If you are thinking about non-invasive fat reduction with CoolSculpting, it is good to know the risks before booking an appointment. Like all body contouring procedures, there are some known risks. Very few of the side effects are bad or dangerous per se, but you don’t want to walk into it blindly. This post covers all the most common side effects of CoolSculpting, along with some rare risks you should know.
A bit of skin irritation is possible at the target area. When you get CoolSculpting, the pads are in contact with your skin for one hour or so, and the machine uses intense cold to kill fat cells. Because of this, some patients find their skin bothered by treatment. Skin irritation is generally mild and superficial. It is most prominent in people with sensitive skin types. You want to avoid getting treatment on areas that are already irritated. For example, skin with active psoriasis, eczema, rashes, lesions, and sunburn should not be treated to avoid further irritation. In rare cases, CoolSculpting may result in dermatitis, hives, or other mild inflammatory skin conditions.
Red skin from CoolSculpting
One of the most common side effects of CoolSculpting is redness at the treatment site. The extreme cold that is used is the culprit. Think of putting an ice cube on your skin. You will notice the skin becomes a bit red after a while. The pressure from the pads can also cause redness. Your skin will look most red right after treatment, but it should go down quite a bit on the first day. Prolonged redness is uncommon, but should subside totally in three to eleven days for most people. Again, this is usually quite mild.
Is CoolSculpting painful?
Not really, but there are a few things to know. When you get the treatment, the fat that is getting treated will be placed between two very cold pads. During the session, you may feel a tugging or pulling sensation at the treatment site. It can be a little uncomfortable, but usually not too bad for most people. Some people report that it can be a bit painful, but manageable. Of course, everyone has a different pain tolerance. The treatment usually lasts one or two hours.
Some patients also report mild stinging during treatment due to the intense cold. Don’t worry — the freezing temperatures are not dangerous. Your skin might get cold, but you don’t have to fear frostbite from the treatment.
Mild stinging and aches usually last two weeks or less. Tingling and numbness are also possible. It can be a bit bothersome for some people, but it is nothing to worry about. For the vast majority of patients, it goes away in 3-11 days on its own.
Your healthcare professional should make sure to advise you of the downtime of any procedure before starting treatment. Luckily, with CoolSculpting there is no downtime. It is an outpatient procedure, and you can usually return to work right after. Most of the side effects are simply cosmetic. Plus, the treatment site can be easily hidden with clothes in the event of prolonged redness or bruising, which tends to be mild. That is a big bonus compared to cosmetic surgery for fat reduction.
Does CoolSculpting cause bruises?
Mild bruising is a possible side effect of CoolSculpting. The device uses suction and places the roll of fat in the treatment area between two pads. People who are more prone to bruising are most likely to experience this. For example, anemic patients are more likely to bruise. Taking iron can help anemia, which might help limit bruising. Topical witch hazel is also said to be a home remedy that is great for helping bruises go away faster. Consult with your physician before beginning any vitamin or topical treatments, both before and after the procedure.
PAH: a rare side effect
CoolSculpting is extremely safe. However, there is a very rare side effect known as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH). PAH is a cosmetic defect that will not harm your health. It can cause a hardened area of fat. Sometimes, it is even in the shape of the CoolSculpting applicator. It can even expand in size or feel lumpy.
Luckily, this condition is very uncommon. CoolSculpt’s manufacturer reports that it occurs in just 1/4000 patients. It tends to affect men more than women. The exact cause is unknown, but it is treatable. A few months after the procedure, your plastic surgeon can use liposuction to help it go away. PAH is not dangerous, just unsightly.
Other uncommon risks
These include hyperpgimentation of the skin, prolonged pain or discomfort beyond two weeks, dryness of the mouth, and reduced tongue and lip movement (this is more common if an area near the mouth is treated, such as a double chin). Most of these have been reported anecdotally. Symptoms tend to be mild. These effects are considered rare. Most people who get treated will not experience these problems. However, as with all cosmetic procedures, it is still possible you could face an uncommon side effect.
So, is CoolSculpting safe?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CoolSculpting is a safe procedure. There are no known major health risks. Most of CoolSculpting side effects are cosmetic. They usually disappear on their own within a few days to two weeks of treatment. It is FDA approved to reduce unwanted fat cells in the treated area. The FDA is a stringent government agency. The fact that they approve it for fat freezing should make you feel confident that your health will not suffer when you get a CoolSculpting procedure. Compared to other body contouring methods, it is one of the procedures that carries the lowest risks of side effects. Make sure to go to a highly-trained professional for treatment.