CoolSculpting® is a non-invasive body sculpting treatment for addressing stubborn pockets of excess fat. Many people may have heard the name—or even had a treatment session or two—but not know how the technology driving it came to be. When it comes to body sculpting, Summerville and Mt. Pleasant’s Germain Dermatology recommends CoolSculpting® to a wide variety of patients, as well as works to ensure they understand what it is they’re signing up for.
Cryolipolysis—selectively killing fat cells with cold—was first explored in the 1970s, but surgical removal of fat via liposuction was what caught on as a popular plastic surgery procedure, even as cryolipolysis was still being researched.
Doctors accidentally discovered cryolipolysis when they noticed children exhibiting mild redness and swelling in their cheeks when sucking on an ice cube or a popsicle. These symptoms would sometimes last up to three days, and physicians discovered that the fat would gradually decrease in the area of the cheek that had been affected by the ice. Scientists referred to this as “popsicle panniculitis.” They eventually theorized that the adipose (or fat-based) tissue was affected more than skin and other tissues were by the cold temperatures.
In 2007, after significant research in an attempt to prove this theory, doctors concluded that fat cells crystallize and die when they are exposed to certain temperatures that do not impact other tissues. The scientific term for this occurrence is “apoptosis,” which describes the natural and controlled death of cells. The body’s natural inflammatory response activates when targeted fat cells are frozen. This activation triggers the release of specialized cells that digest the dead fat cells. The freed lipids are also cleaned out through the lymphatic system.
The entire process is referred to as “selective cryolipolysis.” These physician-led discoveries laid the groundwork for developing the technology used in CoolSculpting® treatments today. Researchers were able to finalize their theory, which stated that fat cells die when they are exposed to a specific freezing temperature range for an extended period, resulting in a reduction of subcutaneous fat in the targeted areas. CoolSculpting® was approved by the FDA and has since become a popular body sculpting treatment.
The number of fat cells in our body becomes stable once we reach our teenage years. This means that any future gained weight is not because we’ve gained new fat cells, but is because the current cells are growing in size. CoolSculpting® targets these cells to be flushed from the body—not merely reduced in size. While you may have fewer fat cells in treated areas, it is still essential to maintain a proper diet and exercise routine to prevent the remaining fat cells from accumulating excess fat and growing.