A couple of years ago, I remember feeling scandalised by the arrival in the UK of the first fat-freezing systems. Freeze your fat away? Whatever next? Surely it wouldn't work, and even if it did, at £800 a pop, who was going to go for it?
But the long and the short of it is that it does work - each session with the suction cup destroying up to 40 per cent of the fat that gets sucked into it and frozen - and people seem to love it, and places like Dr Tracy Mountford's Cosmetic Skin Clinic, which has for four years been the top CoolSculpting clinic in Europe and has carried out close on 6,000 treatments, can barely keep up with demand.
CoolSculpting is the leading fat-freezing system. It's FDA-cleared and now Zeltiq, the company it, has introduced a new treatment head (shown above, top) which offers a number of improvements. The new CoolAdvantage head can not only gulp up more fat than the original, but it cools it down faster, so each treatment takes only 35 minutes instead of the hour that it took previously.
Dr Mountford is introducing the new treatment heads into her practices in London and Stoke Poges imminently. 'It's all about getting improvements for the patient,' she says. 'Time is always of the essence for the people who come to us and now they are going to get even better results in just 35 minutes. And there's a 45 per cent improvement in patients' comfort levels, too.'
Ah yes. Unless you've tried it, you won't know quite how uncomfortable it can be to have your soft, fatty stomach, or love handles, or inner thigh suctioned up into a freezer cup rather larger than a half-pound pat of butter and held there firmly while it is frozen into submission, and then massaged vigorously to break up the crystallised fat. (For an unfortunate minority, there can be then be further pain over the following days as the frozen fat is broken down). But the wider and shallower shape of the new cup (you can't see it so well in this photo) improves the comfort, which is all to the good.
'I used to say to patients that it was a medical treatment, not a beauty treatment, so suck it up,' says Dr Mountford briskly, 'but it's always good to be able to offer increased comfort.'