Is fat freezing safe?
Fat freezing is considered safe. Unlike surgical treatments such as liposuction, fat freezing is a non-invasive treatment – that is, it involves no surgery or cutting. It also does not require anaesthetic.
In a fat freezing treatment, the cold damages fat cells but doesn’t damage your skin or muscle.
Fat freezing may have side effects, which you can read about further down this page.
Is CoolSculpting the same as fat freezing?
CoolSculpting is a specific brand of fat freezing technology.
CoolSculpting is the only brand of fat freezing technology that has clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA for short). The FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of not just the U.S. food supply but also of cosmetics and medical devices (among other things). Having FDA clearance means that CoolSculpting has built up enough safety and efficacy data over the years to convince the FDA regulators that the CoolSculpting treatment is safe and effective.
Other types of fat freezing machines may work in similar ways to CoolSculpting machines and may give similar results, but they do not yet have FDA clearance.
Does fat freezing work?
Yes, fat freezing works – for most people. But how well it works, and how much fat dies off with each treatment cycle, can vary from patient to patient.
Fat freezing typically kills off around 20–30% per cent of the fat in the treated area.
How does fat freezing work?
The fat freezing device has a treatment head that is fastened onto the skin (a gel pad protects the skin so that it doesn’t stick to the treatment head), vacuums a chunk of fat into the device, and then cools it to 4ºC or lower – cold enough to kill some of the fat cells. When released from the chilling chamber, the almost-frozen lump of fat is massaged back into shape.
The practitioner then repeats the process as needed by applying the device to other sections of skin that cover fat to be treated. The practitioner will often use overlapping treatments either side of the central treatment area to achieve a smooth reduction of fat, rather than putting a dent in the area by treating a single chunk.
The process of being frozen triggers a process called apoptosis, or programmed cell death, whereby the damaged fat cells are killed off, and gradually dispersed by the body’s cell-disposal systems. This process may take 3–6 months in total.
Drinking plenty of water – 2 to 3 litres a day – is thought to help flush the dead fat cells from your body. Exercise can also help your body get rid of the dead fat cells.
Remember you can download my fat freezing factsheet so you can keep all this handy information on file.
Does fat freezing hurt?
Two parts of the fat freezing treatment are typically uncomfortable or painful:
- When the treatment head begins cooling the fat;
- When the device is removed and the frozen area is massaged.
After the treatment, you may have swelling or bruising where the device was applied. You may also feel sensitivity or pain in the tissue that was frozen. These effects will normally pass in 1 to 2 weeks.
Which parts of the body can fat freezing be used on?
Fat freezing is mainly performed on the body, on areas of stubborn fat such as the love handles on the flanks, and the stomach. With smaller treatment heads, it can also be used to great effect beneath the chin.
How much does fat freezing cost?
Fat freezing costs from around £600 per treatment. Generally, treatments using a smaller treatment head cost less than treatments using a larger treatment head. One session of fat freezing beneath the chin will cost a lot less than treating a pair of ‘love handles’ on the hips. Well-known brands such as CoolSculpting are more expensive than less well-tested and well-accredited types of fat freezing.
If you have areas with large amounts of fat to be treated, you may require multiple treatment sessions – but bear in mind, fat freezing is not suitable for obese patients and is no substitute for diet and exercise.
How long does fat freezing take?
The treatment itself takes an hour or less, depending on the size of the area you’re having treated. Treatment for a lump of fat on the neck may take 30 minutes or less, whereas a larger-scale treatment of abdominal fat is likely to take around an hour.
The results of fat freezing start to appear around three months after the treatment, so don’t expect an instant improvement.
Is fat freezing permanent?
Yes – the cells that are destroyed by fat freezing will not return. But your body can still create new fat cells if you overload the existing ones, so you need to continue taking the usual measures to avoid depositing fat. For example, you should stay active and eat a healthy diet.
Are there any side effects to fat freezing?
Mostly, fat freezing is pretty straightforward, but there are some side effects:
- Two parts of the fat freezing treatment itself – first, chilling the fat, and then massaging it – can be moderately painful or even intensely painful.
- There may be swelling or bruising where the cooling device has fastened on to the skin. This swelling or bruising may take a week or two to subside.
- There may be sensitivity, or even sharp pain, in the tissue that was frozen, for a week or two after treatment.
In the longer term, some patients report a loss of sensation in the treated area after fat freezing.
Fat freezing can also have a side effect called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia that’s surprising – and fortunately rare, affecting only about 1 person in 2,000 treated. In paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, the treated area actually gets an increase in the number of fat cells rather than the intended reduction, the lymphatic system within the treated tissue is disrupted and the treated area will bulge and harden as a result. Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia occurs more frequently in men than in women, and more frequently in people of Hispanic or Latino descent. Hyperplasia means the enlargement of an organ or a tissue – in this case, adipose tissue, which is the technical term for fat. The remedy for this is surgical liposuction, which is often, but not always, successful.
Download my full fat freezing factsheet for all this information in pdf you can save to your device.
Where can I get fat freezing done?
You can get fat freezing done at a wide range of clinics.
You can use the Find a Practitioner tool on this website to find a practitioner for
What is it like to have fat freezing?
Your experience having fat freezing will depend on the area you’re having treated. But generally speaking, the procedure is straightforward, even though you may experience serious discomfort during it.
There’s no anaesthetic, so there’s no hanging around waiting for the numbing to kick in.
The practitioner applies the treatment device to the first part of the area being treated. For example, if you’re having the treatment to reduce abdominal fat, the practitioner applies the treatment device to the skin over your stomach. If you’re having a lump of fat removed from beneath your chin, the practitioner applies the treatment device to the appropriate area of your jowls.
The treatment head then sucks up the tissue and starts cooling the fat. As the fat cools, it may feel extremely uncomfortable – “the sort of cold that feels like it is freezing you to your bones,” as my guinea pig described it. After that, the treated area goes numb and feels perfectly comfortable.
When the fat is fully chilled, the practitioner removes the device and massages the frozen area back into its normal shape from the shape in which the treatment head has left it. The fat is numb because it is so cold, but the massage may still be seriously uncomfortable as it is working the semi-crystallised tissue.
In theory, you shouldn’t need any downtime after the procedure. But you may have bruising and swelling, so planning to go straight back to work probably isn’t the greatest idea.
The treated area is likely to be numb and tender for a week or two afterwards. The body gradually gets rid of the dead fat cells, and you should see improvement after about three months.