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woman with sculpted, lean abdominals coolsculpting vs emsculpt for abdominal sculpting

CoolSculpting is one of our most popular procedures at Kalos Medical Spa, and every week we help men and women treat unwanted bulges with its patented cryolipolysis technology. Increasingly, we’re fielding questions from patients about the difference between CoolSculpting and another body contouring procedure with a similar-sounding name: Emsculpt.

While we currently don’t offer Emsculpt at our practice, our medical team stays up-to-date with all of the latest technologies, and we are more than happy to help you understand the procedure options you’re likely to come across.

For those of you weighing your body sculpting options, here are the four main differences between CoolSculpting and Emsculpt.

1. Purpose: CoolSculpting reduces fat. Emsculpt tones muscles.

This is the main and most important difference between CoolSculpting and Emsculpt. CoolSculpting is the gold standard non-surgical fat reduction treatment for patients who want to spot-reduce stubborn fat bulges on the abs, thighs, back, hips, flanks, banana rolls, upper arms, or under the chin. It works by delivering intense cold temperatures through the skin, which directly causes a portion of the fat cells in the treatment area to shrivel and die permanently, helping you lose excess fat in that area.

Emsculpt works in a completely different way. This machine causes muscles in an area to make tens of thousands of contractions during the treatment, as though you were doing impossibly large numbers of crunches or squats in a short period of time. Emsculpt is designed to help build new muscle fibers and tone existing fibers for better-sculpted muscles. It’s currently indicated to treat the abs, buttocks, thighs, and upper arms.

While it might seem that Emsculpt would imitate the effects of exercising and potentially help you “slim down,” the thickening and toning of muscles it induces might actually make your clothes feel tighter.

There can be some residual fat reduction as a result; however, fat reduction is not the main goal with Emsculpt. If you have even a moderate fat layer over your muscles, you won’t be able to appreciate fully the results of Emsculpt. In fact, many doctors recommend getting CoolSculpting first and then using Emsculpt as a follow-up treatment to refine the results.

2. Technology: Cryolipolysis vs. Electromagnetism

CoolSculpting uses a proprietary fat-freezing technology called cryolipolysis. The CoolSculpting applicator slightly suctions the skin and fatty tissue into the cooling cups, where they are brought to a controlled temperature cold enough to stimulate fat cells to die, but not cold enough to harm skin, muscle, or nerve tissue.

Emsculpt uses high-intensity focused electromagnetic technology (HIFEM) to induce involuntary supramaximal muscle contractions in the treatment area. Supramaximal contractions engage 100% of the muscle fibers in an area, helping to tone the muscle faster than exercise alone. No fat cells are directly destroyed by Emsculpt, although some patients have reported minor fat reduction as a side effect of treatment.

3. Results: Gradual fat reduction vs. thickening and toning of muscles

CoolSculpting relies on your body’s natural processes to metabolize and flush out the affected fat cells. And once fat cells are gone, they are gone forever. It takes several weeks for full results to become apparent, but most patients begin to notice improvements with a couple of weeks. Results are indefinite as long as you maintain a healthy lifestyle, including a sensible diet and regular exercise. Remember that your remaining fat cells can enlarge and shrink, depending on your overall weight. CoolSculpting is not a weight-loss treatment; you will get better results if you are at your desired weight first.

If you have even a moderate fat bulge over your muscles, you won’t be able to appreciate fully the results of Emsculpt. In fact, many doctors recommend getting CoolSculpting first and then using Emsculpt as a follow-up treatment to refine the results.

Emsculpt is said to induce visible improvements in muscle tone comparable to what one might expect after working out for many months, within about four weeks of the final treatment. Many patients say they feel the area is firmer and tighter within days after treatment. However, as you know with muscles: you use it or lose it. While it’s possible to enjoy some time with tighter abs or better-defined buttocks, you can’t use Emsculpt as a substitute for exercise, and you will need to repeat a treatment series regularly to maintain the results.

One important factor to note here: while it might seem that Emsculpt would imitate the effects of exercising and potentially help you “slim down,” the thickening and toning of muscles it induces might actually make your clothes feel tighter.

4. Safety: Both are FDA-cleared, non-surgical, and fairly pain-free—but CoolSculpting has a longer track record

CoolSculpting has a proven track record of safety and efficacy: it’s been FDA cleared since 2010 and over 6 million treatments have been done worldwide. While it’s common for patients to experience temporary numbness, soreness, or mild swelling, serious side effects are rare. Comfort levels during treatment vary depending on the patient and the area, but the vast majority say that CoolSculpting was comfortable after an initial few minutes of intense cold.

Both CoolSculpting and Emsculpt are FDA-cleared, non-invasive procedures. In well-trained hands, the risk of adverse effects with either treatment is very low.

Emsculpt is a much newer technology but also has a good safety record thus far. The machine forces muscle contractions, which can be felt by the patient; it has been described as feeling a little unnatural, as though their body is doing an involuntary workout. Emsculpt is not safe for people with metallic or electronic implants, such as an artificial joint or a pacemaker, since it is an electromagnetic treatment.

Both CoolSculpting and Emsculpt are non-invasive, with no anesthesia, needles, or incisions required. In well-trained hands, the risk of adverse effects is very low. Neither treatment requires downtime, although some patients take the rest of the day off due to post-treatment soreness, which is a factor after both procedures.

It is important to choose a well-qualified provider for either treatment. With CoolSculpting, it can make the difference between measurable fat loss and wasted time and money—you’ll want your provider to have aesthetic medical training and knowledge of anatomy, proportion, and symmetry to ensure a great result. With Emsculpt, the provider must know how to tune the machine safely; starting a patient on too-high an intensity can cause damage.

You know what they say about muscle toning: use it or lose it. While Emsculpt may help you enjoy several months of tighter abs or better-defined buttocks, you may need to repeat a treatment series every few months to maintain the results.

Ultimately, it’s like comparing apples and oranges

With so many options on the market, we understand how confusing it can be to decipher the difference between various name brands. That’s why it is so important to consult with an experienced, reputable plastic surgeon before investing in a treatment, even when you may only be considering non-surgical options. Surgeons like Dr. Emily Kirby are dedicated to the art and science of aesthetic medicine and will provide objective, helpful advice as to what different technologies and procedures can offer.

Which treatment is better for you ultimately comes down to your goals and your body composition, as each treatment has a different purpose. If you want to spot-reduce fat, CoolSculpting is your best bet. If you are lean and want to see better muscle definition in your abs, arms, or buttocks, Emsculpt may be a great option for you. If you’d like to learn more about CoolSculpting in Fort Worth, we invite you to contact us at Kalos Medical Spa for a consultation with Dr. Kirby or one of our experienced, certified physician assistants today.