CoolSculpting and liposuction are medical procedures that permanently remove fat cells. Although these two procedures are similar, they have some key differences.

CoolSculpting is best used to remove small amounts of fat for mild to moderate results. Liposuction is generally used to remove larger amounts of fat tissue, but it’s a more invasive procedure with more potential complications.

Let’s break down how CoolSculpting and liposuction compare, including typical prices, effectiveness, and potential side effects.

The procedureIt’s a kind of cryolipolysis, a technique that involves freezing fat cells.A series of small incisions are made around the treatment area. A thin tube is used to loosen fat cells so they can be vacuumed out.
SafetyCoolSculpting is a noninvasive procedure. Side effects are usually minor.Liposuction is an invasive surgery that may require anesthesia.
Effectiveness and resultsLess dramatic results. According to the CoolSculpting website, it can eliminate up to 20 to 25 percent of fat cells in a certain area.More dramatic results. It can remove up to 5 to 8 liters of body fat.
Side effectsSide effects can include short-term bruising or skin sensitivity that usually resolves within weeks.Side effects can include anesthesia reactions, blood clots, and other potentially serious complications.
Recovery timeThere’s usually little to no recovery period.Recovery takes about 3 to 5 days with lingering effects for weeks.
Time to see full resultsTypically, after a few weeks.Up to a few months.
CostBetween about $2,000 and $4,000.In 2020, the average cost was $3,637.
Number of treatments neededTypically, a few 1-hour sessions.One procedure.
People and areas not suited to treatmentPeople with cold-induced conditions such as cryoglobulinemia and areas with varicose veins, dermatitis, or open sores.Pregnant people and people with heart problems or blood clotting disorders.

Here’s a look at how the CoolSculpting and liposuction procedures compare.

CoolSculpting procedure

CoolSculpting is a noninvasive medical procedure that’s also known as cryolipolysis. It helps remove extra fat cells from underneath your skin without surgery.

During a CoolSculpting session, a plastic surgeon or other provider trained in CoolSculpting uses a special tool that clamps down on and cools a roll of fat to freezing temperature.

In the weeks after the treatment, your body naturally eliminates the frozen, dead fat cells through your liver. You should begin to see results within a few weeks of your treatment, and final results after a few months.

CoolSculpting is a nonsurgical procedure. That means there’s no cutting, stitching, anesthetizing, or recovery time necessary.

Liposuction procedure

Liposuction, on the other hand, is an invasive surgical procedure that involves cutting, stitching, and anesthetizing. The surgical team may use local anesthesia such as lidocaine, or they may sedate you with general anesthesia.

A plastic surgeon makes small incisions with a scalpel around the areas being treated. They then use a long, narrow tool called a cannula to loosen fat cells. A vacuum attached to the cannula sucks the dislodged fat cells out of your body.


No recovery time is necessary for CoolSculpting. One session takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Some people only receive one treatment, but your provider may recommend having a few sessions spread out over several weeks to achieve the best results. You should start to see initial results a few weeks after your first session.

Most people see the full results of CoolSculpting about 3 months after their last procedure.


Most people only need one liposuction procedure to see results. According to a 2020 review, the surgery takes 3 to 4 hours, depending on the size of the treated area. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says that it’s usually done as an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home on the day of your surgery.

You may need to stay in the hospital overnight for observation if you have a significant amount of fat removed.

Liposuction recovery usually only takes a few days. Always follow your surgeon’s recommendations for recovery, which may include wearing a special bandage or limiting activities.

You may need to wait 2 to 4 weeks before you can safely resume strenuous activity. It may take several months for swelling to go down and the full results to be visible.

CoolSculpting should cause minimal pain. Some people describe feelings of mild tugging, aching, or stinging. After the procedure, the person performing the procedure will massage the treated area to help break up frozen tissue. Some people find this massage causes a small amount of pain.

You’ll receive anesthesia when undergoing liposuction, so you shouldn’t feel pain during the surgery. You’ll likely have moderate pain for about 3 days after the procedure. The amount of pain varies from person to person, but it shouldn’t be excruciating. Your doctor will give you pain medications to help reduce your discomfort.

Soreness around the treated area should go away completely around 4 weeks after the procedure.

The results of CoolSculpting and liposuction are very similar. Both procedures are used to permanently remove excess fat from specific body parts, such as the:

  • belly
  • thighs
  • arms
  • chin

However, neither procedure is intended for weight loss. Also, neither procedure can improve the appearance of cellulite or loose skin.


A 2018 study found an average 21.6 percent decrease in fat layer thickness 30 days after CoolSculpting treatment among a group of 21 people. However, the authors of the study suggested in their conclusion that larger studies should be performed to confirm these results.


During the first few weeks after surgery, people who’ve had liposuction will experience swelling. This means that results aren’t immediately apparent, but you can generally see the final results within 1 to 3 months after your surgery.

A 2020 study found a high level of satisfaction among a group of 32 people who received liposuction between 2002 and 2014. A total of 85.7 percent of the people in the study said they would recommend liposuction to a friend or family member when asked at a follow-up that took place an average of 8.9 years after their procedure. For this study, 600 people were invited to take part; the remaining people did not reply.

Both CoolSculpting and liposuction are cosmetic procedures. This means your insurance plan is unlikely to cover them, so you’ll likely have to pay out of pocket.

CoolSculpting cost

The cost of CoolSculpting varies based on which and how many body parts you choose to have treated. Usually, it costs between $2,000 and $4,000.

Liposuction cost

Because it’s a surgical procedure, liposuction can sometimes be a little more expensive than CoolSculpting. But, as with CoolSculpting, the cost of liposuction varies depending on which part or parts of your body you choose to have treated. The average cost for a liposuction procedure in 2020 was $3,637.

Who is CoolSculpting right for?

CoolSculpting is safe for most people. However, the procedure can potentially trigger serious complications in certain people, such as those with the following blood disorders:

CoolSculpting also shouldn’t be performed on patches of skin that have varicose veins, dermatitis, or open sores.

Who is liposuction right for?

People with heart problems or blood clotting disorders and pregnant people should avoid liposuction because it could cause serious complications.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the ideal candidate:

  • is an adult within 30 percent of their ideal weight with good muscle tone and firm, elastic skin
  • doesn’t have a serious condition that impairs wound healing
  • doesn’t smoke cigarettes
  • has a positive outlook and specific goals for body contouring

CoolSculpting side effects

Because CoolSculpting is a nonsurgical procedure, it comes with no surgical risks. However, the procedure does have some side effects to consider.

Common side effects may include:

  • a tugging sensation at the procedure site
  • aching, pain, or stinging
  • temporary bruising, redness, skin sensitivity, and swelling

Rare side effects may include paradoxical adipose hyperplasia. This is a rare condition that causes fat cells to expand rather than be eliminated as a result of treatment. It’s more common in men than women and can usually be treated with liposuction.

Liposuction side effects

Liposuction is riskier than CoolSculpting because it’s a surgical procedure. Common side effects associated with surgery include:

  • irregularities in skin shape, such as lumps or divots
  • skin discoloration
  • accumulation of fluid that may need to be drained
  • temporary or permanent numbness
  • skin infection
  • internal puncture wounds

Rare but serious side effects may include:

  • fat embolism, a medical emergency that releases a clot of fat into your bloodstream, lungs, or brain
  • kidney or heart problems caused by changes in body fluid levels during the procedure
  • complications related to anesthesia, if it’s administered

CoolSculpting and liposuction are two surgical techniques used to permanently remove fat cells from targeted parts of your body.

CoolSculpting is a less invasive procedure with a quicker recovery time and a lower risk of complications, but its results aren’t generally as dramatic. Liposuction can remove a greater amount of fat, but it is a more invasive procedure that comes with a longer recovery time and more potential complications.

Neither treatment is meant to be a replacement for good lifestyle habits like eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. You can meet with a board certified plastic surgeon to see if you make a good candidate.