CoolSculpting vs Liposuction

CoolSculpting vs Liposuction – What’s the Difference?

With so many new devices on the market in aesthetic body contouring, it can be challenging for a potential patient to try to sort it all out! One of the most common questions I get asked by patients interested in body contouring is whether they should get CoolSculpting vs liposuction.  Both procedures are designed to reduce unwanted excess body fat, so to begin, let’s start by explaining how each procedure works.


Liposuction is a surgical fat removal procedure that was first performed in the 1920s. Throughout the years, the technique developed further and became increasingly popular. Today, there are several types of liposuction: Suction-assisted liposuction (SAL), Power-assisted liposuction (PAL), Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL), Laser liposuction, and Radiofrequency liposuction. All of these forms of liposuction involve tumescent, a fluid mixture of saline, lidocaine (for pain control), and epinephrine (to decrease the risk of bleeding) that is first injected into the areas of fat to be removed. While I could write an entire blog post on the different types of liposuction, the bottom line is that they are all effective when performed by a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon who is proficient with the procedure.  It is a predictable, reliable, and consistent procedure in that we can see the fat we are removing, and have control over how much fat we are able to take out and the shape we can create.coolsculpting-vs-liposuciton-patient-female

Liposuction is a surgical procedure that can be performed under general anesthesia, IV sedation, or local anesthesia. The incisions are small, less than 3 mm, and therefore scarring is minimal. Down-time after liposuction is also minimal, and my patients generally return to work within 3 days. Patients can resume full physical activity within 3 weeks of the surgery. Swelling after liposuction is expected, and resolves over approximately 1-2 months.  Patients often ask if the fat that was removed can come back, and the answer is: no! Once the fat is removed, it cannot return, nor does it go to other areas of the body. The other areas of the body that were not treated still have the same number of fat cells so if a patient gains weight, those areas will show the weight gain more than the areas that now have less fat cells.


CoolSculpting is a nonsurgical technology that was approved by the FDA in 2010 and works by a process called cryolipolysis.  A roll of fat is placed into two panels that cool the fat to a freezing temperature. The dead fat cells are then removed naturally by the body over the next several weeks. CoolSculpting can reduce the fat in a treated area by up to 25%. The procedure takes approximately one hour to treat each targeted body part, and larger body areas require more treatment sessions to achieve a desired result.

Both liposuction and CoolSculpting are intended for body contouring, not for weight loss, and both result in a permanent removal of fat.

CoolSculpting vs Liposuction – Which is better for body contouring?

As I frequently tell patients, liposuction is the 2nd most common cosmetic procedure performed in the United States and if all the nonsurgical devices like CoolSculpting were truly as effective as liposuction, plastic surgeons wouldn’t be doing so much liposuction!  The benefits of liposuction are that it allows for a predictable, reliable, and controlled removal of fat in one session. Much more fat can be removed overall, and fat can be removed from several parts of the body during one surgery. One of the main benefits of CoolSculpting, on the other hand, is that it is a good option for patients who do not want to undergo a surgical procedure, and who do not want any down-time. It is also a good option for patients who may have a small stubborn area of fat, or who had liposuction and have a small pocket of fat that needs further treatment.

Overall, the decision between CoolSculpting vs liposuction depends on your aesthetic goals, the areas you want treated, your level of comfort with surgical vs nonsurgical procedures, and how aggressive you want to be in removing the fat. If you truly want to avoid surgery and understand that you will only have up to a 25% reduction of fat and may require more than one treatment session, then CoolSculpting may be a good option for you. If your goal is to get as much of an improvement as possible with fat reduction and only want to undergo one treatment, then a liposuction surgery would be the optimal procedure.

Interested in CoolSculpting or Liposuction?

To learn more and find out which treatment would be the best to achieve your goals, schedule a consultation with Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Umbareen Mahmood in Union Square, NYC. You can contact us online or call 917.426.2936.

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