Several months after revealing she'd been left "permanently deformed" by a fat-freezing procedure called CoolSculpting, model Linda Evangelista is opening up further about the physical and emotional pain she's endured since her initial session back in August 2015. In a new interview with People, Evangelista is sharing photos of the rare — but serious — side effect she says she experienced as a direct result of CoolSculpting, stating that she can no longer live in "hiding and shame" after five years of retreating from the public eye.
While minimally-invasive, "lunch break" cosmetic treatments have been on the rise, no doubt in large part due to social media and decreased stigma surrounding treatments in recent years, they aren't without risk, as Evangelista is now highlighting. Along with sharing photos of her affected areas, the model is revealing exactly what happened after a series of seven CoolSculpting sessions from her dermatologist between August 2015 and February 2016.
Within three months of her treatments, Evangelista says she noticed bulges at her chin, thighs, and bra area that began to harden and numb completely, reports People. She stopped eating and increased exercising, believing she "was doing something wrong" and gaining weight instead of losing it. In June 2016 and receiving a diagnosis of a rare condition called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), according to the story.
When PAH occurs, the fat cells frozen during the treatment actually grow bigger instead of shrinking. Essentially, CoolSculpting and similar procedures work by freezing and shrinking the fat cells in adipose tissue (fatty tissue). But in rare cases, like Evangelista's, the opposite can occur, causing the treated fatty tissue to thicken, expand, and harden. Since the first documented case of PAH in 2014, researchers have estimated that as many as one in 138 patients may experience this post-treatment outcome. (Related: Can We Please Stop Talking About "Belly Fat"?)
Studies have shown that liposuction surgery can sometimes help minimize the effects, but in Evangelista's case, two subsequent corrective full-body liposuction surgeries and an intense recovery process did not help, according to the People story. She now lives with "hard protrusions" on various parts of her body. "If I walk without a girdle in a dress, I will have chafing to the point of almost bleeding. Because it's not like soft fat rubbing, it's like hard fat rubbing," she says in the interview.
Evangelista first opened up about her experience on Instagram last September, sharing that she'd been "brutally disfigured by Zeltiq's CoolSculpting procedure which did the opposite of what it promised." She continued, "It increased, not decreased, my fat cells and left me permanently deformed even after undergoing two painful, unsuccessful, corrective surgeries. I have been left, as the media has described, 'unrecognizable.'" (Related: Linda Evangelista Says CoolSculpting Left Her 'Permanently Deformed')
You've probably heard about the buzzy procedure, which is a non-invasive form of fat-reduction known as cryolipolysis that became the first FDA-cleared treatment of this kind in 2010. It's worth noting that FDA-cleared is not the same as FDA-approved. Something that's FDA-cleared has been proven to be "substantially equivalent" to an already cleared or approved product on the market, while FDA-approved means that the agency has determined that the "benefits of the product outweigh the known risks for the intended use." (Related: Does CoolSculpting Really Work — And Is It Worth It?)
Her decades-long modeling career has been sidelined due to the effects of the CoolSculpting, and she's now suing parent brand Zeltiq for damages due to her experiences. As for why she's speaking out now, "I can't live like this anymore, in hiding and shame," she tells People. "I just couldn't live in this pain any longer." Shape reached out to CoolSculpting for comment but did not hear back by the time of publishing.
Though Evangelista no longer looks in the mirror she hopes "I can shed myself of some of the shame and help other people who are in the same situation as me," she tells the magazine. She continues, "Why do we feel the need to do these things [to our bodies]? I always knew I would age. And I know that there are things a body goes through. But I just didn't think I would look like this."