We have all heard that the best way to keep the body lean and tone is by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. However, for some, there can be certain areas of the body that don’t seem to firm up despite their best efforts. This is where both cryolipolysis and liposuction—the two gold standards for fat removal come into play. While there are similarities in the two aesthetic procedures, there are some stark differences, which we will dive into below.

What Is Liposuction?

Liposuction is an invasive surgical procedure that utilizes anesthesia, scalpels, and a fat suction device to remove unwanted subcutaneous fat from the body. Once a patient has been administered either a local or general anesthesia, a typical liposuction procedure involves a plastic surgeon making a tiny incision in the treatment area to target excess, unwanted fat. The fat is then sucked out of the body with a long cannula tube. This procedure method was first used back in the 1980s, but with the advancement of technology, other liposuction techniques have emerged.

Types of Liposuction

Liposuction was introduced and perfected by California-based Dr. Jeffrey Klein in 1985 and has since become the most widely used surgical method for fat removal. However, since its inception other forms of liposuction have been developed including vaser and laser liposuction.

Vaser liposuction offers a less invasive way of fat removal. The treatment utilizes ultrasound waves to break up and liquefy fat, which is then removed from the body with a fine needle rather than a cannula. Vaser liposuction offers a less invasive form of fat reduction compared to traditional surgical liposuction with fewer side effects and with a quicker recovery time.

Laser liposuction is a completely non-surgical method of removing unwanted fat by using medical grade lasers that administer heat in the treatment area to kill the fat cells under the skin. The treatment itself is referred to as lipolysis.

What Is Cryolipolysis?

You may be unfamiliar with the term cryolipolysis, but you would recognize two brand names in which it is marketed to the public including CoolSculpting and Cryoskin. Like laser liposuction, cryolipolysis is a non-surgical way to remove excess fat from the body. Unlike the laser liposuction treatment that uses heat to destroy fat cells, this non-invasive treatment uses cooling energy to remove fat and help contour the body. The treatment is sometimes referred to as “fat freezing”. But the medical term for the procedure is cryolipolysis. The FDA approved this technique that breaks down and crystallizes that fat in 2010, and has steadily grown in popularity.

What Are The Differences Between The Two Treatments?

The main difference between the two treatments is that liposuction sculpts the body while cryolipolysis reduces fat on the body. So, it is important to understand the overall goals of each person seeking fat removal, since one procedure may be better than another to meet the needs of the individual.

Liposuction is ideal for precise fat removal and body contouring is considered the gold standard. It is also the only fat removal procedure that can be done almost anywhere on the body including small areas like the underarms, knees, as well as larger areas like the belly, hips, and thighs. When performed well, liposuction can create a shapelier body silhouette by removing unwanted fat and revealing underlying musculature.

Cryolipolysis on the other hand is an excellent option for those seeking to reduce fat in trouble areas. Technologies like CoolSculpting and Cryoskin utilize a precise cold temperature known to kill fat cells, but not cold enough to damage the surrounding skin. One of the differences between the two devices is that CoolSculpting was FDA approved in 2010, while Cryoskin is not FDA approved. On average, both devices have shown around 20 percent of fat reduction. However, cryolipolysis does not shape the body and the results are not exact, like the precision that liposuction provides. This is in part because the applicators for these treatments are not flexible or able to get into certain areas due to their size.

Results from cryolipolysis can take several weeks to be visible since the body’s lymphatic system will clean out the dead fat cells over time, which will be slightly different for everyone. Furthermore, several treatments may be needed spaced out over time to achieve the desired results. Lastly, while liposuction can be performed just about anywhere on the body, cryolipolysis has only been approved to reduce fat on the abdomen, flanks, thighs, back, upper arms, under the buttocks, and under the chin.


Liposuction and cryolipolysis both offer ways to permanently remove fat from the body. Cryolipolysis offers a non-invasive treatment option with lower risks of complications and quicker recovery time. However, results may not be visually dramatic, several treatments may be needed to achieve desired results, and the results are not precise. Liposuction on the other hand can precisely remove more fat from the body. But the procedure is invasive, has longer recovery times, and has more risks for complications. At the end of the day, it is going to come down to the individual and what is the best way to meet their goals.