What Is Cryolipolysis And How Does It Work?


You’ve probably heard it mentioned on radio and in press as it’s product name of “CoolSculpting”  – the fat freezing technology that’s sweeping the nation. Offering effortless, non-surgical fat reduction, it’s a result that may seem hard to resist.

But behind any popular weight loss treatment, there should be the science to support the claims. That’s why I decided to take a look into the science of the CoolSculpting treatment, and raise the heat on this cool new procedure…

…no pun intended.

What Exactly is Cryolipolysis?

Cryolipolysis Machine Image - BHRC

Cryolipsolysis is a non- surgical, non-invasive technique, wherein cooling of fat cells over a localized area causes the fat cells to freeze and then breakdown, resulting in potential permanent loss of the fat cells without causing any damage to the skin and surrounding tissues.

It is safest of all lipolysis techniques and has the following benefits:

  • No needles
  • No medicines injected
  • No anesthesia or surgical incisions
  • No damage to overlying skin and no metabolic changes
  • Can go back to routine work soon after the treatment
  • Quick and affordable
  • Women and men benefit equally.

A look into the Science Behind Cryolipolysis

In 1970, two dermatologists named Epstein and Oren observed that popsicle-sucking children had a small area of redness on their cheek, where fat slowly decreased and a dimple formed. Research done by Manstein and his team in 2007 shows that fat based tissue (adipose layer) is more susceptible to temperature changes than tissue that was water based (skin and nerves).

Cryolipolysis Science Diagram - BHRC

From this evidence, researchers deduced that when the temperature of fat cells are reduced, they crystallize and the cell enzymes stop functioning. Blood supply to the fat cells comes down, and the fat cells break down.

In approximately four weeks, the body starts removing these broken fat cells and completes the process in three to four months. This procedure, therefore, takes about 12 weeks to complete effect. And in some cases, the fat cells are gone for good.

Over many clinical trials, no permanent effect to the treated skin has been observed. The skin color, function, and sensitivity remain as before. "

Cryolipolysis and CoolSculpting

What was once a scientific observation is now a household name thanks to the CoolSculpting machine created by ZELTIQ Aesthetics Inc, a U.S. company based in Pleasanton, CA.

The U.S. FDA has approved CoolSculpting on the flanks, abdomen, and thighs, mainly due to the in-built safety mechanism which prevents over cooling of skin and almost no side effects.

Continued medical research shows the procedure to be effective over the arms, inner thighs, chest, brassiere rolls, hip rolls, face, chin, double chin and for pseudo-gynecomastia with remarkable results.

But how does it work?

Temperatures are reduced slowly so that the fat tissue reaches -1 to -4 degrees Celsius. The temperature reaches its lowest towards the end of the procedure and comes to normal within an hour. At the same time, a vacuum is applied to areas with pinchable subcutaneous fat to ensure contact with cooling plates. In areas such as your thighs, where fat is not pinchable, a non-vacuum conformable instrument is used.

Amazingly, some Newport Beach body contouring clinics have observed up to 20% total body fat reduction after a single 60 minute sitting.

The Web’s Most Common CoolSculpting Questions, Answered

What Does a Typical Cryolipolysis (CoolSculpting) Session Look Like?

Cryolipolysis Ongoing Treatment - BHRC

During a Cryolipolysis treatment, you relax on an application bed. You could be sitting or lying down depending on the area involved in the procedure. Or, you may have to lie down on your side for the non-vacuum conformable procedure. Skin is cleaned and vacuum is applied using a well-fitting suction cup that pulls the skin towards the cooling plate, sandwiching the skin between the plates.

During the treatment, you may feel some tugging or pain sensation. They are temporary and do not require any medication. In fact, the procedure is so comfortable that you can listen to music or read a book.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Side effects are minimal. Soon after the procedure, there may be some redness, bruising, swelling, stinging and numbness. These clear in few days; at worst in two to four weeks.

Don’t expect permanent effects related either to skin or fat metabolism. Your skin color and texture remain same. There will be no blisters and no nerve damage. Repeated procedures are also safe.

Who Can Have Cryolipolysis?

Almost anybody can use Cryolipolysis, except people with:

  • Cold induced conditions such as cryoglobulinemia, cold urticaria, and paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria
  • Severe varicose veins and skin conditions over the selected area
  • Dermatitis over the selected area
  • Anybody not in good physical, emotional and mental health
  • Those with vasovagal disorders need to discuss with a doctor before the procedure.

What Happens After Treatment?

  • A 2 to 5- minute massage is typically given following the procedure to enhance the fat loss
  • Since the procedure is non-invasive, most people go back to their normal routine or even work.
  • If redness or pain persists, you may need rest for a day or two
  • For those who experience pain, medication may be prescribed
  • For redness and swelling, cold compress application may be recommended.

Cryolipolysis: Is The Cool Touch Right for You?

Cryolipolysis on Body - BHRC

While Cryolipolysis technologies such as CoolSculpting have received a lot of positive press, it is not a one-stop-shop treatment. If you suffer from conditions such as obesity, for instance, this won’t help you. And the results are slow to appear and are seen over a period of three to four months. And while the manufacturers claim that it’s the safest present day treatment for fat reduction, there are alternatives.

Other methods for non-surgical fat reduction include high intensity focused ultrasound, radio frequency devices, low-level laser therapy (LLLT), and acoustic wave therapy.


Available at: https://www.asds.net/Skin-Experts/Skin-Treatments/Cryolipolysis.

2. Ingargiola M. Cryolipolysis for Fat Reduction and Body Contouring: Safety and Efficacy of Current Treatment Paradigms. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2015;135(6):1581–1590. doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000001236.

3. Kilmer S. Safety and Efficacy of Cryolipolysis for Non-Invasive Reduction of Submental Fat. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. 2016; 48:3-13.

4. Krueger N, V Mai S, Luebberding S, Sadick N. Cryolipolysis for noninvasive body contouring: clinical efficacy and patient satisfaction. clin cosmet investig dermatology. 2014;7(201-205):201-205. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S44371.

5. Stevens G, Bachelor E. Cryolipolysis Conformable-Surface Applicator for Nonsurgical Fat Reduction in Lateral Thighs. AestheticSurgery Journal. 2015;35(1):66-71.

Beverly Hills Rejuvenation Center
Original Post Date: 
February 1, 2017
Date Last Updated: 
July 18, 2022
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