomen fat, take these real patient results into consideration.

Arms Before and After

As we age, upper arm fat is inevitable. With CoolSculpting, this fat can be visibly reduced and the appearance of a youthful arm can be restored.

Banana Rolls Before and After

These before and after pictures show how CoolSculpting can be used to visibly reduce the appearance of cellulite and saddlebags, while shaping and tightening the appearance of the buttock. This is a great alternative to Brazilian butt lifts.

Bra Fat Before and After

Wearing tight bras for an extended period of time can distort underarm fat and cause unwanted bulges to develop. This type of fat, commonly called bra fat, can be treated at our medical spa.

Love Handles Before and After

Excess fat on both the love handles and flanks can be visibly reduced. Check out this before and after gallery for real patient results.

Thighs Before and After

CoolSculpting is commonly used on the thighs to reduce the amount of fat, establish the inner thigh gap, and decrease the appearance of cellulite.

Chin Before and After

Reducing the excess fat that contributes to a double chin appearance improves both the appearance of the neck and jawline. This gallery shows how we can do just that.

CoolSculpting FAQ

What is the difference between traditional CoolSculpting and CoolSculpting Elite?
Coolsculpting Elite is the new and improved method of traditional CoolSculpting. It provides all the same benefits as traditional CoolSculpting with additional advantages, including:

  • Faster results with less treatments,
  • Enhanced fat removal,
  • and more comfort during the treatment.

Our med spa specializes in CoolSculpting Elite.

Can men do CoolSculpting?
Stubborn fat doesn’t only affect women, but also affects men in many different areas of their bodies. Although women typically dominate the CoolSculpting market, a recent survey showed 1/3 of all CoolSculpting procedures are booked by men.

Men all over the country are using CoolSculpting to replace ‘Dad Bods’ with ‘Summer Bods.’ Common CoolSculpting treatment areas for men include the abdomen, thighs, submittal area (under the chin), the submandibular area (below the jawline) and upper arms.

CoolSculpting is a great tool for men who have their goal body weight, but want to get rid of stubborn fat without going under the knife.

Since CoolSculpting has little to no downtime, you can still hit the gym after your treatment to perfect your physique.

How long is each session and how many will I need?
Coolsculpting is short and convenient, but your treatment plan will be tailored to your needs. Specifically, sessions will vary based on the number of treatment areas you would like to sculpt and what your body fat composition is like. If you are targeting an area with a lot of fat cells, that area may require additional sessions, which are often recommended to maximize desired results.
How long is each CoolSculpting treatment?
Each treatment can range between 30-60 minutes. Larger areas of the body typically require longer treatment sessions.
What does the treatment feel like?
CoolSculpting is noninvasive and generally pain-free.

At the beginning of your session, we will discuss your goals and prepare your treatment area(s) by removing any lotion or oils from your skin. Then, the bulges of fat will be marked by pulling and gently pinching skin away from your body. Several lines drawn with a marker may be used to mark to outline the optimal area to place the CoolSculpting device.

At this point, your technician will prepare the applicator and will help you get into a comfortable position. Next, a cool gel pad will be placed on the target area and the procedure will begin.

During the beginning of your treatment, you may feel a sensation of pulling or tugging accompanied with an intense sensation of coldness. However, these sensations last only a few minutes.

Is CoolSculpting painful?
Some individuals report pain in the treatment area after the procedure. tenderness, pink skin, and stinging pain after CoolSculpting treatment is a normal, expected side effect, that normally goes away after 2-3 weeks.
Is there downtime?
One of the most notable benefits of CoolSculpting is that there is no down-time or long recovery period! However, it is possible to feel a residual tingling sensation in the treatment area as your skin and tissues readjust after the intense cold temperatures. In some cases, the tugging or pulling sensations from the device may cause temporary pain or discomfort. It is also normal to experience soreness or slight swelling in the treated area, but patients are typically able to return to their normal routines immediately.
Is CoolSculpting Permanent?
Once the fat cells are destroyed and eliminated by your body, the fat from your treated area(s) is permanently reduced by 20-25%. You may be wondering if it is possible for the fat to travel to other areas of your body, and that is a very common concern! Nonetheless, the frozen cells will not be redistributed to other areas. Your body will naturally eliminate the fat cells for good over the following several weeks.
How long does it take to see CoolSculpting results?
Patients usually see results after their first treatment. However, according to a peer-reviewed journal article published by BYU, full results of CoolSculpting are typically seen within twelve weeks. The process of breaking up the fat cells and activating cell death is immediate. But some time is required for your body to naturally eliminate these fat cells as waste. Therefore, noticeable results will take several weeks. You can expect to see your final results in about three months’ time.
Am I a good candidate for CoolSculpting?
Good candidates for CoolSculpting should meet the following three main criteria:

  1. First, you must have small pockets of fat that are non-responsive to exercise. CoolSculpting will be most effective at visibly reducing unwanted fat in stubborn areas, but will only remove about 25% of the fat. Therefore, this procedure is most helpful for individuals who are not obese. During your initial consultation, you can discuss your goals with your practitioner and they will help you assess how beneficial CoolSculpting may be for you.
  2. Second, you must have enough pinchable fat in the area that you want to treat. Why is this important? CoolSculpting will target fat directly underneath your skin. If you can pinch and pull your fat without disturbing muscle or larger tissues underneath, the fat in that area is definitely treatable! If you feel like you are pinching muscle, then you probably do not have enough fat and CoolSculpting will not give you visible results. Your practitioner will help you determine whether your target area(s) are viable.
  3. Third, you must be in good health. While Coolsculpting is a safe and non-invasive procedure, you should notify your practitioner of any health concerns or conditions you might have.
Is CoolSculpting safe?
CoolSculpting is a very safe procedure. Reported side effects include pain, bruising, swelling, and redness as a result of pulling or tugging on fat. Most of these side effects only apply to the treated area, and may fluctuate in the days following your procedure. In spite of this discomfort, CoolSculpting is safe and does not cause any nerve damage to the treated or surrounding areas.

The only possible serious side effect from CoolSculpting was reported in 2014 as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia. According to this peer-reviewed journal article published by JAMA Dermatology, the patient’s treatment area decreased in fat volume for the first two months but three to five months later, the tissue in the treated area had visibly enlarged, but no damage to the skin occurred. Through an MRI study, clinicians determined that the adipose tissue had enlarged and caused an area of protrusion. However, the possibility of adipose hyperplasia occurring in patients carries a 0.0051% chance, is extremely rare, and may require treatment to resolve.

Who should not have CoolSculpting done?
If you fit the three criteria mentioned in “Am I a good candidate for CoolSculpting” Q&A mentioned above, then you are most likely to be eligible. CoolSculpt is not recommended for women who are pregnant or who are planning to be pregnant in the near future. The reason for this is because the body will change throughout pregnancy, and fat will be difficult to eliminate.

Generally, CoolSculpting is not recommended for men or women who may fluctuate dramatically in weight because fat deposits may return.

Patients with cryoglobulinemia or paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria, known sensitivity to cold such as cold urticaria or Raynaud’s disease, or with neuropathic disorders or impaired circulation in the area to be treated should not have CoolSculpting.

Additionally, patients with open or infected wounds in the area, those on blood thinners or with bleeding disorders, or recent surgery in the area to be treated should not get Coolsculpting.

Does CoolSculpting tighten the skin?
Many individuals report skin tightening but these results are not guaranteed.
Will CoolSculpting change my skin pigmentation?
CoolSculpting is safe for all skin types, with no reported pigmentation changes.
Does CoolSculpting help with cellulite?
CoolSculpting may be able to help minimize cellulite, but not all cellulite is the same. Although cellulite is not a health concern, it can still impact your confidence about your body. The most important thing to understand about cellulite is that more often than not, cellulite is genetic and not always a sign of being overweight. Cellulite occurs as excess subcutaneous fat is compressed between your skin and muscle, causing fat cells to dimple your skin on the surface.

Our med spa offers injection therapy (QWO) to resolve cellulite.

What is the difference between losing weight and losing fat?
To establish your goals with CoolSculpting, understanding your body and weight composition is essential! Losing fat is the process of decreasing your body’s total fat percentage without affecting your muscle composition. As your body loses fat, your fat cells shrink and lead to a visible change in your appearance. Losing weight, however, reflects a decrease in your total body weight, which is composed of muscle, water, and fat.

There are two main reasons why losing fat is more important than losing weight.

First, losing weight does not always reflect a decrease in body fat composition. It is possible for you to lose weight without seeing any significant changes in your body’s appearance, or the amount of fat that you store in stubborn areas. For example, you may be losing water weight or muscle composition.

Second, loss of muscle mass is not beneficial for your long term health. For example, losing muscle mass may negatively affect your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol. In fact, a peer-reviewed article in PLoS One reported that maintaining your muscle composition while decreasing your fat percentage can prevent chronic diseases that will affect your weight in the long run.

Will I lose weight on the scale?
CoolSculpting works to lose fat, not weight. In reality, your fat only makes up about 10-30% of your total body weight, which is not much. CoolSculpting will catalyze about a 25% fat loss in treated areas, but the amount of fat that you will lose may not change your weight at all. However, CoolSculpting’s ability to freeze fat cells will change your appearance for the better.

You may be wondering, how can losing such a small amount of fat change your appearance so much? Well, fat is drastically less dense than muscle. This means that if you were to compare one pound of fat to one pound of muscle, the fat would take up approximately three times as much surface area as the muscle. Even though they both still weigh the same amount, fat takes up more space. So while you may not see a drop in the scale, you will still see a difference in your appearance and inches!

What happens if I gain weight later in life?
We recommend making the best out of your CoolSculpting treatments by prioritizing your nutrition and active lifestyle to prevent future weight gain. If you gain weight later in life, it is possible that your body will begin to store fat in other places, and even in places that were already treated. This happens because your body fat composition will never be zero, and your remaining fat cells will either shrink or expand in direct proportion to your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
Will my health insurance cover CoolSculpting?
Since CoolSculpting is a cosmetic treatment, it is not covered by health insurance policies.
Where can I get CoolSculpting done?
In our beautiful San Diego medical spa!

In addition to CoolSculpting, Aesthetica Med Spa also offers emsculpt, cellutone, kybella, and QWO. For more information on our fat reduction and body sculpting procedures, visit our body contouring services page.