About

  • Laser liposuction is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that uses a laser to melt away fat under the skin. It’s also called laser lipolysis.
  • CoolSculpting is a noninvasive cosmetic procedure that uses a cooling applicator to freeze away fat beneath the skin.

Safety

  • Laser lipo and CoolSculpting are safe and effective treatments for fat removal.
  • Both have minimal possible side effects.

Convenience

  • Laser lipo might require a few days of downtime.
  • After a CoolSculpting procedure, you may return to your normal activities the same day.

Cost

  • Laser liposuction costs an average of $2,500 to $5,450.
  • CoolSculpting averages $2,000 to $4,000.

Efficacy

  • Both procedures are effective.
  • Results are permanent when a healthy weight, diet, and lifestyle are maintained.

Laser liposuction and CoolSculpting are both fat-reduction procedures that have minimal downtime and a quick recovery period. Both ultimately result in the removal of fat from specific areas of the body, such as the:

  • stomach
  • upper arms
  • upper thighs
  • flanks (“love handles”)
  • chin

CoolSculpting is noninvasive, while laser lipo is a minor surgical procedure.

Laser lipo carries many of the same risks and side effects as traditional liposuction, but on a smaller scale. And while laser lipo results are immediate, CoolSculpting results take several weeks (and up to two months) to be noticeable.

Noninvasive treatments like CoolSculpting can sometimes be combined with laser lipo for more dramatic results. However, each treatment is effective on its own.

Laser liposuction

Laser lipo can be performed in your doctor’s office under local anesthesia. No general anesthesia is required.

It’s a safe option for people with different skin types and causes few side effects.

You’ll be awake during the procedure. Your clinician will numb the area with a needle and local anesthetic so you don’t feel discomfort.

They’ll make a small incision and insert a tiny laser under the skin that liquefies the fat. Then your clinician will insert a tiny tube, called a cannula, that sucks the melted fat out from beneath the skin.

Many people who opt for laser lipo don’t experience a long period of downtime after the procedure, particularly when the site is small.

Most clinicians recommend a few days of downtime before returning to work and around three weeks before participating in strenuous activities.

Swelling, bruising, and pain is minimal after laser lipo. For many people, the skin might also be firmer or tighter after the procedure. This is because the laser treatments can promote the production of collagen.

All types of liposuction were among the top five cosmetic surgeries performed on men and women in the United States in 2016 and 2017, notes the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2017 report. Available variations of laser lipo (based on specific machines) include:

  • CoolLipo
  • LipoLite
  • LipoTherme
  • LipoControl
  • ProLipo Plus
  • SmartLipo

CoolSculpting

CoolSculpting is a noninvasive fat-reduction procedure that works to freeze fat cells.

Your clinician will place the CoolSculpting applicator on the area they’re going to treat. It’ll likely feel very cold for the first several minutes, and you may feel a sucking or pulling sensation. Then, the area will become numb while the treatment is performed.

After the procedure, the frozen fat cells die and are processed away and absorbed by your body over a period of several weeks to two months. The procedure isn’t meant for individuals who have excessive weight. Instead, it’s meant for individuals of a healthy weight who have stubborn pockets of fat on their bodies that aren’t affected by diet and exercise.

Duration of laser liposuction procedure

On average, laser lipo sessions take about one hour per area. They may last a little longer depending on the area receiving the procedure.

You may see results within about a week after your session, but results will gradually appear over two to six months. You should only need one treatment to experience full results.

Duration of CoolSculpting procedure

CoolSculpting sessions take about 35 to 60 minutes per area. It’s possible to see results in as few as three weeks after your session. But most often, the best results come two months afterward.

Your body may continue to process out dead fat cells for three to four months after your procedure.

Depending on the area of your body receiving treatment and your individual needs, you may require more than one treatment. It’s difficult to determine how many sessions you’ll need before your initial consultation, but your clinician can help you decide.

Laser liposuction results

If you choose laser lipo, you’ll start to see fat-reduction results almost immediately. Results will be more visible once any bruising or swelling has gone down. While you’ll see changes to the site within the first week, it could take up to six months to see the full benefits of the procedure.

CoolSculpting results

If you opt for CoolSculpting, be prepared to wait a little longer to start seeing changes at first. Initial results could be visible three weeks after the procedure, with best results visible two to four months after the procedure.

CoolSculpting reduces fat by approximately 23 percent with each treatment. Research shows it’s safe and effective. Some people may need more than one treatment to see best results.

For either treatment, the best candidates are in good general health and seeking to refine their body shape. Neither laser lipo nor CoolSculpting are meant for removing large amounts of fat.

Ideal laser liposuction candidates

People who are interested in laser lipo should be healthy and near their ideal weight.

It’s not a weight loss treatment or surgery, so if you have excessive body weight, this procedure is probably not right for you. Instead, it’s meant to target and remove small areas of excess fat in healthy individuals.

Don’t undergo laser lipo if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating heavily, or if you have:

  • a pacemaker or defibrillator
  • abnormal tissue growth, such as being prone to keloid scarring
  • blood clots
  • cancer
  • heart disease or other heart conditions
  • insulin-dependent diabetes
  • liver disease or other conditions
  • multiple sclerosis
  • implants
  • a vascular condition

Also don’t undergo laser lipo if you’ve recently had surgery or take anticoagulants or medications that make you light-sensitive.

Ideal CoolSculpting candidates

The ideal CoolSculpting candidate is a person who’s healthy and has stubborn fat in certain areas on their body that diet and exercise won’t budge. It’s not meant for anyone who has obesity and needs to lose weight. It doesn’t work like weight loss surgery.

Don’t undergo CoolSculpting if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have:

Like laser lipo, also don’t undergo CoolSculpting if you’ve recently had surgery or use anticoagulant medication.

Cost of laser liposuction

According to self-reported costs, laser liposuction has an average cost of $5,450.

The Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery estimates laser lipo can cost an average of $2,500 to $4,500 per area, depending on the body area receiving treatment. Larger treatment areas, like the stomach and buttocks, are generally more expensive.

Prices will vary based on your location and clinician. Generally speaking, each area may cost approximately:

  • $2,500 for back fat (females), thigh area, neck or face, hips
  • $3,000 for back fat (males), buttocks
  • $3,500 for lower part of stomach
  • $4,000 for fat around knees
  • $4,500 for upper part of stomach

Your grand total will depend on which areas you choose to treat and how many treatment areas you opt to include.

In most cases, laser lipo isn’t covered by insurance. However, if you have benign, fatty growths called subcutaneous lipomas under your skin, insurance might cover the user of laser lipo to remove them.

You should only need one treatment per area, with each treatment lasting an average of one hour.

While you might be able to return to work the day after your treatment, your clinician may recommend up to four days of downtime. After that, you’ll need to wait three weeks before engaging in high-impact activities.

Cost of CoolSculpting

The official CoolSculpting website says the procedure costs around $2,000 to $4,000 on average, depending on which areas you’re treating, the size of the applicator, and how many sessions you need.

Small applicators cost around $750 per one-hour session. The largest applicator costs around $1,500. Smaller applicators are used for areas like the upper arms, while larger ones are used for areas like the abdomen. See more of a CoolSculpting cost breakdown here.

You’ll be able to return to your normal activities after your appointment. Your clinician may recommend a second session based on your needs.

Since it’s considered an elective cosmetic procedure, CoolSculpting isn’t covered by insurance.

Possible side effects of laser liposuction

Common risks and side effects of laser lipo include pain or numbness in the treatment area, discomfort, and loose or discolored skin. Some people experience burning under the skin after their session. If this lasts more than a few days, it could be a sign of liquid buildup and can be treated by your doctor.

Other people may notice dimpled or lumpy tissue in the treatment area. This may be a temporary result of swelling or could be a more semipermanent result. If you still have dimpled skin six weeks after the treatment area, consult your doctor.

In rare cases, some people develop:

  • scar tissue under the skin
  • infection at the site
  • blood clots
  • skin necrosis (tissue death) at the incision site

Possible side effects of CoolSculpting

Common side effects of CoolSculpting include:

  • a pinching or tugging sensation during treatment
  • stinging
  • pain
  • aching
  • temporary skin sensitivity
  • swelling
  • redness
  • bruising

A less frequent side effect may occur in certain people called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia. Instead of dying and shrinking away, treated fat cells at the site get bigger.

While this side effect isn’t dangerous, it’s a serious cosmetic concern. If it occurs, the enlarged fat cells don’t shrink or disappear on their own. Traditional liposuction is necessary to treat this condition.

It’s important to find a licensed, fully qualified provider in your area. Search for specific providers below:

Laser lipoCoolSculpting
Procedure typeMinimally invasive outpatient surgery done in office; local anesthesia onlyIn-office, nonsurgical procedure
Cost$2,500-$4,500 on average$2,000-$4,000 on average
PainNo pain during procedure; some pain and/or discomfort afterward as a side effectSome minimal discomfort during the first 5-10 minutes of the procedure, followed by numbness; minimal temporary sensitivity or bruising afterward
Number of treatments neededOne 1-hour session per treatment areaA few 30- to 60-minute sessions, depending on treatment recommendations
Expected resultsPermanent results visible within 1 week (full results in 4-6 months)Permanent results visible within 3 weeks (full results in 2-4 months)
DisqualificationObesity; pregnancy; breastfeeding; menstruating heavily; pacemaker or defibrillator; abnormal tissue growth; anticoagulant medications; blood clots; cancer; heart disease or other conditions; insulin-dependent diabetes; liver disease or other related conditions; medications that make you light-sensitive; multiple sclerosis; recent surgery; prosthetics; vascular conditionsObesity; pregnancy; breastfeeding; anticoagulant medications; clotting disorders; cold urticaria; cryoglobulinemia; current or past hernia in or near the treatment area; infected or open wounds; neuropathic conditions (diabetic neuropathy, post-herpetic neuralgia); numbness or lack of feeling in the skin; pacemaker or defibrillator; paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria; poor circulation in or around the treatment area; Raynaud’s disease; scar tissue in the treatment area; skin conditions like rashes, psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, etc.; recent surgery
Recovery time2-4 days after procedure; avoid strenuous activities for 3 weeksYou may return to your normal activities immediately