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Body Contouring: CoolSculpting vs SmartLipo


These two seeming opposites both contour the body, but in very different ways. One melts fat while the other freezes it.

The medical field is always progressing and changing, and medical aesthetics is no exception. Once, the only option available for those looking to reshape their bodies was traditional liposuction. Now, there are choices that range from surgical to completely non-invasive, and two of the most popular are SmartLipo and CoolSculpting. SmartLipo was the number one procedure on American Health and Beauty over the last 30 days, and Zeltiq took the number two spot. What makes these two so popular and how do you know which is right for you?

SmartLipo is known as the gold standard of laser lipo devices. It was FDA approved in 2006 and quickly grew to hold the top spot in laser lipo. SmartLipo uses a laser to first melt the fat in the body, which is then suctioned out. The melted fat is much easier to remove than whole fat cells, and the laser is fat specific so that damage to surrounding tissues is minimized. The laser also delivers heat to the collagen under the skin, stimulating it so that skin is tightened. For some, the skin tightening from SmartLipo is so great, they are able to avoid the need for a tummy tuck.

smartlipo before and after
Actual SmartLipo results of Dr. Joel Beck

Zeltiq is nearly the opposite of SmartLipo. It was FDA approved earlier this year. No incision is necessary and there is no pain associated with the procedure. Rather than using laser heat to melt fat, Zeltiq freezes it. The Zeltiq hand piece is placed on the treatment area, and the skin is suctioned between two cooling plates. The temperature drops to just above freezing and the skin is protected by a gel pack. The fat freezes, crystallizes and dies and is then passed through the system.

zeltiq before and after
Actual Zeltiq Results of Dr. William Groff and Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick

Though it's considered minimally invasive, SmartLipo is still a surgical procedure. It can be performed in the physician's office under local anesthesia and patients heal much quicker than with traditional lipo. Most are able to return to work within a week and they see results right away. Zeltiq on the other hand isn't surgical at all. No anesthesia is needed and patients can get back to their normal routine immediately.

SmartLipo patients are able to enjoy their results right away. They will continue to see improvement over the next 6 months, but the fat reduction is immediately apparent. Some physicians are even able to do a high definition SmartLipo procedure which not only removes the fat, but specifically sculpts to reveal the underlying musculature. With Zeltiq, results are slow to be seen and they are slight. It can take as much as 4 months to see a change, and then the change is minimal. The physician can't do any precise sculpting and those who want a more dramatic change return for multiple treatments.

Which procedure you choose largely depends on the results you're looking for. For some, avoiding surgery is their number one concern and they're willing to trade more dramatic results for a non-surgical lipo alternative like Zeltiq. Others who want immediate results with little downtime may be better off with SmartLipo. Speak with your aesthetic physician about your desired results and expectations to determine which procedure is right for you and your body type.