Linda Evangelista says a fat freezing procedure left her “brutally disfigured” – we asked a doctor about the risks

Linda Evangelista says a fat freezing procedure left her “brutally disfigured” – we asked a doctor about the risks 1

Back in the 1990s, Linda Evangelista was one of the most sight-after supermodels in the world. A peer to the likes of Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer, Linda was once quoted saying she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than 10 000 dollars a day. But two weeks ago, a poignant Instagram post revealed she’s been out of the public eye because of complications resulting from a cosmetic procedure.

Linda revealed that she’d become a “recluse” after undergoing CoolSculpting (also known as cryolipolysis or fat freezing), a treatment designed to reduce fat cells. Instead of increasing her confidence, it sent her to the “lowest depths of self-loathing.” Linda reportedly experienced a side effect where fatty tissue increases instead of decreases – the total opposite effect of what the treatment promises to achieve. Known as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, this rare side effect left the former supermodel “permanently deformed,” and it’s been reported that she is suing ZELTIQ Aesthetics, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, for 50 million dollars.

It’s commonly accepted that cosmetic procedures, like medical procedures, carry risks. As patients, we expect to be informed about those risks and their likelihood, no matter how small or unlikely they may be. Linda has revealed that she had not been informed about the risks before undergoing the treatment, which brings to light the fact that it is crucial to do your own thorough research before undergoing any type of cosmetic procedure.

We spoke to Dr Zama Tladi, a well-known aesthetician and owner of Nubian Medical Aesthetics in Pretoria, for more information about this controversial procedure.

What is fat freezing / cryolipolysis / CoolSculpting and how does it work?
“Fat freezing is a body contouring treatment that destroys fat cells by decreasing their temperature until they are destroyed and then eliminated by the body. The ultimate goal is to contour and reshape the body by removing the stubborn bulges of resistant fat, and is frequently done by laser. The preferred method that we use at Nubian Medical Aesthetics is lipolytic injections and carboxytherapy to reduce fat cell size.”

If the procedure is deemed successful, what sort of results can be expected?
“Great results are usually achieved and these are permanent as the dead fat cells won’t grow again. However, it’s important to remember that fat freezing doesn’t stop you from regaining new weight in the future as fat cells will still multiply in other areas, so it is important to pair fat freezing treatments with a healthy lifestyle and good eating plan.”

Linda Evangelista’s fat freezing treatment went horribly wrong. What are some of the risks associated with fat freezing treatments?
“Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH) is a side effect of fat freezing and is extremely rare, however, it is a risk. Instead of fat cells being destroyed, they are multiplied, which is of course a worst case scenario and has affected less than 1% of people who have tried this method.”

Are the results of paradoxical adipose hyperplasia permanent?
“Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia will not go away without treatment. Patients have to wait up nine months for the fat in the affected area to soften enough to be removed safely using liposuction—otherwise, there is a risk that PAH could recur.”

When you search “fat freezing” in Google, endless South African salons and clinics come up, all of which offer the service. If someone has decided to undergo the treatment, what should they be aware of in terms of risks, and what tips can you give them when it comes to selecting a reputable salon / clinic?
“Often patients are looking for a quick fix and to cut corners or save by going the cheapest route. This is a major mistake. There are many fly by night little salons that set up with little training or knowledge, who can really cause terrible damage. As with all medical aesthetic treatments and injectables, these require a huge amount of professional training, skill and knowledge to administer safely and with good results.

Not only does one need an understanding of anatomy to inject, but also medical-grade and certified products, which are hard to come by and expensive. There are cases of counterfeit, illegal and unknown products being sold online as “genuine” injectables and also quack machines being used to fat freeze that are in fact damaging and may cause reactions such as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia and similar. Reputable medical aesthetic rooms with good reviews and reputations need to be supported. These are usually led by qualified medical doctors with real training and knowledge who can properly treat their patients.”

If Linda’s ordeal has taught us anything, it’s not that fat freezing should be avoided, but rather that we should do as much research as possible before undergoing any type of cosmetic treatment, and then weigh up the risks before deciding to go ahead.

Do your research and find a reputable clinic. Ask your therapist or doctor all the questions you may have, ask them to explain the associated risks, and even get a second opinion to ensure the information you’ve received is correct.

To make a booking at Nubian Medical Aesthetics, visit their website here.

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