Since CoolSculpting Freezes Fat to Kill It, Why Not Just Repeatedly Apply Ice Bags?

I had a free consultation for Coolsculpt and have read online about the 'popsicle' studies that led researchers to exam whether freezing fat to kill the cells would be effective for spot fat reduction. This led to Coolsculpt. But if this method is effective, why couldn't one apply ice bags on fat bulges and gradually destroy the fat cells?

Doctor Answers (17)

Can the effects of CoolSculpting be replicated by the application of ice bags


CoolSculpting is performed using a device that rather than delivering cold actually extracts energy (thereby cooling) the tissue.  The device carefully monitors this process with continual feedback so that the temperatures achieved are such that the fat will freeze but not so cold that other tissue such as skin, muscles, nerves or blood vessels will.   One could never monitor such a process with the use of an ice bag.  It is highly unlikely one could deliver cold enough temperatues to the fat with an ice bag alone and even if one were able to do so,  you will most likely freeze the overlying skin.  As a result of the freezing of the skin,  a scar will be induced.  

Long Island Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Coolsculpting is the advanced technology of gradual fat tissue cooling, not of fat freezing.


Dear writer, your question is a very important one. By answering it I hope to satisfy your curiosity and also keep your approach to fatty tissue reduction safe. Coolsculpting utilizes a very specific algorithm for gradually extracting the heat from the fatty tissue. This may be called cooling, but never freezing. This algorithm, carefully studied and designed by world renowned scientist and engineers, is what makes this technology so safe, as well as effective. Putting icepacks repeatedly over the areas of excess fatty tissue may lead to frostbite, permanent loss of skin sensation and undesired atrophy or indentation of the area (because the very carefully anatomically designed shape of the noninvasive suctioning 'cup' is not used). Lastly, patients may bring themselves to a state of low body temperature (hypothermia) that could, in some cases, caused death. Your question was a very genuine and important one. I hope I helped clarify your concerns. With regards, Dr. Leyda Bowes

Leyda Elizabeth Bowes, MD
Miami Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Zeltiq's CoolSculpting can not be duplicated with application of icepacks to the skin


If one were to try to freeze the fat by freezing the skin with ice long enough, the skin would die and this necrosis would heal with scarring probably.  There also can be cirulatory changes to the skin.  Zeltiq has been able to preserve the quality of the skin by localized the temperature reduction in the fatty tissues.

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

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Coolsculpting is controlled cooling- its okay to eat popsicles!


The fat must be a specific temperature for a specific period  of time to trigger fat cell death. While the initial popsicle cases stimulated the idea, cool sculpting was developed through extensive scientific research that identified the precise temperature and time period needed to stimulate fat cells to die and to do this without causing skin damage. The combination of isolating the fat in the suction chamber and maintaining controlled cooling allows for safe, smooth, and reproducible results. If only ice bags would do it!

It is important to note, the children had prolonged contact with extreme cold before the cheek fat wa affected- so do not worry about eating popsicles!

Andrea Willey, MD
Sacramento Dermatologic Surgeon

Icepacks instead of Coolsculpting


This will not work and poses a danger as Coolsculpting does not freeze the skin. Coolsculpting is a cold application just above freezing. Keep in mind freezing skin will injure the skin- whereas Coolsculpting is specifically designed to apply temperatures that kill fat but do not injure skin at a temperature below freezing. Coolsculpting works excellent. .


Steven Hacker, MD
West Palm Beach Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Using Ice Bags instead of Coolsculpting?


Thank you for your question.

The CoolSculpting Machine has been FDA cleared because of it's technology.  It has a precise temperature control and feedback mechanism so that it freezes the fat and not the overlying skin.  This technology is what makes this procedure precise and successful.  You cannot replicate this with putting ice bags on your body.

I hope this helps.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 681 reviews

Coolsculpting vs. Ice Bag

Coolsculpting is a process of safe, gradual cooling that will target the fat cells and leave the skin, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels unharmed. An ice bag may not deliver enough cold to kill fat cells, and would probably damage the skin with prolonged exposure.

Kris M. Reddy, MD, FACS
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

CoolSculpting Temperature

CoolSculpting utilizes a very specific temperature and process to ensure only the intended fat cells are targeted with the treatment.  If skin and tissue were repeatedly exposed to other temperatures, necrosis and other untoward effects could occur (ex. frostbite).  The CoolSculpting technology is able to target only the fat cells without harming other cells and tissues.  

Kent V. Hasen, MD
Naples Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Common Misconception

This seems to be a common asked question, regarding freezing fat. CoolSculpting devices have monitored cooling mechanisms with precision cooling that enables safety by affecting only the subcutaneous fat cells and not negatively effecting skin tissue, nerves or muscle. Cryolipoysis is safe with minimal side effects when performed by a certified trained provider. If using ice bags repeatedly on the body, you will have no way control of the tissue temperature. This may cause damage to skin tissue and even frost bite. Play it safe and see a certified CoolSculpting provider for your personal assessment and achieve your goals with CoolSculpting. 

Missy Clifton, MD
Bentonville Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Using Cool Sculpting vs Ice Bags

You would damage your skin with repeated use of ice bags.  With the Cool Sculpting technology you are not in danger of injuring the skin.

Robert Whitfield, MD, FACS
Austin Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.