CoolSculpting and Liposuction both slim and re-contour the body, but the techniques and results are strikingly different. Despite exercise and a healthy diet, many people discover that certain areas of the body are resistant to change.

Some who can’t achieve their physical goals by themselves turn to surgical and non-surgical procedures, and although liposuction remains the top choice to eliminate unwanted fat, CoolSculpting continues to gain popularity.

They both sound appealing, but which is better? Which procedure is right for you? It all depends on the individual and their physical goals. Each procedure has its advantages and disadvantages. CoolSculpting and liposuction are the most effective treatments when it comes to improving body contour and eliminating or reducing unwanted fat.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (2017), Liposuction (304,850) is the second most popular surgical procedure performed, while non-surgical fat reduction (180,833) is the third most popular non-surgical procedure performed in the U.S.

Which Procedure is Right for Me—Liposuction or CoolSculpting?


Liposuction is a surgical approach in body contouring and removing unwanted fat. It is also known as lipo, liposculpture or lipoplasty. (Learn more in Liposuction Vs. Smart Liposuction: What's the Difference?) During surgery, the surgeon creates one or more small incisions in the targeted areas. Afterwards, a fluid (such as tumescent) is injected by the surgeon to loosen the fat and assist in smoother contours.

Then a suction tool, known as a cannula is inserted through the incision(s) to remove the fat deposits. The fat then travels down a tube from the body into a canister. The surgeon then shapes and sculpts by moving the cannula through out the fatty areas from each of the incisions.

Progress is taken into account and observed throughout the surgery by looking, feeling, pinching and measuring the amount of fat removed. Liposuction effectively treats several different regions of the body, such as the abdomen, waist, back, hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, upper arms, chin and neck.

Depending on the number of areas treated and the amount of fat removed, liposuction can be performed under local, sedation/twilight or general anesthesia. Regarding recovery time, it can be relatively quick, depending on the amount of fat removed and how many areas are treated.

After surgery, it usually takes about a week for patients to return to work and resume normal activity. It's common to experience some swelling, bruising and numbness, which will heal over the weeks/months following the procedure. Within days after surgery, patients usually notice an immediate reduction in the areas treated and improved contour, but in regards to final official results, it may take a few to several months. (Read Your Guide to Liposuction Recovery.)


CoolSculpting is a non-surgical treatment for fat reduction that uses cryolipolysis technology to selectively freeze unwanted fat cells. The device delivers controlled cooling at the skin’s surface, while exposing the fat cells to a dramatically low temperature. It causes crystallization and subsequent cell death to the targeted areas.

Generally, patients need to undergo a few treatments on the same area(s) to get noticeable results. CoolSculpting has a super quick recovery with minimal discomfort and a lower risk of complications. Patients can usually return to normal activity right after the procedure, but some may experience redness, minimal bruising, discomfort, numbness and tingling.

The results are not immediately noticeable. It takes about three weeks for patients to see changes in the areas treated, and a few months to see the most dramatic results. This is because your body will continue to process the targeted fat cells months after the procedure. CoolSculpting is used on regions, such as the abdomen, thighs, flanks and chin area.

Now That I Have the Facts, Which Procedure Should I Choose?

Liposuction is best when looking to get definite shape and reduction, more specifically in treating excess fat throughout a larger region of the body. This is also a wonderful option if you desire a more dramatic change in body contour! It's more aggressive and can be performed in combination with other procedures for those looking into extensive body contour and reshaping. CoolSculpting is a subtle option that's designed to target more specific areas of fat.

This may be an appropriate treatment if you are leaning towards the non-surgical method to reduce fat in areas such as the love handles and outer thighs. Multiple treatments are usually needed for the best results, which generally show mild to moderate improvement.

What Else Should I Know?

The advantages of liposuction is complete fat reduction, major body contouring, immediate results and the ability to combine treatments and procedures. The disadvantages of Liposuction include the surgical risks and irregularities, and recovery and activity restrictions for a few to several weeks.

The advantages of of CoolSculpting is it is non-invasive, there’s no to minimal downtime, and there are fewer risks. The disadvantages include less dramatic results compared to liposuction, skin irregularities, areas of treatment are limited, and the fat must fit into a specific-sized CoolSculpting cup.

In order to be a good candidate for CoolSculpting, patients should be in good, physical health, display concentrated areas of fat, minimal looseness of skin elasticity and realistic expectations. Keep in mind that this treatment is not designed for weight loss and results into mild to moderate improvements. In regards to liposuction, a good candidate for this procedure should be in good, overall health and displays excess fat.

Like CoolSculpting, candidates should have minimal looseness of skin elasticity and realistic expectations. If patients are involved in the usage of tobacco and nicotine products, it's important for them to quit several weeks before and after surgery. Furthermore, these procedures aren't proper treatment alternatives for weight loss, obesity, diet and exercise.

Overall, the right procedure options should match up with your cosmetic goals and desires. The first steps in determining which treatment is right for you is going in for a consultation and speaking with a board certified plastic surgeon that specializes in body contouring.

Both procedures are limited when it comes to loose skin and unwanted stretch marks in the arms and stomach area. This is usually treated in combination with abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) or brachioplasty (arm lift).