Liposuction Before and After Photos: What You Can Really Expect, Say Surgeons

Plus: What plastic surgeons want you to know about all of those liposuction "before and after" pictures you see on social media.

It makes us sigh…but with Hollywood A-listers using the diabetes drug Ozempic to sport trimmed-down profiles, weight loss is back in the spotlight. So maybe it’s no surprise that in 2023, liposuction overtook breast augmentation as the number-one most-performed aesthetic surgery in America.

Plenty of patients have heard of CoolSculpting as an aesthetic treatment for a slimmed-down appearance, but one rising alternative is Sono Bello. A representative for the brand tells us this liposuction method is growing in popularity for reasons such as its availability (with 80 locations across the country and 185 surgeons who perform it); as well as its efficacy: Sono Bello reportedly can remove up to 70% of fat cells permanently, whereas similar procedures remove up to 20% of fat. Also, Sono Bello is appealing to a wider range of patients than other liposuction treatments: Sono Bello can work for patients with a body mass index of 40, which is said to be higher than comparable procedures.

We set out to learn exactly what to look for in before-and-after liposuction photos so you get the best idea possible of what you might expect from your results. For liposuction or any treatment, speak with your licensed healthcare provider about whether it’s right for you.

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What is liposuction?

Liposuction is an outpatient surgical procedure that uses suction to remove fat from specific areas of the body. “The goal is to achieve a visible, readily appreciable reduction in volume while contouring the body to achieve a certain look,” says Christopher Chung, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Sono Bello in California.

The goal should never be to remove all the fat—in fact, says Dr. Chung, removing too much fat can leave you with a bumpy texture or misshapen appearance. “Lipo is more of an art of finding the ‘right’ amount of fat for the region, considering body type and the appearance of the overlying skin,” he says.

Adds Gary S. Berger, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City who also performs Sono Bello: “Under the umbrella of lipo, there are multiple methods that combine science and artistry that plastic surgeons can use to contour the body for a desired appearance.”

If you’re curious about how long liposuction takes, Dr. Berger explains that a typical liposuction procedure takes about two hours in the office. Patients then recover at home. “Post-procedure, the body has to heal from the trauma of the liposuction procedure,” he says. “This means it can take about three months for the swelling to subside and the final result can be seen in about six months, though there may be some internal healing extending to about a year.”

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What does liposuction cost?

On average in the US, you can expect liposuction to cost anywhere from $1,000 to $7,500 per treatment area. Dr. Chung says the cost of liposuction can vary widely based on a few factors:

  • geographical location (more affluent regions typically have a higher price point for procedures)
  • the experience and reputation of the surgeon
  • the amount of fat being removed
  • the specific techniques used during the procedure.

 Dr. Chung adds: “At Sono Bello, our prices are based on BMI and range from $1,395 up to $2,995 per area, but it can range higher depending on what you’d like done so it’s important to consult with a plastic surgeon to get an accurate quote.”

What doctors want you to know about liposuction before and after pictures

“Before and after images are important to look at because they are a great way to see your surgeon’s work, learn more about procedure possibilities and compare your body type to others’ results,” says Dr. Chung.

But, he cautions, while the internet is full of “before and after” pictures of people who’ve gotten liposuction procedures, there are a lot of photoshopped fakes out there.

What should you look for? Our doctors recommended these three guidelines for judging the authenticity of liposuction before and after photos:

  1. Choose a reputable source. First, make sure the website you’re visiting is from board-certified surgeons, a medical journal or another trustworthy source. Avoid click-bait articles and headlines.

  2. Look for unedited pictures. Liposuction before and after photos should be marked if they’re edited—but even so, look for signs of editing and filters, like warped lines behind the patient, no skin texture, strange color saturation, missing parts of the picture, and other remnants.

  3. Get educated about liposuction. Understanding how much time it takes to get results (months, not days) and what is possible from liposuction alone (as opposed to lipo with other surgical procedures) will help you weed out the wildly unrealistic pictures. If it looks too good to be true, our experts told us, it probably is.

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1. Abdomen or waistline

Adrian Ba Th Liposuction Before And After Courtesy Sono Bellocourtesy Sono Bello

Whether it’s getting abs “laser-etched” to have a visible six-pack or the waistline slimmed down, by far the most popular liposuction target for both men and women is the abdomen, says Dr. Berger.

To do this, they use Lipo360, a common liposuction procedure used throughout the midsection. “Surgeons use small incisions, about the size of a Tic Tac, to remove fat, without the need for stitches in most cases,” explains Dr. Chung. The doctors use a combination of “tumescent liposuction”—injecting a solution of saline, local anesthesia, and epinephrine into the target area to minimize bleeding and bruising—and “power-assisted liposuction,” which uses a mechanical device to break up and “suck out” or remove fat cells. Lasers are then used to add additional shaping and sculpting.

Cost: $2,000 to $5,000

Recovery: Patients can expect to be back to work or regular activities in three to five days. Results will begin to show quickly for some, but with swelling most people see some results in three months with full results visible after six months, says Dr. Chung. “Keep in mind these are just estimates and everyone heals at different rates,” he adds.

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2. Bra bulges (for women)

With summer come sundresses, tank tops, and swimsuits, making some women self-conscious of how their skin looks around the bra area. While there is nothing wrong with skin folding or bulging (skin just does that!), “the back bra roll and front bra roll are common lipo targets for women looking to feel good, especially in tank tops,” says Dr. Chung.

The doctors use a procedure called Sono Bello TriSculpt. “After fat is removed with the traditional liposuction techniques, they go in with lasers to sculpt smaller areas, as well as heat up the skin to stimulate collagen growth and help the skin form to your new shape,” he explains.

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

Recovery: Patients can expect to be back to work or regular activities in three to five days. Results will begin to show quickly for some—but after swelling, Dr. Chung says most people see some results in three months with full results visible after six months. “Keep in mind these are just estimates and everyone heals at different rates,” he adds.

3. Male chest area

Similarly, some men are self-conscious of how their chests look, especially if they have gynecomastia (sometimes called “man boobs”), says Dr. Chung. Using a procedure called ChestEX—the same technique as outlined for liposuctioning bra bulges—doctors can remove excess fat from the male breast area. They then use contouring micro-lasers to give a more masculine and muscular appearance.

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000. It may be higher if you need to have excess skin removed or tightened after the liposuction.

Recovery: You can expect to be back to work or regular activities in three to five days and may see some results immediately. Dr. Chung says after the swelling subsides, most people see some results in three months, with full results visible after six months.

4. Faux butt lift

Faux butt liftcourtesy Sono Bello

Brazilian butt lifts are a popular cosmetic procedure to enlarge the bottom—however, they are a type of cosmetic surgery that can most often come with complications. Dr. Chung says you can avoid the risk and get similar results using a combination liposuction procedure. “We do lipo on the thighs, ‘banana rolls’ or fat deposits under the butt and at the top back of your thighs, and the lower back, which provides a faux butt lift-like transformation without the BBL,” he says.

Cost: $2,000 to $7,000

Recovery: You can expect to be back to work or regular activities in three to five days and may see some results immediately. After the swelling subsides, most people see some results in three months, with full results visible after six months, says Dr. Chung.

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5. Tummy tuck

Bann Ba Th Liposuction Before And After Courtesy Sono Bellocourtesy Sono Bello

Regular abdomen liposuction generally just targets the waist, but doctors can do a “tummy tuck alternative” that combines the liposuction from TriSculpt with excess skin removal, says Dr. Chung. Traditional lipo is performed on the lower stomach, followed by contouring with the micro-laser. Doctors then cut off the extra skin, pull the remaining skin tight and stitch it along the bikini line, he explains.

Cost: $2,000 to $7,000

Recovery: “Results are pretty immediate since we remove excess skin and reduce fat volume,” he says. However, full results emerge six months post-procedure.

6. Thighs

Dr. Chung says another popular area to target with liposuction are the inner and outer thighs, less for weight loss or slimming but more for contouring their shape to be more aesthetic. He adds that this is one liposuction procedure where you should be very careful to strategically remove fat rather than looking to “suck it all out,” as thighs need some fat to look normal. The procedure is done the same as traditional liposuction.

Cost: $1,000 to $3,000

Recovery: You can expect to be back to work or regular activities in three to five days and may see some results immediately. After the swelling subsides, most people see some results in three months, with full results visible after six months, says Dr. Chung.

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7. Upper arms

Underarm, armpit, and triceps areas can all be contoured using the TriSculpt liposuction procedure and lasers, says Dr. Chung. This is especially useful for people looking to appear more toned or get rid of “bat wings.” Similar to the thighs, less is more when it comes to this procedure.

Cost: $1,000 to $3,000

Recovery: You can expect to be back to work or regular activities in three to five days and may see some results immediately. After the swelling subsides, most people see some results in three months, with full results visible after six months, says Dr. Chung.

8. Hips

The bottom of the hip or top of the thigh—sometimes called “saddlebags”—can become misshapen with fat deposits as you age or if you gain or lose a lot of weight. Depending on your goals and your BMI, says Dr. Chung, liposuction plus laser-contouring can reshape this area fairly quickly with good results, and more fat can be removed from this area.

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

Recovery: You can expect to be back to work or regular activities in three to five days and may see some results immediately. After the swelling subsides, most people see some results in three months, with full results visible after six months, says Dr. Chung.

9. Chin and neck

before and after Chin and neck liftcourtesy Sono Bello

Many people, simply due to their genetics, carry excess fat under their chin and around their neck, giving them the appearance of a “double chin”—even if they aren’t overweight.

Chin liposuction, also known as “submental liposuction,” can be used to remove that excess fat from under the chin and neck area to contour and tighten the lower face and neckline. Similar to other liposuction procedures, a small cut is made under the chin, where the liposuction tube is inserted into the target areas.

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

Recovery: You can expect to be back to work or regular activities in three to five days and may see some results immediately. After the swelling subsides, most people see some results in three months, with full results visible after six months, says Dr. Chung.

10. Lower back

“Love handles,” or the rolls around the lower back, can be fun (hence their nickname!) but not everyone appreciates having them—especially because these fat pockets can be very stubborn to lose, even if you’ve lost weight everywhere else. TriSculpt liposuction can remove those excess fat deposits, and surgeons can reshape that upper hip and lower back area to look more svelte, says Dr. Chung.

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000

Recovery: You can expect to be back to work or regular activities in three to five days and may see some results immediately. After the swelling subsides, most people see some results in three months, with full results visible after six months.

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Sources

Christopher Chung, MD, board certified plastic surgeon with Sono Bello in California.

Gary S. Berger, MD, a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon with Sono Bello

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, MS, is an award-winning journalist, author, and ghostwriter who for nearly two decades has covered health, fitness, parenting, relationships, and other wellness and lifestyle topics for major outlets, including Reader’s Digest, O, The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, and many more. Charlotte has made appearances with television news outlets such as CBS, NBC, and FOX. She is a certified group fitness instructor in Denver, where she lives with her husband and their five children.