CoolSculpting vs. Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck: The Bare Facts

The three most popular ways of getting rid of fat are also very different from each other. No procedure is one-size-fits-all, and so Dr. Reynolds wants to offer you this guide to finding the right weight loss procedure for you.


CoolSculpting is a fat-removing procedure that uses a freezing technique to cause the disruption of the fat cells (cell death) containing fat.  The dead cells release the fat within the cells and the fat is reabsorbed naturally in the body. It is non-invasive.  A session takes about an hour. The results are seen weeks after the procedure. This has great appeal to many people because there is little to no downtime. The redness, bruising, and numbness after the procedure will resolve with time. The amount of time for resolution of the bruising or redness will depend upon the amount of bruising or redness that occurs. This is not predictable.

Patients report that they can go to work the same day.  The treatment areas are usually smaller than areas that can be treated with liposuction.  Also, the treatment areas require different attachments for the cooling machine.  Treating multiple areas at the same time would create multiple areas with redness, bruising, and numbness and is not usually recommended.  This may be an advantage in that if the area of the abdomen did not respond well or to expectations of the patient, then further treatment in the “love handles”, or medial thighs or lateral torso can be avoided. One session takes about an hour.

Another commonly reported side effect is skin dimpling. CoolSculpting works by affecting the lowest layer of fat in your skin. Since the CoolSculpting device can only be administered to a broad area, there can be inconsistencies in the removal of fat, leading to valleys, or dimples, in the skin. Skin dimpling is not easily corrected.

The treatment areas are usually smaller than areas that can be treated with liposuction. The number and size of these areas will be determined during a conversation with Dr. Reynolds.



Liposuction removes fat cells using a vacuum to suck out fat cells from underneath the skin. Most liposuctions are performed in an operating room through small incisions, although small areas can be treated with local anesthetic in an office setting but this is rare. Multiple areas of the body can be treated in one session, and minor bruising and numbness are normal and short-lasting.

Experienced surgeons have control over the areas of fat targeted, leading to consistent results on only the areas you want to treat. The recovery time for liposuction is minimal, as most patients can return to their daily activities the same day as a treatment.


Tummy Tuck 

A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is used for large areas, to tighten muscles of the abdomen and remove excess skin. One step in the procedure is the defatting of the skin that remains after the excess skin is removed. This is called defatting of the skin flap.  The fat is removed under direct vision by the surgeon in an operating room under a general anesthetic. Both Liposuction and CoolSculpting do not remove fat under direct vision. This is one of the advantages of a tummy tuck.

Tummy tucks are especially effective for tightening skin (and muscles) after natural life events such as pregnancy or major weight loss. This procedure is most popular for mothers who are finished having children and want to get rid of the loose skin caused by pregnancy.


Which procedure is right for me?

A patient with a small area of fat under the belly button could be treated with CoolSculpting or liposuction.

A patient with multiple pockets of fat on the abdomen, under the “love handles”, on the hips, inner thighs, and inner knees could be treated with CoolSculpting, but it involves multiple sessions over a period of months. With liposuction, all of these areas could be treated in one session with fewer side effects and downtime.

However, a patient with the same abdominal fat and excessive amounts of skin and weak abdominal muscles or a hernia will benefit most from a tummy tuck. A tummy tuck tightens the muscles that can be loosened by pregnancy or massive weight loss.

As a board member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Dr. Reynolds will offer you his medical advice to find the best treatment for you. Call us at 417-823-9777 or schedule your consultation online now.