A popular solution to eliminate love handles or that pouch that just won’t disappear, body contouring is a general category encompassing surgical and nonsurgical figure shaping procedures from abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) to skin contouring. Liposuction, the second top surgical cosmetic procedure of 2018 after breast augmentation, is included under the umbrella term

Although many perceive body contouring procedures as means of losing weight, they shouldn’t be thought of as such. Body contouring, including liposuction, removes fat cells from the body, but leaves behind those retaining the ability to inflate and deflate as a patient gains or loses weight. These operations help patients close to their goal weight get rid of stubborn excess fat that hasn’t responded to diet and exercise, as well as reduce skin laxity for patients who have undergone massive weight loss. 

A Reuters Health report found reshaping the figure after significant weight loss can improve self-esteem, self-image, sex life, social performance, and physical symptoms in just three months. The average quality of life scores of the 112 patients in the study rose from 44 to 86 after undergoing body contouring operations. 

When considering undergoing any body contouring technique, it’s important to understand the details and purposes of each, including expectations, recovery periods, and proper post-op nutrition and exercise regimens. If contemplating multiple procedures—liposuction and a tummy tuck, for example—we recommend staging each a few months apart to allow the first surgery to heal properly before starting the second. 

While surgery is the first step to remove unwanted fat and skin, knowing how to care for your body properly afterward is also of utmost importance to keep the remaining fat cells from growing. 

This explainer breaks down all the body contouring procedures we provide to help you decide which will make you feel and look your best. 

The Procedures

Since its development in the early 1980s, liposuction has remained a popular body contouring surgery among men and women, who both underwent the procedure about 250,000 times in 2018, according to the 2018 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. It entails a plastic surgeon making an incision into the body to suck out fat cells through a thin tube called a cannula. This can be via the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms, and neck. While the operation takes about one to four hours, the recovery period can last up to six weeks. 

More than 1 million cosmetic surgery procedures of the 1.8 million total performed in 2018 shaped silhouettes. These operations include: 

Arm Lift 

The surgeon makes incisions on the undersides of a patient’s arm, eliminates unnecessary skin, tightens underlying tissue, and closes with stitches or surgical tape. This operation accounted for about 17,000 cosmetic surgeries in 2018, and can take up to three hours. While normal activity can resume after two weeks, full recovery typically requires several.  

Face Lift

Although many may think a face lift involves operating on the eyes, brows, cheeks, and chin, it only consists of tightening the cheeks, jawline, and neck, correcting sagging skin. During this three- to four-hour surgery, a surgeon will separate the skin from the underlying tissue and muscles, extract the jowls, reposition facial tissues, and relay the skin. 

Thigh Lift

Patients can undergo either an inner thigh lift to reduce pesky thigh chafing or an outer thigh lift to address the hips. To tighten the inner thigh, a surgeon will make an incision in the groin, or from the groin down to the knee, while an outer thigh incision usually runs from the back to the groin. Both procedures last approximately two to three hours and most patients recover after four to six weeks. 

Although many perceive body contouring procedures as means of losing weight, they shouldn’t be thought of as such.

Tummy Tuck

A complete tummy tuck requires a horizontal incision on the lower abdomen and a second around the belly button to remove extra skin on the upper and lower abdomen, while partial abdominoplasties focus on removing that pouch you just can never seem to get rid of, no matter how many exercises you do. The surgery takes up to five hours to complete and has a recovery time of four to six weeks. 

Body contouring, including liposuction, removes fat cells from the body, but leaves behind those retaining the ability to inflate and deflate as a patient gains or loses weight.

Lower Body Lift

This procedure, which lasts about four to six hours, produces the results of a tummy tuck and thigh lift, as it targets loose skin in the abdomen, waist, hips, and thighs. Patients generally need to take about two weeks off work and must wait about six to eight weeks to resume exercise. While the incisions of a lower body lift are extensive, the remaining scars will fade in about 12 months. 

Breast Lift

Breast lifts and augmentations are commonly confused as being one and the same. However, mastopexies fix the sagginess of patients’ breasts. During the approximately three-hour surgery, plastic surgeons reshape tissue to raise the breast. Afterwards, breasts will be swollen and bruised for about two weeks, but take about four to six weeks to fully recover. 

Breast Reduction

For women with chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain due to large breasts, reduction is the answer. To perform this procedure, a plastic surgeon will use one of three incisions: circular pattern around the areola, a keyhole shape, or an inverted T. The nipple is repositioned, the areola is reduced, and the breast is reshaped. The surgery takes anywhere from two to five hours to perform, and soreness should subside two weeks after. 

Gynecomastia, which is an increased amount of breast gland tissue in males caused by an imbalance of hormones, is common in infants and boys during puberty, but eventually goes away without treatment. About one in four men between 50 and 69 have gynecomastia. For some, this issue won’t subside on its own and may need surgery. Reduction mammaplasty can be performed to reduce excess skin and reposition and resize the areola. The surgery takes about two hours, and recovery is similar to that of a woman’s breast reduction. 

Breast Augmentation

The top cosmetic surgery in 2018, the number of breast augmentations has grown 48 percent since 2000. To perform the surgery, which takes about one to two hours, a surgeon makes either a periareolar, inframammary, or transaxillary incision and then inserts an implant either under the pectoral muscle or behind the breast tissue. The chosen method may depend on the type of implant, enlargement, and body type. After surgery, swelling will decrease two to four weeks out, but patients shouldn't resume exercise until week six. 

Noninvasive Methods

Research and consulting firm GlobalData projects the body contouring marketing, including noninvasive and minimally invasive procedures will increase more than $1.1 billion by 2022. The report found the number of American men undergoing noninvasive body contouring treatments increased 22.6 percent from 2012 to 2015. Although these procedures are growing in popularity due to their quickness and affordability, they may not be as effective as surgical procedures. 

Procedures such as CoolSculpting, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2010, utilize cryolipolysis to freeze and break down fat cells. After multiple treatments, it purports a 20 to 25 percent fat reduction.

If you freeze the fat, it’s going to die and some of it may not absorb, so it may fibrose and become hard. There are a small percentage of patients who can get paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, enlarging the area instead of reducing it. To fix this, the patient must then undergo liposuction to remove the mass. 

While some procedures use cooling techniques, others such as laser lipolysis utilize heat. Fiber-optic lasers heat the tissues to start skin contraction to reduce fat and tighten skin. However, it’s hard to use the tiny tip of a laser to heat a large surface area, such as an abdomen, in a uniform way. It’s beneficial to do it on the neck or a smaller area, then put a garment on it for skin tightening. 

Combining Liposuction & Other Body Contouring Methods

Generally, liposuction will be complemented by another body contouring procedure, removing both fat and skin to achieve the best results. If a patient has skin laxity and fat deposits, they’ll most likely want to do a combination of both. 

When a patient undergoes liposuction, the fat previously supporting the overlying skin is removed, resulting in drooping. This will then call for a tightening procedure to fix the sagging skin. Similarly, if a patient has a lift or tuck procedure to tighten the skin, they may need to cut out fat to do so. The Brazilian butt lift, for example, uses liposuction to suck out fat to later transfer through injections to add volume to the buttocks.

Take Your Time 

As aforementioned, if you’re considering undergoing multiple body contouring procedures, we recommend staging each several months apart from one another rather than attempting them all during the same visit. 

When you’re doing multiple things at once, you don’t have the optimal control. If you want your breasts done and your brachioplasty, for example, these procedures could be performed all in one shot—but you’re going to have an okay result with everything. Nothing is going to be great. We suggest taking your time and staging them, for amazing results. 

As we’ve mentioned, if you’re going to do liposuction and a tummy tuck, for example, it’s best to stagger them a few months apart to allow the first operation to heal properly before beginning the second. Why? The fat above the belly button area is really a no-fly zone for lipo when it’s done in conjunction with a tummy tuck. When you’re making the incision below and lifting up the skin flap, all the blood flow is coming from across the flap, so you can injure those blood vessels with the cannula. If you do the liposuction first and give it at least three to six months for everything to revascularize, a safe tummy tuck can be achieved. Your waist can really be brought in, with defined lines, and etching. The results will be incredible.

Call us today to schedule a free consultation for a body contouring procedure with Buglino Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.

Topics: Insider, Body Contouring, Plastic Surgery