So you’re ready to get rid of a pesky patch of fat that just won’t respond to diet or exercise. You’ve heard of CoolSculpting and laser lipo, but you’re not sure which one is right for you.
It’s best to start with the basics! The main difference between CoolSculpting and laser lipo is how these treatments work to destroy your unwanted fat cells.
What Is CoolSculpting?
CoolSculpting uses a non-invasive technology called Cryolipolysis- a controlled cooling that kills your fat cells while sparing the overlying skin. These destroyed fat cells are naturally eliminated from your body over time. As this procedure is well tolerated, no anesthesia is needed.
With CoolSculpting, you are essentially freezing away the fat beneath your skin. The procedure isn’t meant for individuals with excessive weight, but rather healthy-weight individuals with stubborn pockets of fat on their bodies that don’t respond to diet or exercise.
What happens during CoolSculpting treatment?
During a CoolSculpting treatment session, your provider will place a CoolSculpting applicator on the treatment area. This will feel very cold for several minutes, and there may be a pulling or sucking sensation. The area will become numb while the fat cells are frozen.
After the procedure, you can return to your normal activities almost immediately. The frozen fat cells will die and be processed away over the next few weeks to months.
What Is Laser Lipo?
Laser liposuction, also known as laser lipo or laser lipolysis, is an invasive surgical procedure that manually sucks out undesired subcutaneous fat. There are several types of lipo treatments, and the newer modalities incorporate power assisted equipment and laser or ultrasound to better extract fat with less trauma. The laser may also help with skin contraction. All methods of lipo require anesthesia, which usually administered by an infiltration of numbing fluid to the area being treated, and the insertion of a metal tube into tissue via a small surgical incision. With laser lipo, a laser fiber is also inserted through a small tube into your body where it ruptures those fat cell membranes, liquefying the fat, that is then suctioned out by the metal cannula.
What happens during laser lipo treatment?
Laser lipo can be performed at a doctor’s office under local anesthesia. You will be awake for the procedure, but a clinician will numb the area so you can avoid discomfort.
First, your provider will make a small incision in your skin and insert a tiny laser that liquefies the fat. Next, they will insert a tiny tube called a cannula to suck out the melted fat. After the procedure, you will likely need a few days of downtime before returning to work.
What is the expected recovery of CoolSculpting vs Laser Lipo?
Both treatments are relatively quick, lasting about 1-2 hours, depending on how many areas you are targeting. There is only mild discomfort during these procedures.
CoolSculpting has virtually no downtime- you can return to your normal activities immediately after treatment. Common short-term sensations reported after treatment include mild soreness, minimal swelling/bruising, and temporary numbness in the area treated.
Laser lipo requires several days of downtime and significant bruising and swelling are expected. There is a (small) risk of infection in the treated area, scarring at the surgical incision site, and of the laser energy burning your skin. In addition, some patients may develop dimpled or lumpy tissue in the treatment area. This may be temporary due to swelling, or could be a more permanent result requiring surgical correction. To decrease this risk, most surgeons recommend wearing compression body garments and refraining from vigorous activity/exercise for a period of four to six weeks post treatment.
CoolSculpting Treatment Results vs. Laser Lipo Results
Now, let’s talk results!
Both CoolSculpting and Laser Lipo can be effective fat reduction procedures with minimal downtime and fast recovery. You can use either to remove fat from specific areas of the body, including:
- Love handles
- Upper thighs
- Upper arms
Laser lipo has the advantage of seeing a reduction of volume within the first week, but it can take up to 6 months for final results. Laser lipo treatment is more aggressive with a single procedure reducing fat in the treatment area by 50-70%. However, revision liposuction procedures may be required- particularly if dimpling or lumps occur.
CoolSculpting results can be seen as early as 3 weeks with final results visible at 3-4 months with an average permanent tissue reduction of 20-25%. Depending on the area being treated, and your unique needs, you may require more than one treatment to obtain optimal results.
Which Procedure Is More Convenient?
CoolSculpting typically takes 30 minutes to an hour and allows you to return to your normal activities the same day. Laser lipo typically takes about an hour per area and often requires a few days of downtime. For most people, CoolSculpting is a more convenient procedure overall, although both options are more convenient than surgery.
CoolSculpting vs. Laser Lipo Safety
Both laser lipo and CoolSculpting are fairly safe, effective treatments for fat removal for people with any skin type. There are minimal possible side effects. However, it’s important to remember that laser lipo is a minor surgical procedure, while CoolSculpting is noninvasive.
Laser lipo carries some of the same risks and side effects as in traditional liposuction, although on a smaller scale. Common risks and side effects of laser lipo include mild pain or numbness; loose, lumpy, or discolored skin; and a temporary burning sensation after the session. In rare cases, patients may develop scar tissue under the skin, an infection, blood clots, and skin necrosis at the incision site.
CoolSculpting side effects can include mild stinging, pain, or aching; redness; bruising; swelling; and temporary skin sensitivity. In very rare cases, some people may experience paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, in which treated fat cells at the site get bigger instead of shrinking away and require treatment with traditional liposuction.
CoolSculpting vs. Laser Lipo Cost
Generally speaking, laser liposuction costs a bit more than CoolSculpting. An average laser liposuction treatment may cost $2,500 to $5,500 per area, while a CoolSculpting treatment may be $2,000 to $4,000 total for two or more areas. In most cases, neither treatment is covered by insurance.
The cost of a laser liposuction treatment depends on the treatment area, your location, and the provider. Generally, treatments in the upper part of the stomach and around the knees cost more than treatments in the lower stomach, back, buttocks, thighs, or hips. The grand total will depend on which and how many treatment areas you choose.
CoolSculpting costs also depend on the treatment area. However, the cost of each treatment is generally substantially less in each area. You may be able to get several areas treated with CoolSculpting for the same amount you would spend on treating a single area with laser lipo.
However, some patients need more than one CoolSculpting session to see their desired results. It’s difficult to determine how many sessions you will need without a consultation, so we recommend talking to a clinician about what results you can expect.
Am I a Good Candidate for CoolSculpting or Laser Lipo?
The best candidates for either treatment are individuals who are in good general health, near their ideal weight, and seeking to refine their body shape. Neither treatment is recommended for an individual who wishes to remove a large amount of fat. These are primarily cosmetic rather than weight loss treatment procedures.
You may not be a good candidate for either procedure if you:
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Recently had surgery
- Take anticoagulants
- Have blood clots
- Have a pacemaker or defibrillator
Additionally, you should avoid laser lipo if you:
- Are menstruating heavily
- Have a heart condition or disease
- Have insulin-dependent diabetes
- Have abnormal tissue growth, including cancer or keloid scarring
- Have a liver condition or disease
- Have a vascular condition
- Have multiple sclerosis
- Have implants
Avoid CoolSculpting if you:
- Have infected or open wounds
- Have scar tissue in the treatment area
- Have skin conditions like rashes, eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis
- Experience numbness or a lack of feeling in the skin
- Have poor circulation near the treatment area
- Have a neuropathic condition such as diabetic neuropathy or postherpetic neuralgia
- Have cold urticaria
- Have cryoglobulinemia
- Have a current or past hernia in or near the treatment area
- Have paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria
- Have Raynaud’s disease
The Pros and Cons of CoolSculpting vs. Laser Lipo
To summarize, here are the pros and cons of each procedure.
- Pro: Non-invasive and non-surgical
- Pro: Typically less expensive than Laser Lipo
- Pro: Slightly faster treatment
- Pro: Results appear faster
- Pro: Faster recovery time
- Con: May be slightly uncomfortable during the first few minutes of the procedure
- Con: Typically does not reduce fat as much as laser lipo
- Pro: Typically reduces fat more
- Pro: Less likely to be uncomfortable during the procedure
- Con: More invasive than CoolSculpting
- Con: Typically more expensive than Laser Lipo
- Con: Results may take longer to appear
- Con: Longer recovery time
How to Choose the Right Body Contouring Procedure for You
Deciding on CoolSculpting vs laser liposuction depends on what is important to you. If you wish to avoid surgery with its associated risks and lengthy down time, and don’t mind gradual results, then Coolsculpting is the better option. If you are simply looking to remove as much fat as possible in a single session, are reasonably healthy, and are not prone to scarring- then laser liposuction may be a more attractive option. CoolSculpting and Laser Lipo are both FDA approved, safe, and effective ways of treating stubborn pockets of fat that are resistant to diet and exercise. Although both are great alternatives to traditional Liposuction, it’s clear that if you are looking for a safe, effective, completely non-invasive procedure to target unwanted fat, CoolSculpting is the #1 body contouring treatment!