By Victoria Moorhouse
Updated May 14, 2017 @ 12:00 pm
Credit: Getty

The inner thighs and lower abdomen are two of the most difficult places to tone, even when a strict diet and exercise routine is being followed to the T. But a nonsurgical procedure, CoolSculpting, is gaining steam and making headlines left and right for being the answer to this common complaint by literally freezing off fat cells in tricky areas. Curious? We went to the pros to find out everything you need to know about this treatment, from how fast you’ll see results to what it really does to your body to risks, and everything in-between.

What Is CoolSculpting?

According to Dr. Heidi Waldorf is the Director of Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, it’s the number one noninvasive body sculpting treatment in the entire world. "There have been over 4 million treatment cycles, 75 published papers, and over 5000 study patients,” she notes. “That is more in every category than any other noninvasive body contouring device.” Basically, the treatment, which is done using a FDA-cleared CoolSculpting device, uses cold to permanently destroy fat cells in a particular area, and no sedation is needed unlike liposuction. Each treatment, our pro explains, reduces fat about 20 percent.

What Does the Treatment Consist Of?

Dr. Waldorf says it begins with taking photographs and measurements of the desired area. "An applicator attached to the CoolSculpting device is attached to the area of the unwanted fat. The applicator is chosen based on the size, shape, and pinchability of the fat," she explains. "Most applicators have a degree of suction, more in the original versions and less in the newer. The applicator for the outer thighs, which is also commonly used on the flanks is flat without suction. The applicator is chosen and applied so there is no space between its surface and the skin surface, that way at the same time as the cold is applied, there is a feedback to the device of the temperature. So it is constantly adjusted automatically."

She says the treatment usually takes about 35 minutes, with the exception of the "Coolsmooth" for the outer thighs, and that takes 75 minutes. When the fat is frozen, Dr. Waldorf says it's then crystalized. "...when the applicator is removed, the area is either manually massaged or treated with radiowaves, the Zimmer ZWave Pro, to break up the crystals. We use the Zwave in my office rather than manual massage to reduce swelling and speed resorption of the fat. The damaged fat cells are gradually reabsorbed and excreted. There is no effect on the level of fat in the blood," she notes.

Another interesting fact? There's no downtime.

Credit: Courtesy CoolSculpting

When Do You See Results?

Our pros tell us that patients begin to see results within a month, but it takes about three months to see the full results.

How Long Does It Last?

According to Laura Dyer, MSHS, PA-C at the office of Dr. Amy Wechsler, the results are extremely long-lasting. "The interesting thing about our fat cells is that after puberty, the stem cell capabilities that allowed fat cells to reproduce turn off. Therefore, the number of fat cells you have at age 18 is typically the number of fat cells you die with," she says. "Over the course of your life, as you gain or lose weight, those fat cells either expand or contract—the number of them never changes. Once your fat cells are exposed to CoolSculpting, 20-25 percent of them solidify, freeze, and then die during the course of the treatment. It takes your body about three months to fully dispose of the treated fat cells but once they are gone, they are gone for good and will not return."

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Who Is the Ideal Patient?

If you can pinch an inch of fat, Dr. Waldorf says you are a canidate. "The ideal patient is close to the weight he or she wants, but has bulges of fat that won’t go away with exercise or diet," she further explains. "It can be used for double chin, upper arms, inner and outer thighs, knees, bra bulges, back fat, flanks and waist, and abdomen. Even patients who are in the process of losing weight or who just want to change their shape can be treated." However, it can not be used over an open hernia and it is not used for intraabdominal fat.

What Are the Risks?

Like all treatments, there are things to be aware of. Dyer says that the most common risks are temporary and resolve within a few weeks. Some include redness after the treatment, mild swelling, bruising, tenderness, numbness or a dull sensation for about 1-2 weeks after. Some sensitivity or tingling around the area is also common. However, you should always talk to your doctor to see if it's appropriate for you.

Who Provides the Treatment?

According to Dyer, the requirements change based on what state you're in, but you can use the treatment's locator tool to find certified and safe CoolSculpting practices.

What Are the Costs?

This depends greatly on where you're getting it down and now many cycles you need. "It typically starts around $750 per cycle or $1500/area. An area, for example, would be both flanks or both thighs," Dyer says.