We all love a little DIY beauty. There are lots of ways to pamper yourself at home, like painting your nails or shaping your brows, where if you make a mistake it’s NBD.
But not all DIY is created equal. Some cosmetic procedures, like CoolSculpting, can actually be dangerous to try at home.
However, some people have more body fat in places than they’d like. CoolSculpting is the brand name for the cryolipolysis procedure. Cryolipolysis is when cells that store fat are frozen to death in order to remove them from the body.
CoolSculpting is a nonsurgical procedure where a vacuum suction-like tool is placed directly over a gel pad that protects the skin as the fat is pulled between two freezing panels.
The fat cells underneath break down from the frozen temperature and then leave the body naturally over the next few months. Although the pinching and tugging can hurt, the skin and other cells aren’t injured during this procedure.
In a 2014 study, cryolipolysis worked on 86 percent of subjects and reduced subcutaneous fat (that’s below the skin) by 25 percent with one treatment. A single treatment may work, or you might need additional treatments to get the look you want.
CoolSculpting is considered an elective cosmetic procedure, so it’s not covered by health insurance. (Reconstructive surgery, which can be used after an illness, is typically the only cosmetic procedure covered by insurance.)
But we all wanna save a buck where we can, right? That’s why some people claim to have devised methods to do CoolSculpting at home.
“DIY CoolSculpting” claims usually involve ice cubes, icy gel packs, machines or fat freezing products available for sale online that claim to work like CoolSculpting does.
However, the actual CoolSculpting procedure is not done at home. It’s only performed by licensed professionals in doctors’ offices and MedSpas with the FDA-approved CoolSculpting equipment, made by a company called ZELTIQ.
Long story short: “Don’t try this at home!”
Holding ice (or anything at a freezing temperature) directly on the skin for a long period of time can lead to frostbite or even tissue damage. And a DIY treatment may not even reach the subcutaneous fat cells.
So even if you don’t get hurt, you probably won’t be impressed with your CoolSculpting at home results.
CoolSculpting is considered safe when performed by licensed professionals with FDA-approved equipment. It can be done by plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and MedSpas that perform cosmetic dermatology.
The FDA first approved CoolSculpting in 2010 for the thighs. Since then, the FDA has approved the procedure for other parts of the bod. It’s currently cleared by the FDA to safely freeze fat in:
- thighs and flanks
- upper arm
- sides/bra area
- under the chin
- under the jawline
- under the buttocks
The price of CoolSculpting will vary based on the areas that you treat and how many treatments that you receive.
According to the FAQs on the CoolSculpting website, a personalized treatment is usually between $2,000 and $4,000. Occasionally you’ll see CoolSculpting deeply discounted on sites like Groupon, but it will still set you back hundreds of dollars.
Potential side effects of professional CoolSculpting
This procedure isn’t for everybody. CoolSculpting should not be used in patients that have cryoglobulinemia (abnormal proteins in the blood), cold agglutinin disease or paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria (two forms of anemia).
You should also talk to your healthcare provider if you have Raynaud’s disease, which can be triggered by the cold.
Even when it’s performed by a trained professional, CoolSculpting can have side effects that you’ll want to carefully consider:
Fat cell overgrowth
Wait, isn’t this supposed to get rid of fat cells?
One rare side effect of cryolipolysis is that it can actually make the fat cells grow instead of die. Yikes. This side effect is called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH). It’s rare and seems to be most common in men, but be aware that it is possible.
Discomfort during the procedure
The CoolSculpting suction tool pinches and tugs at the skin where it’s applied. So if you’re super squeamish about discomfort, this procedure may not be for you.
Pain after the procedure
Even though the treatment doesn’t cut into your skin, cryolipolysis still can cause some pain. Fortunately, it’s not permanent.
One study of 125 people who had cryolipolysis found that women receiving the treatment abdominally were most at risk for post-treatment pain. Fortunately, the pain resolved in 3 to 11 days.
Your skin may get inflamed temporarily after a CoolSculpting treatment. A 2009 study of cryolipolysis performed on pigs found an “inflammatory response” on the skin before the fat cells were reduced.
So-called “at-home” CoolSculpting procedures, like placing ice on the skin, are not considered safe or effective. Placing ice, or anything frozen, directly against your skin can lead to frostbite or even tissue damage.
If you’re looking to freeze away unwanted fat, splurge for legit, brand-name CoolSculpting. While this procedure can still have side effects, it is done by trained professionals and considered safe.
Check with your doc to see if CoolSculpting would be right for you.