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Does non-surgical liposuction work?

5 min read
Cosmetic surgery

After completing countless toning body flow yoga sessions in an attempt to shape your body, you might be looking to turn to cosmetic surgery to help reach your desired look. Liposuction is commonly used to alter the shape of certain areas of the body by removing fat. Common areas that are treated include the thighs, abdomen, buttocks, arms and the neck area. This procedure is more so recommended for those who have already tried to achieve a certain body shape through maintaining a healthy diet, participating in regular exercise and that are in good general health. This is not a method suggested as a way to lose weight. Stick to a healthy diet and your pilates reformer exercises for weight loss.

However, for some, going under the knife can be scary, expensive, and invasive. Recent technological advancements have given rise to the newest form of non-surgical liposuction, known as ‘Coolshape’ or ‘Coolsculpt’ procedures. During this treatment, a gel pad is placed on the targeted area of the patient and a vacuum-headpiece is attached for approximately one hour. Patients can pass the time by reading magazines, scrolling through their social media or listening to music. Liposuction was first established in 1982 by French surgeon Dr. Yves-Gerard Illouz. Figures show that on average, 258,558 liposuction procedures took place in 2019, whilst approximately 182,750 Coolsculpt or Coolshape procedures were performed.

An additional non-surgical answer to liposuction is the option of ‘Fat-dissolving injections’. This procedure aims to eliminate any fat that just won’t budge. These injections target stubborn, small fat pockets for a more contoured shape. A series of small injections into the unwanted fat pockets causes fat cells to rupture. This then naturally encourages break down through your metabolism. Results are not immediate and will show improvement around the four-week mark.


Both surgical and non-surgical liposuction is considered a ‘Cosmetic procedure’. Therefore it is unlikely to be covered by insurance and will require out of pocket payment. The average cost for liposuction in 2018 was between $3,500-$4,000. This is because liposuction is a surgical procedure and therefore requires an anaesthetist. Other fees such as admin costs, follow up appointments and hospital facility fees will also apply. Depending on the size of the problem area, as well as the difficulty of the procedure, prices can vary significantly. For example, full-body liposuction will be more expensive than the cost of man boobs surgery. On the other hand, CoolSculpting ranges between $2,000 and $4,000. Fat-dissolving injections are $600 per vial. Both treatments vary in price depending on the size of the area to be treated.

Pain level and Risks

As liposuction must be performed under anaesthesia, no pain will be felt during the surgery. Post-procedure, once pain killers begin to wear off and you are forced to move around, following 24-48 hours spent in the hospital, the pain will be significant. The pain is commonly compared to that of sunburn or muscle soreness. Bruising will be apparent, and movement will be restricted. You will be wearing your oversized basketball hoodies and track pants for at least four to six weeks as you recover. The discomfort felt from a CoolSculpting treatment is primarily experienced during the procedure itself. Post-procedure, it is possible to feel some pain from the numbness caused by the cooling sensations of the freezer applicator. This is compared to a stinging or burning sensation. Bruising, swelling, and redness are seen for approximately one to two weeks. Fat-dissolving injections sound a lot worse than what they are and typically only cause a stinging, itching like pain for a few seconds. A topical numbing agent can also be used to minimise discomfort.


Liposuction is fairly invasive and is considered a higher risk procedure. Although very safe if done correctly and by a reputable surgeon, results may vary from patient to patient. Being aware of all the potential risks and side effects involved is important. Extensive research should be done prior to making your decision. Side effects can include contour irregularities, whereby skin may appear bumpy or wavy due to uneven fat removal, permanent numbness and infection. Less common risks include internal puncture, and in rare cases kidney or heart problems. Through non-surgical liposuction alternatives, such as CoolSculpting, side effects, and risk are still involved but are less serious. Side effects may include a tugging sensation, skin sensitivity, and aching pains. Fat-dissolving injection risks are minimal and are very rare. Excessive temporary warmth to the area that has been injected will not last longer than three to five days.


In terms of achieving immediate results, in the space of one session, liposuction is the most effective form of body contouring and shaping. You are able to see results instantly. If you are after something with immediate rewards, this option may be for you. Liposuction procedures use a cannula and aspirator, which in essence is a suction device to remove stubborn fat. It is important to remember that liposuction permanently removes fat cells from the body, however, if the patient neglects their health and chooses to live an unhealthy lifestyle post-procedure, fat can come back in the areas that were initially treated. CoolSculpting similarly destroys existing fat cells. Once the fat cells die, they are gone for good, which means this method is permanent. Like liposuction, a healthy lifestyle must be maintained post-procedure. Fat-dissolving injections work in the same way, however, target more concentrated areas of stubborn fat pockets that just won’t budge.

Is it worth it?

Surgical liposuction will result in the permanent removal of fat cells and an overall contoured appearance. The surgery does not guarantee permanent weight stability over time, however. The longevity of results will ultimately be reflective of how unhealthy or healthy a patient’s lifestyle is. It is entirely possible for patients to gain or lose weight post liposuction surgery. So, while patients may enjoy the results of their liposuction procedure, it is a mistake to consider it as a substitute for exercise or healthy eating. By taking care of your health, you will ensure your liposuction results last a lifetime. Non-surgical liposuction, although a much simpler choice, has its downsides. Generally speaking, if there are larger areas that need treating, dramatic results may not occur, even after multiple sessions. For smaller areas, however, results are generally seen fairly quickly.

In hindsight, it is important to remember that liposuction only treats your internal fat deposits and therefore will not eliminate any skin related issues or cellulite. Additionally, patients may want extra procedures such as a breast reduction or fat transfer to other areas of the body. All individuals must carry out research to weigh up the risk and benefits. From this, an informed decision about undertaking cosmetic procedures can be made.