Exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep — these are all proven ways to keep yourself at a healthy weight. But just because your weight is in check doesn’t mean that your fat is. We’re not trying to be rude. For some people, regardless of the numbers on the scale, there are (and always will be) pockets of fat that no amount of pilates and paleo can reduce.
That’s because, says Laura Dyer, MSHS, PA-C at Dr. Amy Wechsler Dermatology in NYC, everyone develops a finite number of fat cells during adolescence. Those fat cells don’t leave your body — when you gain or lose weight, she explains, it’s actually just those cells expanding and contracting. So when you work out and eat right, you are ensuring those cells are contracted and that your body stays toned. When you binge on ice cream and conveniently forget where the gym is, they expand and manifest as those annoying jiggly bits.
For many of us, though, biology and our genetics weren’t feeling friendly. As a result, we have areas — usually the hips, tummy, flanks, upper arms, double chin, and underneath the booty — that we just cannot seem to slim down. If even at your sveltest you still carried a bit of a stomach pooch, chances are its presence had nothing to do with what type of salad you ate and how many crunches you did.
However, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve hit the aesthetic jackpot in the last decade or so, with the advancement of non-surgical machines that can sculpt and eliminate even the most stubborn flab. One of the standouts in this contouring category is cryolipolysis, a method that allows you to freeze away your fat. Though it might sound too good to be true, we’re here to tell you that not only is it a reality, this writer has personally tried it — and can attest to its efficacy.
To learn if this type of body contouring may be right for you, we’ve compiled a primer filled with everything you need to know, as well as what to expect when you freeze your fat. From the process to the price, keep reading for the full answers to all the FAQ.
How does it work?
Body contouring via fat freezing is just what it sounds like: A machine quite literally freezes the fat, killing off the cells. This reduction in cells leads to a decrease in fat in the treated areas. It ensures it crystallizes only the fat cells (not the muscles and water-based ones around it). The dead fat cells are gradually processed by the body’s macrophages (a.k.a. garbage collectors) and subsequently eliminated as waste.
What do I need to do before my treatment?
According to Dyer, zero things. “Whatever you did pre-treatment — exercise, eating, etc. — is fine. There are no pre-treatment limitations.” That said, if you are having your stomach contoured, it might be best to skip a big meal — the suction involved in the process might be a teensy bit more uncomfortable if your belly is full.
What happens during my treatment?
Fat freezing is a completely non-invasive treatment. We’ve had facials more intense and time-consuming than this. There are three parts to getting the treatment: prep, the actual suction/freezing, and massage.
To start, the area will have a gel pad applied to create a barrier and “maximize suction,” says Dyer. “We get better suction wherever there is moisture.” The machine is fitted with a handpiece, which comes in multiple shapes and sizes, depending on what you are treating. That attaches via the aforementioned suction. It’s initially a bit of an odd sensation, but that goes away fairly quickly.
Once adhered, the panels within the handpiece drop to that magical fat-freezing temperature. “It will feel cold for around eight to 10 minutes, but then it goes numb and you won’t feel much,” says Dyer. The total time of the session depends on the area being done. If you are working on your outer thigh, it will take about 75 minutes, as the panel is a singular flat one, whereas the abdomen takes only 35 minutes due to the fact that the handpiece surrounds it on three different sides.
Once the handpiece is removed, your technician will manually massage the area to break up the crystallized fat and speed up cell death. This can also be mildly uncomfortable but isn’t done for very long. Post-treatment, you can go about your day as usual, no special instructions or limitations.
What about afterwards?
Your skin will look pink for a few hours immediately after treatment, and you can expect it to feel numb for a few days afterwards. You will gradually regain feeling and your skin may feel itchy — Dyer likens it to the sensation you get after being out in the cold weather for an extended period of time. Some patients may see some mild bruising, which can look like a hickey. But that also will fade after a bit.
As for results, the numbers are pretty incredible. “Patients can expect to lose up to 20-25 percent of fat [in the treated area],” says W. Grant Stevens, M.D. F.A.C.S., the president of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and founder of Marina Plastic Surgery in California. That lost fat is permanently reduced, meaning the treated cells won’t come back — the treated cells are gone for good. He does note that most patients will need to undergo multiple treatments, spaced two months apart.
How much does it cost?
One of the best things about body contouring is how targeted it is — you can hone in on a specific area and treat it without affecting other parts. But, it’s this highly specialized nature that makes it difficult to estimate a cost without seeing a doctor. Someone who is having their double chin sculpted is going to have a different cost than someone who wants to treat their inner thighs. The amount of treatments will also vary, depending on the amount of fat. Additionally, who is performing the treatment (say, a plastic surgeon versus a body contouring technician) and where you’re receiving it are all factors that affect pricing. As a general estimate, most doctors will quote a price between $2,000 and $4,000 total for a personalized treatment plan, which includes multiple treatments on the area in question.
How do I know if it’s right for me?
Like any professional treatment, you’ll want to first meet your provider for a consultation to see if you are a good candidate for body contouring. In general, you need to have pinchable fat in the area you want treated. This could include the stomach, love handles, outer and inner thighs, bra rolls, upper arms, banana roll (a.k.a. the area underneath your booty), and double chin.
Dyer stresses that one of the most important things to realize before you consider body contouring in general is that it is not a weight-loss solution. This type of treatment works most effectively for people who generally eat healthy, exercise regularly, and haven’t had any recent weight fluctuations. It is targeted contouring that focuses on small pockets of fat in specific areas.
The machine, says Dr. Stevens, is only part of what will make this type of body contouring successful. You also need to be sure your provider understands your body, what you want, and the proper placement and technique to help you achieve it. “An accurate assessment and appropriate application results in optimal results,” he says. “Yes, it works, but you must do it correctly to achieve optimal results.” Adds Dyer, “We do have the power to change the shape of your body, but it must be done thoughtfully.”
Interested in exploring body contouring? Consult with our aesthetics specialists to find a provider near you!
Dr. Amy Wechsler, Laura Dyer and Dr. W. Grant Stevens are paid Allergan consultants.