A “thigh gap” refers to a noticeable space between your inner thighs when you’re standing with your knees together. It’s natural to not have a thigh gap, but sometimes it’s achievable with a healthy diet and exercise.

The thigh gap has been notable for its recent internet craze, but surgical procedures to help people remove unwanted fat between the thighs aren’t new. While there’s no medical benefit to having a thigh gap, you may be interested in creating one to help you feel better in certain clothes.

If you’re considering in-office procedures to help you achieve a thigh gap, there are three treatments you may discuss with a cosmetic surgeon: liposuction, CoolSculpting, or a thigh lift. Learn more about each procedure, and other important considerations, below.

Liposuction is a common targeted cosmetic surgery that works by removing excess fat cells from the desired area of your body. It’s also considered one of the most ideal procedures to help create permanent changes to your shape.

This isn’t a weight loss procedure. Instead, liposuction aims to help people achieve desired contours and improved proportions. This surgical procedure may be a fit for you if you’re at a moderate weight but are having difficulty achieving the contours you want despite diet and exercise.

During a liposuction of the thigh area, your doctor will make small incisions along the inside of your thighs. They’ll then use a small tube called a cannula to loosen fat cells before suctioning them out.

Depending on the type of liposuction used, your doctor may recommend either local or general anesthesia prior to making incisions. Aside from anesthesia side effects, your doctor will go over other possible risks of liposuction, including:

  • infections at the incision sites
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • pigmentation changes, especially in skin of color
  • nerve damage
  • deep vein thrombosis

Sometimes, liposuction is combined with a thigh lift (see below) for more dramatic results.

It may take several months to see full results from liposuction. During the first several days of your recovery, you’ll need to wear bandages or compression garments to help with the healing process.

Overall, you may expect positive results as long as you continue to maintain your weight and exercise once your doctor gives you the go-ahead.

If you’re looking for a less invasive method to address a thigh gap, your doctor may suggest CoolSculpting. This non-invasive (non-surgical) procedure works by freezing fat cells in small, targeted areas of the body that might not otherwise respond to exercise and diet.

During a CoolSculpting procedure, your doctor will numb the treatment area before using an applicator to freeze fat tissues. There are different types of applicators designed for various areas of the body, with the CoolFit Advantage being the best fit for the inner thighs.

Once the in-office procedure is done, your body takes care of the rest by metabolizing the targeted fat cells. In all, the metabolization takes up to 4 months, where you may experience a 30 percent decrease in fatty tissue.

Unlike liposuction or a thigh lift, CoolSculpting has fewer identified side effects. You may feel slight pain or discomfort during the freezing process only. Numbness, tingling, and redness are common temporary side effects.

You should be able to resume your regular activities immediately after this procedure. Results may be seen in as little as 3 weeks, but it can take several months to see the full effects.

Keep in mind that you may need multiple treatments over several months until you achieve your desired results.

Like liposuction, a thigh lift (thighplasty) is an invasive method of excess fat removal. It also helps to eliminate excess skin in your thigh area.

As with liposuction and CoolSculpting, a thigh lift is best for people who are looking to achieve reshaping and are already at (or near) their desired weight. A thigh lift is also sometimes recommended by surgeons if clients are looking to fit into swimsuits and bottoms more comfortably.

If you’re looking for a thigh lift solely to address a thigh gap, your doctor may recommend either a mini-thigh lift or an inner (medial) thigh lift. The procedure is also sometimes combined with liposuction.

Thigh lifts are considered invasive procedures that require general anesthesia. During the surgery, your doctor will make incisions along the inner thigh before cutting out excess skin and removing fat. Stitches are put in place to help close the incisions.

As with liposuction, you’ll be required to wear bandages or other dressings for several days as the incisions from your thigh lift heal.

Possible risks and side effects include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • bruises
  • excess bleeding
  • infection
  • discoloration or pigment changes
  • suture separation
  • asymmetrical thighs
  • fluid accumulation
  • vein, heart, or lung problems

Since a thigh lift is considered a major cosmetic procedure, you’ll need to follow your doctor’s aftercare instructions carefully. This may include no heavy lifting or workouts for 6 weeks or longer.

A reputable doctor should be able to show you a portfolio of their work. To get a better idea of what you may be able to expect, consider the following before and after photos of liposuction, CoolSculpting, and thigh lift surgery that each target thigh gaps.

To be considered for a thigh gap procedure, your doctor will likely recommend that you are:

  • a non-smoker
  • within 30 percent of your ideal body weight
  • considered to have good skin elasticity
  • already eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly
  • not considered to have any life-threatening illnesses that could increase your risk of complications during or after your procedure

You may expect minor side effects, like pain and swelling, from each of these procedures, especially within the first few days. More serious complications are rare, but you can talk with your doctor about all of the possible risks.

Thigh gap surgeries aren’t covered by insurance because they’re considered elective cosmetic procedures. It’s important to understand all of your costs beforehand so you can budget wisely. Ask your doctor about possible financing or other payment plans that may help.

Overall, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has outlined the average costs for the following procedures:

Keep in mind there are other fees to consider besides your doctor’s cost. Possibilities include:

  • operating room fees
  • hospital stays
  • anesthesia costs
  • bandages and other garments
  • medications
  • testing fees

Also, the exact cost of your procedure will depend on the size of the treatment area, the location you live in, and your doctor. You can use this pricing calculator for estimates of various procedures in your area.

Thigh gap surgeries and other procedures may help you get rid of unwanted fat that doesn’t respond to exercise and dieting alone. Liposuction, a thigh lift, and CoolSculpting are three ways a cosmetic surgeon can help treat fat cells in your inner thighs.

While you may feel better aesthetically, having a thigh gap isn’t considered a medical problem, so you should weigh all of the benefits, costs, and potential risks carefully.