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WTF is cool sculpting and does it work?

TextDazed Beauty

Our Tried & Tested series – that sees us trialling the beauty world’s wildest treatments – continues with the non-invasive volume-loss procedure

On the whole, it’s a more progressive world in which we live when it comes to body positivity. While truly loving one’s own body image is, for most of us, a lifelong journey of ups and downs, there seems to be more space than ever before to accept ourselves as we come – sort of. 

As we track and celebrate the bo-po movement and body-neutrality push, we also can’t deny that non-invasive and surgical procedures to modify our appearance are more in demand than ever. According to The International Medical Travel Journal, the UK cosmetic surgery market was estimated at around £273m in 2018, with non-invasive cosmetic treatments predicted to exceed £3 billion over the next five years. It’s ignorant to believe that the bo-po movement has left us all satisfied with our natural bodies and shapes. At Dazed Beauty we like to confront, examine, and celebrate both ends of the needle, from natural to surgically enhanced (and everything in between); when it comes to divisive conversations around body image we believe in your body your choice. 

Whether we like it or not, fat reduction procedures notably on the increase. Enter CoolSculpting, an FDA approved non-invasive treatment that’s shaking up the non-invasive cosmetics industry. With minimal downtime, and little to no discomfort it’s being spoken off as the lunch-break alternative to liposuction. Areas that can be treated include; the chin, upper and lower abdomen, male chest, bra and back fat, flanks, inner and outer thighs, knees, and calves. You only need one treatment (a rare thing) and the results are permanent unless of course, you put on a considerable amount of weight in which case the fat may not return to those areas but will evenly distribute. Results, as always are dependent on a number of factors such as age, medical history and lifestyle, but it’s clear to see why the treatment is so popular.

We headed down to Cavendish Clinic in South Kensington, who have overseen 10,000+ CoolSculpt procedures, to trial the treatment, ask all the questions and give you our verdict. 

At The Cavendish Clinic, which is pristine, I’m greeted by Joelle, and her fellow technician Gaila. Both Joelle and Gaila are keen to stress that the treatment is on offer because of the incredible results, minimal downtime, and also because of the sheer demand. Both are super informed, professional, and welcoming – I feel in very safe hands. I ask what kind of people are seeking the treatment out. “It really varies but often it’s people who can’t shift a small bit of weight and this procedure means they can” explains Joelle. “Treatments like this work best when paired with a healthy lifestyle and exercise. It’s not about a shortcut to being ‘thin’ it’s about balancing procedures like this out with an active life. It’s fine-tuning, it’s not a radical overhaul of the way someone looks.” 

It’s evident that at the clinic they’re not interested in promoting one idea of what a ‘good body’ looks like. “We treat people of all sizes and we’ll turn people away if they’re not good candidates for the procedure,” says Joelle. “You have to have enough fat in any one area for it to be effective.” I undress and pop on a fetching pair of paper shorts and bra. Part of the prep is to be weighed-in and photographed. I put them to the test, and ask to have my upper arms treated as well as my stomach. They flat out refuse to do my arms but agree the treatment should work on my flanks and tummy area. In my experience, it’s always a good sign when a practitioner refuses to treat candidates it shows discretion and professionalism, something that’s becoming increasingly scarce in the land of lunchtime tweakments.

I’m asked to fill out the usual kinds of consent forms and begin to ask what to expect. The room looks like any other boujie treatment room in a spa, bar the presence on the giant cool sculpt machine that has large tentacle-style suction applicators. I’m told that two suction pads will be applied to two areas at a time for the duration of 35 minutes each. All in all, I’ll be there for two hours. I ask what it will feel like. “The pads will grab onto your body, and create a vacuum,” Gaila explains, “you’ll then start to feel an icy sensation as the targeted fat cells in the body start to cool down and start the process of a natural, controlled elimination of fat cells” she smiles. “Will it hurt?” I ask. “Most people only complain about the bit when you take the applicator off and we have to massage the frozen area”. I pull a worried face. “It’s not that bad I promise and we have chocolate and Netflix”. I feel reassured. I ask about the downtime. “No exercise for 48 hours and the areas will feel numb for three weeks or so. You may also feel an itching sensation, but that will not last.” Finally, I ask about the promise of ‘permanent fat removal’ in one treatment which sounds bonkers. Joelle doesn’t miss a beat “Yep. The treated fat cells are gone for good. You’ll start to see a change after around three months. Adding exercise into your routine is a good way to speed up the process too” she adds “but if you put on weight again, you may see fat build up in those areas again.” 

I feel confident about beginning the procedure, but mainly just really curious. Gel, and then applicators, are applied one by one to areas on my abdomen. I’m sat remote control in hand, under a set of duvets. The sensation is bizarre, first a sucking as the applicator glues itself to your body. Then the freezing begins, which sort of feels like stomach cramp (hence the chocolates that are there to alleviate any nausea) but the tummy-churning weirdness quickly fades off into numbness. I quickly zone out and start to focus on Netflix, making calls and sending emails. I’m actually on a call when Gaila comes in and releases one of the nozzles from my stomach and starts to massage what feels like an icy lump in my lower stomach. As she needs my stomach proficiently I feel slightly uncomfortable but it’s over quickly. By the time the fourth nozzle is removed, I’m used to the feeling.

Two hours later I emerge a little swollen and quite red, but otherwise relaxed. I’m told the swelling will last a week or two. Joelle tells me I can text her whenever I like, and that I’m not to take paracetamol or anything that reduces the swelling – the swelling is good and proof it’s working. When I get home I undress and examine my little bowling ball of a tummy. The next week or so I find myself scratching my stomach every now and then to confirm that, yes, I’m still completely numb. It’s weird but not as odd as being swollen for the next ten days, which makes wearing my old jeans pretty impossible. 

Three weeks later I feel completely back to normal. I’m worried as it’s been an extremely sedentary period (Christmas) and I can’t see any changes but I mentally mark three months time in my diary. 

With prices starting from £450 and a single cycle for the belly being £600 a session it’s an expensive treatment and it’s also not for the impatient, but... it works. My stomach is flatter, and my waistline more defined (two were attached to my lower back/waistline as a means of sculpting the waist). I’m more happy with how contoured my waist looks than I anticipated. I quite like my little pouch (I think they’re sexy) but didn’t anticipate how much more feminine my silhouette could look. I look more hourglass, like I’ve had a waist trainer on,  which is definitely a bonus, not necessarily “slimmer” but my jeans feel nicely looser and my waist looks neat. I’m not a dieter or a gym bunny, but the results have inspired me to be more active. I’ve taken to heart what they said at The Cavendish about no shortcuts to a healthy body and the procedure was more an experiment than anything else, but it’s been a positive reminder to cherish the body I have, for bigger or smaller.

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