How to Choose Between Liposuction and Noninvasive Fat Reduction Procedures

Woman Enjoys Results from Liposuction and Non Surgical Fat Reduction procedures from American Board of Cosmetic Surgery certified surgeons

Areas of unwanted, diet- and exercise-resistant fat are a common concern for many cosmetic surgery patients. Whether it comes in the form of a persistent stomach “pooch” after pregnancy, areas of fat around the thighs that won’t budge, or bulges along the flanks and back, localized fat can be difficult to get rid of permanently.

Liposuction has been one of the most popular and top performed cosmetic procedures for many years, and with good reason. This surgical procedure safely, effectively, and permanently reduces fat and refines the body’s contours.

In recent years, nonsurgical or minimally invasive alternatives to liposuction have been gaining popularity. These body contouring treatments typically do not require an incision or anesthesia, and they often come with less downtime.

Read on to learn the difference between the two fat reduction approaches and discover which one might be right for you.

What is Liposuction?

Liposuction is a surgical fat removal procedure that first became popular in the 1980s. During the procedure, a board certified cosmetic surgeon carefully and precisely removes excess fat through a small, hollow tube called a cannula. Suction is applied as the surgeon moves the cannula through the fat deposit, removing excess fat cells and sculpting a slimmer body contour.

Liposuction is particularly effective at removing fat in the legs, abdomen, back, arms, face, and neck. It provides more dramatic results than other noninvasive fat reduction procedures, however, it has a longer recovery period (up to six weeks) and typically costs more than its nonsurgical counterparts.

How do CoolSculpting®, BodyTite, and Other Nonsurgical Procedures Work?

Nonsurgical fat reduction treatments use different modalities to target and eliminate unwanted fat cells through a topical, rather than surgical, procedure. Popular nonsurgical body contouring treatments include:


CoolSculpting by Allergan is a good match for people who are close to their target weight, but want to reduce small, localized trouble spots on the hips, abdomen, or thighs. This treatment uses a specialized cryolipolysis device to cool unwanted fat cells to the point of death without affecting surrounding tissues. Once the fat cells die, they are flushed from the body during the days and

weeks following the procedure. The final result is seen after three months.


truSculpt by Cutera is a similar treatment that utilizes controlled radiofrequency technology to eliminate fat cells on the hips, thighs, buttocks, and abdomen. Treatment typically lasts around an hour, and most patients require one to two treatments to see noticeable results.


BodyTite by inMode is a minimally invasive procedure that tightens skin and reduces unwanted fat deposits by using radiofrequency energy. Here’s how it works: while an internal probe delivers thermal energy to help melt fat and strengthen collagen bands below the skin’s surface, an external applicator delivers radiofrequency energy to the skin for additional tightening. BodyTite is considered minimally invasive because a small incision must be made in order for your surgeon to insert the internal applicator probe; however, it is a less invasive

procedure than liposuction. BodyTite is a great option for those who have small to moderate amounts of excess fat and loose skin and want to avoid the extensive downtime that comes with surgery. Most patients report seeing results in just a few days, with final results beginning to appear after 2 to 3 weeks. Because BodyTite promotes collagen production in the skin, patients can expect to see continued skin tightening in the months following their procedure.


SmartLipo by Cynosure, also known as “laser liposuction,” uses triple wavelength laser technology to shed unwanted fat around the muscles and tighten loose, sagging skin without surgery. SmartLipo’s laser goes to work dissolving body and/or facial fat, which your body then naturally processes and excretes. A very small tube is inserted into the treatment area to remove any excess liquid that may accumulate during the procedure. Because of the small tube used, SmartLipo is ideal for areas of the face that traditional liposuction can’t adequately address, such as the jowls, chin, jaw, and neck. SmartLipo is also ideal for contouring areas of the body that hold on to stubborn fat, such as the abs, back, flanks, thighs, buttocks, and upper arms. Since SmartLipo is less invasive than liposuction, there is less damage to surrounding tissues at the treatment sites. Results from SmartLipo treatment can be seen immediately, and the procedure requires little downtime.


SculpSure by Cynosure is non-invasive laser body contouring to remove unwanted fat beneath the chin (submental fat), love handles, back, stomach, and inner & outer thighs. Similar to CoolSculpting and truSculpt, SculpSure is ideal for patients who are close to their target weight but want to reduce stubborn, exercise- and diet-resistant fat pockets. Unlike CoolSculpting, which freezes fat cells, SculpSure destroys fat cells through heat (a process known as apoptosis). Studies have shown that SculpSure is effective at permanently removing up to 24% of fat cells in a treated area. Most patients benefit from a series of 25-minute treatments.

Liposuction vs. Nonsurgical Fat Reduction

There are advantages and disadvantages to both liposuction and nonsurgical body contouring.


Liposuction is a more aggressive method of fat reduction and creates a trauma in the treatment area. Patients will experience soreness, bruising, and swelling for up to 10 days after the procedure. CoolSculpting, truSculpt, and SculpSure treatments are typically gentle with minimal discomfort, both during and after treatment.


Liposuction results are visible after the swelling goes down and the treated area heals, although the final result is not seen for 6 months. It takes longer to see results from CoolSculpting and other noninvasive fat reduction treatments, which become increasingly noticeable in the weeks and months following the procedure. While neither liposuction nor nonsurgical body contouring treatments are a replacement for weight loss, liposuction does offer more dramatic and longer-lasting results, in addition to some skin shrinkage.


The healing process after liposuction requires patients to restrict everyday activities for several days after the procedure and to use caution when restarting exercise. CoolSculpting, truSculpt, and SculpSure do not require an extended healing period and patients can return to normal activities immediately, though slight soreness and swelling are to be expected. Though your results will be less noticeable with nonsurgical fat reduction, you will be able to return to work and get back to your life much sooner.

Is Liposuction or Nonsurgical Body Contouring Right for Me?

Liposuction may be an excellent option for reducing larger deposits of excess fat. It can significantly improve your figure in several areas at once. Some negatives include a higher cost and greater risk for health complications than noninvasive techniques.

Nonsurgical fat reduction may be a better fit if you are already at your ideal weight, have good skin elasticity, and want to target smaller, stubborn trouble spots. However, the results will not be as dramatic and multiple treatments may be necessary.

Scheduling Your Liposuction or Nonsurgical Fat Removal Consultation

The best way to make a choice between liposuction, CoolSculpting, truSculpt, BodyTite, and other non-invasive forms of fat reduction is to seek the advice of a board certified cosmetic surgeon. They can walk you through your options during a personalized cosmetic surgery consultation and help you determine which might be the best fit for you. Use our Find a Surgeon tool to help discovered board certified cosmetic surgeons in your area.