What Is Liposuction, Anyway?

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Welcome to Lipo 101. 

Let’s talk about one of the most common procedures in the United States, liposuction.

Liposuction treatment has become an increasingly popular cosmetic surgery in the last decade or two. 

You may have a decent idea about what liposuction is, but there are still a lot of myths, misconceptions, and questions out there.

So in this Bustmob Academy series, we’re going to give you everything you need to know before your initial consultation.

What is liposuction, anyway? 

Let’s say you have a solid, consistent gym routine, eat a balanced diet, and still have love handles that seem to stick around no matter what. That’s because, unfortunately, you can’t spot-treat fat.

That’s where the magic of liposuction really shines.

Liposuction is a cosmetic procedure to permanently remove fat cells to add shape and contour to the body, typically under general anesthesia, by a plastic surgeon. 

Dermis before and after liposuction
Dermis before and after liposuction

Some areas like the chin can be done under local anesthesia for in-office liposuction.

chin liposuction before and after photo by board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Rafi Fredman Amelia Aesthetics Saint Louis, MO
Chin liposuction before and after 6 months post-op by board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Rafi Fredman of Amelia Aesthetics St. Louis

Here’s the thing: there are some rules. 

Liposuction is popular not only because you’ll enjoy the results for the rest of your life, or because it’s permanent, but it also adds shape and contour to areas that can’t be addressed with diet and exercise alone.

However, all good things have their limitations and liposuction is no different. Not all areas and fat types are eligible for liposuction.

Before you start making a list head to toe, let’s talk about where and what liposuction can do. 

First up, the type of fat you have matters.

There are two types of fat:

  • Visceral fat 
  • Subcutaneous fat

Visceral fat is the fat stored inside the body around your organs, and can’t be treated with liposuction. If this is any area of concern for you, your surgeon may recommend diet and exercise to help with the amount of fat around your organs. 

The squishy fat deposits on the outside of the body that you can see and touch, and most commonly what people are frustrated by, is subcutaneous fat. This type of fat can be removed with liposuction. 

Areas that work well and areas that don’t.

Though the idea of removing fat from head to toe may sound nice, the truth is there are areas that work really well for liposuction and those that don’t. 

Liposuction is common in:

  • Inner and outer thighs,
  • Under the chin (submental liposuction)
  • Back
  • Bra line
  • Arm
  • Flanks

And of course, lipo in the stomach is an all-time favorite. 

Keep in mind liposuction on thighs is a subtle change and isn’t going to necessarily give you a thigh gap. However, many women find that even the subtle change is more comfortable and flattering. 

Breast augmentation, lift, tummy tuck, outer thigh, and belly liposuction before and after by board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jeremy Pyle of Amelia Aesthetics Raleigh

Areas like ankles, knees, and visceral fat in between the organs are less ideal. 

During your consultation, your board-certified plastic surgeon will tell you the areas that are right for you. 

You can learn more about liposuction treatment areas in the free Bustmob Academy app

Before and after 360 lipo and breast augmentation by board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jeremy Pyle of Amelia Aesthetics Raleigh

You may be wondering how much fat can liposuction remove.

Liposuction doesn’t remove 100% of the fat in an area. The goal is to contour and shape while still keeping things safe. Typically, surgeons remove around 70-80% of the fat in the targeted area.

That being said, there’s a limit of 5L total aspirate without an overnight stay and most cosmetic procedures will be an out-patient procedure. This limit is due to potential fluid shifts in the body. 

Because not everyone has the same amount of fat to remove, your exact amount of fat removed may vary.

Have some questions about your unique surgical plan? Be empowered to have an open conversation with your surgeon during your consultation. 

How much weight can you lose with liposuction?

Liposuction is not a weight loss tool so don’t expect to see a major change in the scale. When we remove those fat cells, we change the shape, not the weight.

Though you do not have to be at your exact goal weight to have liposuction, the closer you are, the happier you typically are with your results.

So how does liposuction work?

Fat cells don’t grow back or move around the body. So when we remove the fat cells and that shape is altered, the shape is forever changed.  

Everyone has a different shape. For example, you may have more ample hips or thighs, likely just like your parents (thanks, genetics). 

When we gain or lose weight, those fat cells don’t multiply or disappear–they grow and shrink in the same area with the same shape. The distribution is the same, the cells are just a different size.

By removing those unwanted fat cells from, say the hips, we change the overall shape and contour of the body.

It’s important to note that remaining fat cells can and will still grow and shrink based on your calorie intake and exercise. 

What is the difference between a tummy tuck and liposuction? 

Liposuction only removes excess fat. A tummy tuck, on the other hand, removes loose skin and repairs separation in the abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) for a tighter, stronger core. 

If you’re concerned with loose, damaged skin around your abdomen, you may be a candidate for a tummy tuck AND liposuction.

At Amelia Aesthetics, liposuction in the stomach and flanks is included with a tummy tuck.

To learn more about the tummy tuck vs. liposuction watch the full series in the free Bustmob Academy app

Different surgeons offer different types of liposuction. 

There are different types of liposuction.

In your research, you may across the following liposuction techniques:

  • Smart liposuction 
  • VASER liposuction
  • Laser-assisted liposuction (LAL)
  • Tickle liposuction
  • Tumescent liposuction

Tumescent, a suction-assisted liposuction method, is the most common type of liposuction. 

The name refers to the tumescent fluid that is injected into the body before the procedure to loosen the fat and decrease blood flow to the area. 

Your surgeon then removes the fat with a thin tube, called a cannula. Or in other words, sucks out the fat using a thin, metal straw. Pretty cool, right? 

Ready to dive deeper into your liposuction research?

We've got some great news for you! The free Bustmob Academy app is packed with tons of awesome videos that make researching liposuction and plastic surgery a breeze. 

From busting myths and answering FAQs to talking about recovery time and costs, Jenny Eden (founder of Bustmob) and Gretta Nance (lead educator at Amelia Aesthetics) break down all the important info into bite-sized, binge-worthy pieces. 

And here's the best part: when you combine the Bustmob Academy app with the endless support from women who get it in the Bustmob Community, you'll be totally empowered and educated before you even step foot in your consultation. 

Ready to learn everything about plastic surgery?

The free Bustmob Academy app is the perfect place to learn everything about the procedure you're considering.

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Jenny Eden
Founder, Bustmob Community
Gretta Nance
Lead Educator, Amelia Aesthetics
Ready to learn everything about plastic surgery?
Download Bustmob Academy