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 (21)

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 13 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

You might also like...

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 4 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 716 reviews

CoolSculpting, why not just use ice bags?

Although the CoolSculpting procedure is commonly referred to "fat freezing", temperatures of 32 degrees F are not employed with the device.  Fat will "freeze" at temperatures higher than 32 degrees and this avoids damaging other structures such as skin, nerves, and blood vessels.  Ice bags applied to the skin produce the most cold at the skin level and the temperatures in the deeper tissues may still be too high to adequately damage the fat cells.  CoolSculpting technology evenly lowers the temperature of the entire area of tissue being treated.   

John Zavell, MD, FACS
Toledo Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

CoolSculpting cannot be safely and effectively replicated by ice bag skin application

CoolSculpting gradually and safely freezes fat over the course of 1 to 2 hours during a treatment cycle.  The skin temperature is carefully monitored to ensure that there is no burn.
In contrast, applying an ice bag to the skin will cause a burn to skin resulting in pigment loss and scarring.  It will not cool deep enough to create significant and permanent fat loss. CoolSculpting has been perfected to the point where we have safe and consistently noticeable results.  There are knock off devices, many of which are made in China, that do not have this advanced technology that have been shown to cause burns similar to those one can get from applying an ice bag.  My advice is don't be penny wise and pound foolish.  If you are looking to have cryo lipolysis avoid all unproven and risky modalities and stick with CoolSculpting. 

Ran Y. Rubinstein, MD
200 Stony Brook Court, Newburgh, New York
Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon
Clinical Professor New York Presbyterian Hospital
National Education Faculty (physician trainer) for:
Allergan (Juvederm, Voluma), Valient (Scultpra, Restylane),
Cynosure (Cellulaze, Precision Laser Lift) & Solta (Fraxel, Thermage)
Zeltiq( CoolSculpting)

Ran Y. Rubinstein, MD
Manhattan Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 121 reviews

Ice Vs Coolsculpting

The idea of using ice instead of CoolSculpting is certainly a novel one. Unfortunately the answer is not quite so simple. CoolSculpting is a cryolipolysis technology whose vacuum assisted applicators remove heat from the treated areas to stabilize the tissues at a temperature which is safely higher than the point at which frostbite occurs. Cryolipolysis technology is based on the principle that fat cells are naturally more susceptible to cooling injury than the skin or the other cells in the vicinity. So that enables us to do a non-invasive, cooling down of the skin and all of the subcutaneous tissue together, and the only cells that are affected by this process are the fat cells themselves. The largest reduction happens at the center of the applicator; therefore, the peak of the bulge should be centered in the applicator cup. This gives a nice feathering to the result keeping your body looking natural.

Paul Vitenas, Jr., MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Freezing and Coolsculpting are not the same

At first this thought does make sense, but repeatedly placing ice bags over an area of fat is not the same as Coolsculpting. One would most definitely be able to induce apoptosis of fat cells with bags of ice, but you would likely also give yourself frostbite. And the chances of unwanted side effects such as an open wound or permanent scarring would be significant. Coolsculpting provides a balance between delivering enough cold damage to the fat to cause cell death, and maintaining a safe environment for the overlying skin.

Joshua L. Fox, MD
Long Island Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 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.