Clocking long hours at the gym while nibbling on the latest diet food just feels so…depressing. Whether it’s a muffin top, love handles or a bit of flab on your thighs, it’s all too easy to name that little area we wish we could tweak, because no amount of working out seems to get that last pocket of fat to budge.
Dermatologists and plastic surgeons know this—and of course they’re part of the reason we always feel like we could probably look just a little better—so they’ve crafted a new realm of non-invasive treatments dubbed “body contouring.” Coolsculpting, the most popular, uses controlled cooling to freeze and kill unwanted fat cells, allowing you to do what exercise cannot: spot-reduce fat.
After hearing all the buzz, two of YouBeauty’s own Associate Editors decided to dive in head first and try the treatment. Julie Ricevuto and Leah Prinzivalli answer your questions about the procedure below.
What is it?
My doctor was careful to mention that Coolsculpting isn’t for weight loss, and I would have to “exercise vigorously” afterwards to see results. So what’s the point? we all wonder in unison.) Instead, it’s a body contouring procedure that targets and sculpts specific problem areas by spot-killing fat cells. The process was born when two doctors noticed that children were getting dimples—aka losing cheek fat—when they ate frozen popsicles. From there, it was only a hop, skip and a jump to the Zeltiq, an FDA-approved vacuum that sucks and freezes the fat on your inner or outer thighs, abs, love handles, arms, you name it. Fat cells are metabolized over two to four months. That means you pee them out and four months later you have a new, contoured body. Just one treatment, or 60 minutes attached to a device during which you can watch Netflix, answer email, or otherwise live your life, can reduce 20-25% of fat. There’s your point. —Leah
What was the procedure like?
My procedure took place at New York Dermatology Group in NYC. The office was clean and comfortable, and the room in which I received the treatment was honestly much different than I expected. The large, lightly dimmed room was equipped with a huge, vacuum-based machine. The machine has paddles that cool down the temperature of your fat cells until they die and are eventually excreted (yes, through your pee). Since I chose to have my love handles contoured, I had to go through the process twice that day, one for each side. Quick warning for the petite ladies out there: the smallest paddle size isn’t very small, so opt for larger areas when doing Coolsculpting!
Cold gel was then slathered on the selected area right before the paddles were applied to prevent the skin from freezing and developing frostbite. Once the machine was turned on, the paddles suctioned up my side of fat, causing me to wiggle around in an “oh my god what is happening” kind of way. Quickly after, the area went numb and the dull pain subsided. I was able to tackle my overflowing email (bring your computer to the treatment!) and even work on a few projects.
Once my 60 minutes was up, the doctor returned and removed the paddle. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this next part was more painful than I had predicted. The technician began massaging my love handle and explained that this has to be done in order to break up the cells so that they die quicker, leading to speedier results.
The vacuum paddle was then applied to my other love handle, and the same 60-minute process repeated. Once it was over, I was able to go on with my day as I normally would. I skipped my workout that day but was right back to Barry’s Bootcamp the next. —Julie
So… why do it?
Coolsculpting is successful for an obvious reason: It’s easy. It takes almost no time. There are no obvious scars or painful recovery. A recent article in TIME referred to it as a “gateway” treatment; about half of one doctor’s patients later return for a different treatment. I considered this slippery slope before I went in. I hate my thighs and I don’t mind extremes. Six weeks after my morning spent hooked up to Mr. Freeze’s ice gun, I’m happy with my results but I don’t think I’ll be back. Twenty percent of a thigh that wasn’t very big in the first place is a nice, normal change, the kind I probably could have gotten from a summer of spot workouts. Spot workouts depress me; instead, I watched four episodes of Seinfeld and got a little tone. More importantly, I felt like I looked better. I’m not planning to have my doctor take my measurements when I go in for my follow-up. Once again, depressing. I’ll just take the confidence boost at face value. —Leah
Did it work?
I exercised pretty vigorously after getting the procedure done (due to their recommendation) so I do feel that my sides are less pronounced now. I wasn’t looking for a major, life-changing difference, just a beautifully contoured celeb-like silhouette that looks bangin’ in skinny jeans and a tank top. My clothes fit in a more flattering way after the treatment, but I wouldn’t recommend this for someone looking to lose weight or to see a dramatic change in their figure. However, this is a good non-surgical option to consider if you’re committed to losing a stubborn spot of fat that just won’t go away.
My favorite outcome of this procedure was the instant confidence boost. After my treatment, the rest of the day I was strutting my stuff like a model on a couture runway (a girl can dream, right?). Surely it was only mental, but an enjoyable perk anyway! —Julie
How much does it cost?
CoolSculpting can cost from $750 to $1,500 according to Dr. Michele Green, a cosmetic dermatologist who does the procedure in her NYC office. If your procedure requires two sides (love handles, back fat, thighs) it’ll cost $1,500 and take two hours. A one-and-done procedure like the abdomen will cost $750 unless you require the larger applicator, in which case it’s $1,500. How much are you willing to pay for a confidence boost? —Leah