Understanding the risks and side effects of cryolipolysis (fat freezing)

Cryolipolysis (fat freezing) delivers amazing results, but it carries more risks and potential for side effects than other fat reduction treatments. In this episode, we explore the upsides and downsides of cryolipolysis, the treatment experience, the recovery process, as well as what risks and side effects providers and patients may anticipate.

Links mentioned in this episode. 

Cryolipolysis Fat Freezing Certification Course

Body Contouring 6in1 Masterclass


How would you grade yourself on your knowledge of the risks and side effects of your treatments? Even though non-invasive body contouring is much safer than the surgical alternatives, the treatments do carry risks and have the potential to produce side effects…some technologies much more so than others. To practice safely, you have to have a handle on the nuances of each technology.  And as you know, there are some big differences. Today we’re going to take a look at cryolipolysis (fat freezing) because quite frankly it carries the biggest risks and the most potential for side effects of any body contouring technology you’ll be working with. Don’t get us wrong. We love fat freezing. It delivers amazing results. We even offer a highly rated body contouring certification course on fat freezing. But we worry a lot about providers who may not know what they need to know when operating it. Even if you don’t perform cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatments and especially if you do, the information in this episode is critical to your body contouring career.  So stay tuned.

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You’re listening to The Body Contouring Academy’s Proven Profits Podcast 

where you’ll learn simple actionable strategies from real world successful body contouring professionals to help you generate more revenue, realize the profits you want and create the life you desire. 

Hi I’m Shannon and I’m Kay and we’re your hosts of The Proven Profits Podcast


Hi there healthcare professionals, business owners, body contouring technicians and beauty professionals!  Welcome everyone!  Kay here. Shannon and I want to thank you for being here too. 

Non-invasive fat reduction treatments are in demand and continue to grow in popularity, largely due to their reputation for safety.  And while it’s true that non-invasive fat reduction treatments carry very few risks and minimal side effects, some technologies carry more risks and cause more side effects than others.  To treat patients safely and effectively, you must know the downsides, i.e. the risks and side effects, as well as the upsides, i.e. the ease of care and great results, of your treatments.  

In today’s episode, we’re focusing on the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) technology.  We will explore the upsides and downsides of cryolipolysis (fat freezing) technology, we’ll examine the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) risks and side effects, and as we discuss it, we’ll compare the risks and side effects of cryolipolysis to other popular non-invasive fat reduction treatments such as ultrasound fat cavitation and lipo laser.  

In the first part of the episode, we’ll review cryolipolysis (fat freezing) technology and treatments.  Then we’ll examine the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) risks and side effects in pretty good detail to give you the knowledge base you need to practice safely.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that we’re not dissuading you from using cryolipolysis (fat freezing) technology.  

We’ve spent nearly twenty years owning and operating medspas. 

 And throughout those years, we’ve treated thousands of patients using multiple non-invasive fat reduction technologies and devices.  

We believe cryolipolysis (fat freezing) has a definite place in body contouring:  

Number one, it’s the original ‘fat blaster.’  

Number two, it’s the most well known and recognizable technology in body contouring.  

Number three, it’s one of the six most popular body contouring treatments.  

And number four, we believe in it so much that we’ve authored a top-rated body contouring certification course in cryolipolysis (fat freezing).  

We’ve left a link to the course details in today’s show notes.  

Our point is that you must be prepared to manage and/or prevent harm from the possible risks and side effects of every technology you offer, including cryolipolysis (fat freezing).  

Now…we just mentioned that cryolipolysis (fat freezing) is the most recognizable technology, but it’s also the most misunderstood…

Here’s the common misunderstanding…

Are cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatments and coolsculpting treatments the same?

The short answer is ‘no.’  

The long answer is ‘no, not exactly.  It has a long, complicated explanation.’  

Cryolipolysis (fat freezing)

Cryolipolysis (fat freezing) is the name of the technology that delivers cold temperatures to destroy fat cells.  

This technology is utilized by many different machines and devices. 

Cryolipolysis (fat freezing) is a technology; it is not a particular device or machine.



Coolsculpting is the brand name of the first and most well known fat reduction device and it delivers cryolipolysis (fat freezing) technology.  

Coolsculpting is the name of one device; it is not the name of the technology and should not be labeled on any other device.

Here’s the problem:

↪ More-often-than-not, the terms coolsculpting and cryolipolysis (fat freezing) are used interchangeably.  

↪ And any/all machines that deliver the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) technology are referred to as ‘coolsculpting.’  

⏩⏩ See why this is wrong - and confusing - for providers and consumers alike?

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move the first Part of todays episode

An overview of cryolipolysis (fat freezing) technology

How does cryolipolysis (fat freezing) technology work? 

Cryolipolysis (fat freezing) is a non-invasive body contouring technology that delivers cold temperatures to freeze fat cells until they die, without damaging the skin or surrounding tissue.   

Over a period of time, usually between six and twelve weeks after each cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatment, the patient’s body metabolizes and eliminates the dead fat cells and other debris left behind from the treatment.  This is when you will see the fat reduction.

Who is a good/poor candidate for cryolipolysis (fat freezing)?

The best candidate is a patient who has a small to medium sized problem area that is resistant to diet and exercise.  

Patients with large problem areas or who have a larger amount of fat can be treated - and will still see reduction - but it may require more treatments and see the reduction they desire.  

Good candidates have good skin elasticity so it will bounce back when the fat is eliminated.  The treatment is not intended to tighten loose skin.

We recommend against cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatments for patients with loose skin or older patients with normal skin aging issues.  

There are more contraindications, but important ones are…Patients who have poor circulation, a neuropathy, a defibrillator or who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not have a cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatment.

And patients who have been diagnosed with the following conditions 

Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria

Cold agglutinin disease


should not undergo a cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatment due to the risk unique to the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) technology, PAH.  More on PAH in a bit.

You can learn both the upsides and the downsides of Cryolipolysis (Fat Freezing) in our course
Again, we’ve left a link in today’s show notes if you want to take a look

Okay, let’s move on to the second part of today episode, 

The cryolipolysis (fat freezing) risks and side effects 

And we’ll start with the treatment because the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) risks and side effects start with the treatment experience

I. So let’s review the steps of the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatment and what a patient is experiencing during the treatment

The patient is treated lying down with the treatment area exposed.

The treatment area will be mapped out, a protective gel pad will be applied to the treatment area, followed by application of the fixed applicator.

Some applicators have a vacuum that sucks in the skin and fat.  Other fixed applicators apply only pressure.  And some machines come equipped with non-fixed applicators that are moved about the treatment area manually.

As the applicator lowers the patient’s temperature to -10°, the patient will start feeling uncomfortable:

Uncomfortable deep cold





These symptoms usually subside after the area becomes numb - about 10 minutes into 

the treatment.

When the treatment is complete, the applicators are removed.

With fixed applicators, the patient will be left with tissue in the shape of a ‘stick of butter.’.  This area will be massaged so as to smooth it out and to kickstart the elimination of fat.

Treatment time varies between thirty minutes and an hour depending on the area treated and the machine you are using.  There are probably a hundred different cryolipolysis  machines on the market.

So let’s take a closer look at the difficulties of the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatment experience

Cryolipolysis (fat freezing) presents at best a challenging treatment experience for most patients and is described as painful by some patients. 

During treatment, patients may feel intense cold, pinching, tingling, aching, stinging and cramping in the treatment area.    

The immediate post-treatment massage can also be extremely painful for many patients, at least during the first several minutes of the massage.  

As you may know, other non-invasive fat reduction treatments like cavitation and lipo laser can be performed without discomfort or pain. 

Managing a patient undergoing a cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatment can be more challenging; therefore providers must prepare to provide the necessary support for their cryolipolysis patients.  

And the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) risks and side effects continue post treatment with a prolonged recovery period 

Most patients don’t need actual downtime following cryolipolysis (fat freezing), but there’s still a recovery period that can vary in intensity, depending on the patient…a recovery that is longer than other non-invasive fat reduction treatments like ultrasound cavitation, lipo laser, etc…and with side effects that do not occur with other non-invasive fat reduction treatments like ultrasound cavitation, lipo laser, etc.  

Here’s what patients can experience after a cryolipolysis (fat freezing) treatment:

Soreness or pain (short term or long term) to the treatment area.

Redness and/or bruising to the treatment area.

Numbness to the treated area.

Swelling to the treatment area.  Swelling to the treatment area typically lasts around two weeks, but can last longer…up to a month.   

Within the first five days following treatment as nerves that had been damaged from the cold regenerate, patients can experience stinging, tingling and/or cramping in the treatment area.  

Between one and two weeks post treatment, the treatment area can feel itchy.  

With poor patient selection, the patient can be left with loose skin after treatment. 

These cryolipolysis (fat freezing) risks and side effects both raise concerns and require special care…but there is one Serious Risk that we mentioned earlier and it is totally unique to cryolipolysis… 

What is the most serious of the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) risks and side effects? 

Cryolipolysis (fat freezing) carries the unique risk of paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH).  PAH is a process whereby fatty fibrous tissue grows in the treated area, rather than shrinking. 

PAH is considered very rare, but many experts believe it is also severely underreported.

There are a lot of theories about the cause of PAH following cryolipolysis (fat freezing), but as of now the cause has not been found.

PAH will not resolve on its own.  Liposuction is needed to reduce PAH and even that does not always work.   

Is PAH seen with other non-invasive fat reduction technologies?

PAH is unique to cryolipolysis (fat freezing). It has never been reported following the use of other non-invasive fat reduction technologies, i.e. ultrasound fat cavitation, lipo laser, radio frequency, etc.

Did anything you heard today cause you concern?  Cryolipolysis (fat freezing) is safe, when performed by an experienced, knowledgeable body contouring technician.  It’s probably not the best first treatment to learn simply because it is the most challenging as far as supporting your patients both during and after treatment.  But it’s a great treatment to add to your existing menu.

If you are just starting, a better way to start is with the 6in1 machine where you can deliver multiple technologies that deliver great results, and none of which carry risks and side effects like cryolipolysis (fat freezing).  We offer a 6in1 course too and we’ll leave a link to that course in the show notes as well. 

But discovering the safest and most effective path in body contouring involves understanding the nuances of each technology.  In today’s episode, we’ve dissected the cryolipolysis (fat freezing) risks and side effects and compared it to other non-invasive fat reduction treatments.  

While cryolipolysis (fat freezing) delivers remarkable results, as a provider you must possess a grasp of its potential downsides, including discomfort during treatment and post treatment effects like soreness and swelling.  Most notably, cryolipolysis (fat freezing) carries the unique risk of paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), necessitating careful consideration for both providers and patients.  

Thank you for learning with us today.  We encourage you to obtain the knowledge that you need to practice safely.  And for fat freezing, our Cryolipolysis (Fat Freezing) Body Contouring Certification course will give you the knowledge you need to make informed decisions and ensure optimal outcomes throughout your body contouring career.  

So check it out.  Learn more about the fat freezing course now! 

That’s it for today. Until next time, Beautiful Wishes



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And, if you’d like to learn more about our courses and resources, you can get ALL the scoop by visiting our website,  bodycontouringacademy.com, that’s bodycontouringacademy.com.  

Thank you so much for listening.  As always, have a great rest of your day!  And until next time, Beautiful wishes!