Put simply, liposuction is a procedure by which fat is removed from the body. But that doesn’t really do it justice. Liposuction is a big and (often) complex procedure with its own particular jargon. That’s why many patients want to know what the difference is between liposuction and liposculpting. In many cases, it’s almost as if the terms are used interchangeably. But in other instances, there does seem to be a definite distinction between the two.
Confusing Liposculpting for Liposuction
The root of this confusion can usually be traced back to the need for surgeons to have some accurate words for different things. I used the word “jargon” earlier, and this certainly isn’t unique to plastic surgeons. Every industry, profession, or hobby really needs jargon—it’s just a way of being hyper-specific about something that most people see in broad strokes.
Which is a long way of saying that any differences in liposuction and liposculpting are going to be quite subtle. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t exist.
Where Does Liposculpting Come From?
There was a time when the primary purpose of liposuction was the elimination of large amounts of fat. Typically, surgeons don’t do that anymore. There are other, better ways to get rid of fat on a large scale. To be sure, liposuction can be used to remove a not insignificant amount of fat—but it’s not just the removal of the fat that’s the goal.
Indeed, most liposuction procedures these days are defined as a kind of body contouring. And I think that’s where the term “liposculpting” comes from. Surgeons are not as concerned with total fat removed as they are with ensuring your body looks contoured in the way you want.
Not only does modern liposuction remove fat from, for example, your belly area, it’s also able to blend in that fat removal with the rest of your body. This makes your brand new slenderness seem much more natural than it otherwise would. It’s almost as if your body is being “sculpted” more than anything.
So, it’s easy to see why the term caught on. People want to feel as though they’re having their bodies sculpted—as though the procedure is contouring the body. Patients (and surgeons) don’t necessarily like to think about liposuction as a weight loss solution.
Why is “Sculpting” Now Possible?
Liposuction—or liposculpting—is an incredibly powerful and capable procedure. You can use liposuction to remove fat from a wide variety of areas on the body, from your belly to your jawline to your legs. However, there have been several advancements that have allowed liposuction to include finesse in its results. Those advancements include the following:
- Smaller cannulas: Liposuction employs a small tube, called a cannula, in order to remove fat. In recent years, these cannulas have gotten to be remarkably small, granting surgeons a significant amount of control. The more control surgeons have, the better they are able to “sculpt” the results for patients. Smaller cannulas also enable liposuction to be less invasive, leading to faster recoveries.
- Complimentary techniques: The other thing that has helped surgeons achieve more contoured results has been the introduction of complimentary techniques. Here’s what I mean by that: Liposuction can be assisted by the use of lasers, energy, or even radio waves. These “assistants” can help break down or melt fat before suction takes place. This can help surgeons achieve a result that looks more natural—because the fat is contoured in a smooth fashion.
Would You Want Liposculpting or Liposuction?
Ultimately, liposculpting is something of a buzzword, but it’s a useful one. The “sculpting” portion of it is used to emphasize something that liposuction—today—does exceptionally well. Liposuction is used to sculpt the body (particularly those areas of the body that are being treated).
That’s why many surgeons will use the term “liposculpting” in marketing materials. It’s a great way to discuss what they actually intend to do—what most patients are actually asking for. And it’s a way to make it immediately obvious that liposuction is used to contour the body, honoring the curves you want to keep but getting rid of the bulges you wish weren’t there.
That said, there can still be some confusion in terms of what surgeons mean when they talk about liposuction vs. liposculpting. So think about it this way: the difference has more to do with the approach—the mindset of both the surgeon and the patient—than it does with any actual technique.
Ultimately, it comes down to something as simple as this: would you rather have liposuction or liposculpting?