Smartlipo vs. Liposuction: What’s the difference?

Written by Gregory Nikolaidis, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on March 29, 2016 46 Comments

liposuction vs. smartlipo

Liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic surgery procedures in the United States, with more than 240,000 surgeries performed in 2017.  The procedure (also known as lipoplasty) involves the removal of fat cells from the body. It is ideal for patients who have specific areas of localized fat deposits and have tried unsuccessfully to eliminate them through diet, exercise and weight loss.

Today’s liposuction procedures are far advanced from their initial beginnings, when Italian and French surgeons first used suction to remove fat in 1974. There have been two significant advancements in liposuction surgery since then.  The first of these in 1985 was the transition to tumescent liposuction, developed by California dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Klein, where a smaller cannula is used for the procedure.  The other significant advancement in liposuction has been the addition of laser light to the procedure, a technique called Smartlipo.  Smartlipo received its FDA approval in 2006.

Video: SmartLipo vs. Liposuction

How does SmartLipo differ from traditional liposuction?

While both traditional (non-laser) liposuction and SmartLipo are effective at removing unwanted fat, there are some key differences to note.

  • Technique: Traditional liposuction uses a cannula and physical manipulation to suction fat from beneath the skin. SmartLipo utilizes laser heat to soften or liquefy the fat, making it easier to remove with the cannula, typically resulting in less bruising for the patient.
  • Skin Tightening: The addition of laser heat with the SmartLipo procedure provides an added benefit of tightening the skin. Liposuction alone does not provide any skin tightening benefits, so there is an increased possibility of dimpling or sagging after the procedure, particularly with older patients who have lost more of the elasticity of the skin.
  • Recovery: Traditional liposuction requires a longer recovery time and the use of compression garments for up to 6 weeks. Most SmartLipo patients realize a full recovery in a couple of days, and typically only need compression garments for one week.

When is regular liposuction preferred rather than SmartLipo?

Since Smartlipo can be performed on nearly any area of the body, there are very few cases that I opt to perform traditional liposuction rather than Smartlipo on my patients.  In fact, the only time I opt for traditional liposuction is when a patient with significant elasticity does not want to incur the added expense of the laser component and does not necessarily need the benefit of additional tightening of the skin.

There are also other forms of liposuction like Vaser liposuction which utilized ultrasound energy. Vaser lipo is a more precise method of fat removal which is often less invasive than traditional lipo.

Gregory Nikolaidis, MD

Gregory A. Nikolaidis, MD is a Board Certified Dermatologist. Dr. Nikolaidis serves as a Botox® Cosmetic Black Diamond Level National Education Faculty Member, and he has additionally trained numerous physicians on Sculptra Aesthetic, Radiesse, Restylane, and other non-invasive procedure techniques. He was among the first cosmetic surgeons in the United States to offer Smartlipo laser body contouring.

46 Responses to “Smartlipo vs. Liposuction: What’s the difference?”

  1. Avatar Tara says:

    I am interested in liposuction/smart lipo but in from out of state.. I was wondering if I sent u pics could u give me a quote and how long do I need to stay in town after the procedure!

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Tara, thanks for reading our blog and for submitting your question. We can do a basic consultation via email (although an in-person consult is obviously preferred). One of our representatives will send you an email shortly!

      WD Staff

      • Avatar Lori says:

        Can Smart Lipo take out scar tissue from previous lipo ?

        • WD Staff WD Staff says:

          Hi Lori,

          Unfortunately SmartLipo will not remove any form of previous scarring. There are, however, other laser based treatments dedicated to minimizing the appearance of scarring. Please give us a call at 512.328.3376 if you would like to learn more about scar treatment options.

          WD Staff

  2. Avatar Vivian says:

    Hello, I’m interesting in SmartLipo but have a very low tolerance for pain. I have watched video after video of the procedure and still have a sense of nervousness.

    My problem area is my stomach and years of stretch marks from bearing children. I’m in my mid-life but enjoying every bit of it. I’m committed to Zumba 2 days out of the week.

    Is there anyway I can be sedated and have my stretch marks remove during the procedure?

    Thank you,

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Vivian, Thanks for reading our post and submitting your question! Many prospective patients have some nervousness regarding the procedure, that’s perfectly normal.

      You will be sedated during the procedure using Twilight Anesthesia (learn more about this with this post: This sedation leaves patients feeling comfortable throughout the whole procedure.

      Please let us know if you have any further questions. You can contact us to setup a free consultation and learn more about the procedure!

      WD Staff

  3. Avatar Rebecca says:

    Hi in intrested in smartlipo and Im highly nervous about the pain afterwards and I read another question and you answered ber by saying you get light anesthesia, does that mean everyone gets that and theres no heavy sedation (which I would prefer). Im a 52yr old grandmother also wondering if my age would be of a concern..
    Thank you for your help.

  4. Avatar Lynda says:

    hello, I’m 26 years young… and i was wondering what would be my total estimate with the smart lipo, i want to get rid of my saggy skin in my arms, a size b on breast, reduce belly fat and transferred to my butt and breast.. i weight 170, 5″4 ft tall….. in case that helps !!! thanks

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hello Lynda,

      Thank you so much for reading our blog and submitting your comment.

      In terms of your question, it will be really hard for us to give you an estimate without having one of our plastic surgeons seeing you in person. We do offer free consultations. Please give us a call at 512-328-3376 for more information!

  5. Avatar Jill says:

    I was originally interested in lipo but found out about SmartLipo during my consultation. I opted for the laser and was very happy with the results. Highly recommend 🙂

  6. Avatar Margo says:

    This process does involve laser as I understand it. How does laser affect the skin texture or coloring of darker complexions such as Indian or Hispanic? Also would the additional lose of 10-15 pounds after surgery, significantly modify your surgery results?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Margo, Thanks for reading our post and for submitting your questions!

      SmartLipo does involve laser technology, which makes the potential (although rare) for discoloration in individuals with darker skin tones. As always we encourage readers to get a consultation with a skilled SmartLipo provider to assess any potential issues from the procedure.

      Finally, SmartLipo (like regular liposuction) has the power to dramatically change the body by removing (potentially) vast amounts of fat from the body (as you have stated). It’s an extremely transformational procedure!

      Thanks again,
      WD Staff

  7. Avatar John says:

    Good Information, I’m showing it off to our perspective patients in some “research packets” we provide. Thank You!

  8. Avatar Sonya says:

    Hello i live in arkansas and i was considering a tummy tuck but i nervous about being cut on i seen your post about lipo/smartlipo and was wondering which would be better i weigh 319 and my stomach is my main problem I’ve tried all kind of diet plans weight loss pills and drinks nothing i also smoke i was just trying to see which would be better for me to do

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Sonya, Thanks for reading our post and submitting your great question! You will definitely benefit from having an in-person consultation with a Board Certified plastic surgeon. That is the only way to assess your candidacy for lipo or tummy tuck (or even doing a combination of both). Basically, liposuction cannot address issues like sagging abdominal muscles or excess skin. So if you are experiencing those types of issues abdominoplasty may be your only option.

      Please make a consultation appointment for a surgeon in your area. Most should offer a free assessment!

      WD Staff

  9. Avatar Audrey says:

    Thank for this article! I love the skin tightening benefit of this type of procedures. I’ve gotten lipo before and thus my fat was going, I never achieved the results I expected. However, based on other laser treatments I’ve tried, you can definitely notice the tightening and even the smoothness of your skin afterward.

  10. Avatar Teresa says:

    Does Smartlipo remove the fat cells like traditional liposuction?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Teresa,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your question! SmartLipo does permanently remove fat cells in the same way as traditional liposuction. So that variable is the same between both procedures!

      Please let us know if you have additional questions. You can also give us a call to setup a personal consultation.

      WD Staff

  11. Avatar Kay D says:

    What the cost of the smartlipo for the stomoch area.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Kay D,

      Thanks for reading our post and for your great question. Currently we’re doing a special on SmartLipo: $1,195 per area! Please give us a call to setup a consultation. We can provide the exact treatment option (and cost) to achieve your desired results!

      WD Staff

  12. Avatar Shubha says:

    Hi. I am from India. There is no choice for direct consultation. Can I send you pics?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Shubha,

      Unfortunately we do not offer online consultations at this time. All consults are done in office here in Central Texas, US. We apologize for the not being able to help.

      WD Staff

  13. Avatar TiMothy B says:

    I am wondering do you do smart lipo ab etching for guys……vs lipo ab etching which is better? which recovery time is quicker?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Timothy,

      We do offer SmartLipo ab etching. The main benefit of SmartLipo compared to Lipo is additional skin tightening which typically translates to a better final result. However everything depends on the specific characteristics of the patients skin, which is why an in-office assessment is always needed to determine if SmartLipo will be a better treatment option.

      Recovery for both procedures is usually pretty similar, with a slight edge for SmartLipo.

      Please give us a call if you would like to setup a free consultation!

      WD Staff

  14. Avatar damaris says:

    do you offer smart LIPO for calf reduction and when next are you doing special on smartliposuction

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Damaris,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your question. We do offer treatment for the calves. We also currently have a 20% off SmartLipo special! Please give us a call at 512.328.3376 and we can set you up with a free consultation!

      WD Staff

  15. Avatar Jennifer says:

    Hi there! I’m a 26 year old healthy, relatively thin/fit female. I have fat/loose skin under the the chin area causing fullness from the front and side profile. I’ve heard mixed reviews on Kybella so I’m thinking smart lipo may be my best option. Do you recommend regular lipo or the laser for under the chin? What about cool sculpting or precision? Are those the same as smart lipo? I want improvement in the neck and jawline and slimming of the lower face/fullness of face. Thanks!

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for reading our post and for your great question! We’ve had patients who realized their end goals with Kybella, its a great treatment option. However, depending on the patient’s characteristics they may be better off with liposuction (either traditional lipo or SmartLipo) or CoolSculpting. Note CoolSculpting and lipo/Smartlipo are different, you can read more about that here:

      So basically all of those treatments are effective but depending on your specific needs and goals one treatment plan will be better than the others. Your best bet: get a free in-office assessment with a skilled provider. If you’re in the Austin area, please give us a call at (512) 328-3376 to set one up!

      An in-person consultation will allow the provider to analyze your chin and determine the best treatment route for your individual needs.

      We hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  16. Avatar Jill says:

    Hi. I have over a 100 pounds to lose for my ideal body. If I opted to do it all under the knife would I have to get both a tummy tuck and lipo? Are payment plans an option for work through your facility or financing?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Jill,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your great question! To start off, you’ll definitely want to come in for an in-person assessment. It’s very difficult to provide any sort of accurate guidance without assessing your specific characteristics. For instance, there are many times where we would recommend patients to work towards their weight loss goal before undergoing any surgical procedure. Other times we’ll recommend a combination of various procedures to achieve the patients desired end results (which in cases as you describe does entail a combination of lift procedures and liposuction). In summary, you’ll need a consultation to get the best answer there.

      In terms of Financing, we do offer several 0% interest plans that meet the needs of many of our patients. You can learn more about financing options here:

      Please contact us if you would like to take the first step and come in for a free assessment with a trained cosmetic consultant!

      WD Staff

  17. Avatar Head says:

    Does Smart Lipo can rid of as much fat under the chin and create a more defined jawline than traditional lipo?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      SmartLipo is a great option for refining the jawline and chin area. There’s also a great non-surgical method called Kybella. The best treatment will depend on several factors that can differ from patient to patient. Your best bet is to get an in-person consultation with a skilled plastic surgeon.

      If you are in the Austin area, please give us a call to setup an appointment!

      WD Staff

  18. Avatar Martha says:

    Does traditional lipo remove more fat then smart lipo since you are under general anesthesia vs local…?

  19. WD Staff WD Staff says:

    Hi Martha,

    Thanks for reading our post and submitting your great question! SmartLipo and traditional liposuction can actually remove the same amount of fat. The difference is the addition of laser energy in SmartLipo which melts fat to make its removal easier. That enhancement makes SmartLipo less invasive, which is why general anesthesia is not required.

    Please let us know if you have any further questions, we hope that helps!

    WD Staff

  20. Avatar Michaela says:

    Thanks for pointing out that laser lipo only takes a couple of days to recover from. I am thinking about having lipo done soon. It would be nice to not have to take too much time off work so I’ll have to look into laser procedures.

  21. Avatar Corene says:

    I had Coolsculpting under my chin last October and noticed the area had become larger in February/March. I now want to have liposuction to reduce the enlarged firm tissue (Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia) due to the procedure. I read online that the best lipo choice is power assisted liposuction for Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia Is this the option I should pursue or is Smart Lipo just as good an option?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Corene,

      We’re sorry to hear about this issue but greatly appreciate you sharing it with our community!

      We want to start off (as usual) with a disclaimer that an in-person assessment is always necessary to determine the best course of treatment. You’ll have to find a skilled provider of both forms of liposuction and be evaluated to see which is best.

      Power assisted lipo is a great option, however we’ve seen great results from SmartLipo, especially since it provides some enhanced skin tightening benefits. I think you should bring up both options while you are evaluated and ask which will be best given the elasticity in the area and the amount of fat that needs to be removed.

      We hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  22. Avatar Lila says:

    So is regular liposuction now considered dumb liposuction 🙂

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Haha we actually hear that from time to time Lila 🙂

      SmartLipo does have some great benefits/advancements from regular tumescent liposuction, however there are still many times where traditional method will provide a better result. It’s always best to get a consultation with a provider experienced in both methods to truly determine which avenue is best for the patient.

      WD Staff

  23. Avatar Nana says:

    Can I fly a day after smartlipo procedure on my double chin?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Nana,

      Great question! Firstly, we would like to recommend you talk to your surgeon about this as the answer may depend on the specifics of your procedure like the amount of fat that will be removed.

      With that caveat of the way, typically flying one day after a SmartLipo procedure is ok if it is the ONLY treatment performed.

      We hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  24. Avatar Tramaine says:

    Hello, can you pls explain what is considered a section? I see it cost 1200 per section, so is your stomach consider 1 section and left/right side considered a section, pls explained?


    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Tramaine,

      Great question! Here’s a basic breakdown of what is considered to be a separate section:

      Upper Abdomen
      Lower Abdomen
      Flanks (both sides)
      Bra Back

      Usually each of those are considered a separate section by the surgeon. As you can imagine, each patient is unique in terms of which section (or sections) they need address. It all depends on the current characteristics of their body and their desired end result.

      We hope that helps! If you have any further questions please feel free to give us a call at 512-328-3376. We can provide you for a more exact quote given your specific needs and goals!

  25. Avatar Max says:

    Thanks for the info about SmartLipo!

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