Have you ever curbed your cravings, committed to balanced meals, and devoted yourself to daily workouts, only to not notice a single change in your appearance? Chances are, you have stubborn fat deposits to blame. Often found on the lower abdomen, beneath the armpits, and on the hips, this type of fat can seem nearly impossible to melt away, which can be frustrating if that's been one of the goals of your fitness regime.
Thanks to modern technology, though, you have the option of paying to melt stubborn away. And not just that—you can actually have the fat removed and the underlying muscle toned, too. Such is the mesmerizing allure of liposculpture, the latest minimally invasive cosmetic procedure (and alternative to traditional liposuction) making the rounds. Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about the celebrity-approved treatment.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Thomas Su is the owner and cosmetic surgeon of Artistic Lipo (AKA ArtLipo) in Tampa, Florida.
- Dr. Edward Chamata is a Houston-based plastic surgeon who specializes in a range of advanced aesthetic procedures, including liposculpture, tummy tucks, breast augmentation, face lifts, and more.
- Dr. Ryan Neinstein is a board-certified plastic surgeon and liposuction surgical master at Neinstein Plastic Surgery in New York City.
- Jennifer Izzarelli is a certified aesthetic nurse specialist and board-certified acute care nurse practitioner who specializes in non-surgical and surgical aesthetic treatments, particularly those involving lasers and skincare.
What Is Liposculpture?
Liposculpture sounds an awful lot like liposuction—and for good reason. According to Dr. Thomas Su of Artlipo Plastic Surgery, liposculpture is a form of liposuction that’s performed with a sculpturing mentality. “Liposuction itself is just a procedure that removes fat with a cannula,” he says. “However, the end result is dependent solely on the surgeon performing the procedure and can be a minimal reduction of a bulge or very complete removal of fat, resulting in a huge transformation.” With this in mind, Su says that liposculpture best refers to the latter: “[It's] fat removal that is expertly done and reveals or transforms the body shape and contours in a beautiful way,” he explains.
In that way, Dr. Edward Chamata says that liposculpture is “high-definition liposuction.” “It’s an advanced version of traditional liposuction that not only removes fat, but also sculpts the human body to further define it, creating a more toned and fit appearance,” he explains. “Think of it in the same way as a sculptor working with clay to sculpt a human figure: One of the last steps done when creating such a sculpture is carving the final details once the initial shape has been created. This same process is done with liposculpture by carving out the fat in order to create those final, crucial details. This refines and completes the masterpiece.”
And let it be known: Liposculpture (and liposuction as a whole) is nothing to be ashamed of. Many celebrities, including Cardi B, Chrissy Teigen, Dolly Parton, and Nene Leakes, have all admitted to undergoing the procedure. While you should never compare yourself to a celebrity or feel pressured to get any specific procedure, liposculpture and other fat reduction treatments are valid, popular tools to boost your confidence if you're looking for results that you haven't been getting from your wellness routine.
“One aspect of society [that] is consistent is our constant desire for self-improvement,” says Dr. Ryan Neinstein of Neinstein Plastic Surgery. “Enhancing and improving ourselves helps us live a more fulfilling life. From the boardroom to the bedroom, any type of self-improvement can have a profound effect on our psyche.” And that’s precisely why liposculpture is on the rise. “Traditional liposuction procedures were crude and simply aimed at removing fat,” Neinstein says. “Liposculpture is the modern adaptation in which we are sculpting and tightening bodies, not just simply removing fat—this better reflects the demands of modern-day living.”
Benefits of Liposculpture
While you have a range of surgical and non-surgical options when it comes to fat removal and body sculpting treatments, there are a few reasons that one may choose liposculpture over another method.
- Minimizes and removes fat deposits
- Creates a more toned appearance
- Long-lasting results
By now, you know that liposculpture is essentially the real-life version of Michelangelo's carving. While you might be thinking the procedure is for people who don’t want to do the actual work to naturally tone their bodies, Chamata says that liposculpture is most beneficial for those struggling with stubborn fat deposits.
“Even with a strict diet and exercise regimen, many people struggle with stubborn fat that will not go away,” he says. “Liposculpture... [sculpts] to allow for the natural underlying muscular definition to be visible.” As an example, he says that if you’re unable to achieve ab definition no matter the number of crunches and core exercises you do, liposculpture can help. “With this technique, we can gently define a patient’s ab muscles to simply create a soft ab definition, or we can even take it one step further and create six-pack abs to give an athletic appearance.” Additionally, liposculpture may also involve taking the fat that was removed and moving it to strategic areas if you're looking to bump up your curves.
How to Prepare for Liposculpture Treatment
As with most cosmetic treatments, you’ll need to prepare for your liposculpture treatment ahead of time. “The best way to prepare for this procedure, and really any procedure, is to optimize your body as much as possible in order to optimize wound healing and recovery,” Chamata says. “This involves a healthy, high-protein diet that is void of processed foods and sugars. I always advise my patients to begin a routine exercise regimen if they aren’t already doing so. I have found these recommendations to improve recovery, results, and healing.”
Additionally, Su says to stop smoking and taking aspirin—and Neinstein suggests abstaining from alcohol—for at least two weeks prior to treatment, as these can exacerbate swelling and negative side effects. Beyond that, you’ll want to schedule time off work to recover (more on that below), and potentially arrange for a caregiver the first few days of recovery.
What to Expect During Liposculpture Treatment
Liposculpture is considered to be minimally invasive. Still, not everyone enjoys being awake for the procedure. As such, patients can expect to be awake or under general anesthesia during treatment. If you’re fine with being awake, patients will be given light oral sedation and/or local anesthetic (and may feel slight stinging during the procedure, Su tells us). If you prefer to be less present (read: unconscious) for the procedure, Neinstein says that general and twilight anesthesia are options.
As far as the procedure itself, it typically goes as follows. “During liposculpture, the surgeon will make small entryways (for my practice, these are always in hidden locations),” Chamata says. “Then, a fluid mixture containing epinephrine is injected into the operative area to minimize bleeding. The fat is then liposuctioned with a cannula connected to a vacuum suction. The last step, which differentiates this form of liposuction from traditional liposuction: After most of the fat is suctioned, further sculpting of the muscular anatomy is done with the liposuction by tracing the body’s natural anatomy and ab lines.”
Liposculpture vs. Non-Invasive Targeted Fat Treatments
While liposculpture is considered to only be minimally invasive, there are other fat-molding (and melting) procedures that are fully non-invasive.
“CoolSculpting actually removes fat cells, and CoolTone and Emsculpt tone muscle and strengthen the core,” explains SkinSpirit Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Izzarelli, MSN, CANS, NP. “CoolSculpting takes an area of fat, freezes the fat cells, and then they die. Like liposculpture and liposuction, CoolSculpting is permanent, but the difference is that with Coolsculpting, there is no downtime and no surgery.” As for CoolTone and Emsculpt, which are non-surgical muscle toning treatments, Izzarelli says that they use electromagnetic current to strengthen the core and tone muscles.
While these non-invasive treatments are well-liked by many people around the world, compared to liposculpture, Su says they’re not nearly as effective. “While minimally invasive treatments such as radiofrequency devices and electromagnetic devices may be beneficial to enhancing someone’s appearance by removing the fat and toning muscles, there is truly no comparison to this surgical liposculpture option,” Chamata adds. “Many patients end up spending the same or even more money on these treatments as multiple treatments are required for such devices, and ultimately end up disappointed with the outcomes if they’re expecting surgery-level results.”
Potential Side Effects
Forget about potential: Su says that—no matter what—patients can expect swelling. Other side effects that may arise, though, include bleeding, infection, contour irregularities, scarring, and more. “Fortunately, dangerous complications are rare,” Su reassures us. “Potential side effects commonly seen are lack of visible results when too little fat is removed or having lumpy or poorly shaped areas that occur when a surgeon is not very skilled.” That’s why it’s of paramount importance to only book with highly rated surgeons with clear examples of their work.
Like so many beauty treatments, the cost of liposculpture varies. “It’s dependent on how much is being done, how difficult the areas are, and how skilled and in-demand the surgeon is,” Su says. “To a large degree the saying ‘You get what you pay for’ does apply. Discount services are rarely a bargain because patients are not usually happy and have to have things redone.”
All in all, though, he says that patients can expect to pay between $3,000 to $9,000 per treatment section—as in, each thigh will cost you; it’s not one lump sum treatment cost. Because of this, the overall cost of an all-encompassing liposculpture treatment can really add up. According to Chamata, it can go up to $40,000. “The biggest advice I can give to patients is: Although pricing matters, don’t price shop when it comes to your body and plastic surgery,” he shares. “Many times, bad plastic surgery is irreversible and patients end up paying much more for multiple revisions down the line.”
Since swelling is a given following a liposculpture treatment, patients receive a compressive garment to help keep it at bay in the three months following treatment.
“Post-operative swelling is unavoidable and is most significant during the first six weeks post-op, but typically lasts three months or longer in certain individuals,” Chamata says. “My patients are also advised to receive lymphatic drainage massages, which are specialized massages done by certified lymphatic massage therapists to drain excess fluid built within the body’s tissues in order to decrease swelling and improve the overall contour.”
Although the swelling can take months to settle down, Camata says that most patients can return to work after one to two weeks and return to normal exercise after four.
The best thing about liposculpture is that the results are long-lasting—as in, they can last forever if you treat your body with care. “Liposculpture results can be very lasting but the body can always change depending on how you treat it,” Su explains. “If you maintain your weight, the fat is very unlikely to come back. However, having a large weight gain can cause fat to return to areas where liposuction was done.”
With this in mind, Chamata clarifies that liposculpture is not a one-stop solution for weight gain, a poor diet, or lack of exercise. “Just like in any case, an unhealthy lifestyle will lead to weight gain, which will negatively affect the results, just like with essentially all plastic surgery procedures,” he says.
Who Should Get Liposculpture?
Liposculpture is meant to target and tone stubborn fat areas that are largely immune to diet and exercise. “Patients with moderate bulges or fat accumulation are the best candidates because they will have a noticeable change and have less chance of loose skin,” Su says. “Patients with excessively large deposits of fat will often be very difficult for a surgeon to give a significant improvement and if there is a big change, then there is also a high likelihood of having noticeably loose skin as a tradeoff.”
The Final Takeaway
Liposculpture can be hugely beneficial for folks with stubborn fat deposits looking to achieve a noticeably more toned appearance. That said, the results aren’t instantaneous—nor do they come cheap. It will cost thousands of dollars and months of recovery to uncover your results, and even once that time is up, there’s always the chance that the final product won’t be as stellar as you may have pictured. With that in mind, if you've decided you want to give this trendy treatment a try, make sure to choose a surgeon with a history of highly toned post-op patients so you can get a true sense of what to expect.