Define. Sculpt. Contour.

Nearly everyone experiences stubborn fat pockets that won’t seem to go away, no matter what you do. You could follow a disciplined workout regimen and eat a nutritious diet every day, but the pouch on your lower tummy or the part of your thighs that rubs together won’t disappear. It’s also possible you’ve already lost a ton of weight and are now carrying around excess skin that reminds you of your past. Maybe you’re tucking it into your pants or wearing certain clothing to cover it up. In either of these scenarios, body contouring is your answer. 

Body contouring defines and sculpts the body, removing excess fat and/or skin to give you the shape of your dreams. In 2019, more than 400,000 such procedures were performed, according to the “Plastic Surgery Statistics Report” published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This includes the five major surgeries: Brazilian butt lift, thigh lift, body lift, tummy tuck, and liposuction. 

From the consultation to the end result, the entire body contouring process is a journey. Each of these stages serve as transitions to a new life without the additional fat or skin that has been causing insecurities, frustrations, and pain. However, before you begin this adventure, you’ll need to determine the best body contouring technique for you, and whether you’re a viable candidate. 

To help clients understand everything they need to know about body contouring before arriving for a free consultation, Buglino Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery created this comprehensive guide outlining each procedure.

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What is Body Contouring?

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, body contouring, also known as body sculpting “refers to surgical procedures that improve the appearance of skin and tissue after major weight loss.” These can also be performed on those who have always maintained a healthy weight or experienced small weight loss. The main thing to understand is that body contouring isn’t a means of losing weight. The methods under this umbrella remove excess fat and skin that cannot be shed with regular exercise or a nutritious diet. They are typically meant for patients who are already at a sustainable, healthy weight

Simply put: Body contouring eliminates stubborn fat and sagging skin, while improving underlying support tissue, to create a smoother figure.


Types of Surgeries

A variety of procedures fall within the body contouring category:

  • Abdominoplasty
  • Arm Lift
  • Brazilian Butt Lift
  • Body Lift
  • Liposuction
  • Thigh Lift
  • Panniculectomy

Each of these contours different aspects of the body, whether it be the stomach, back, buttocks, legs, or arms. Some include facial surgery, but we’re just going to focus on the body below the face for this guide. 


Who Is a Good Candidate?

To be a good candidate for any of these, your weight should be stable for about six to 12 months and you shouldn’t be planning to lose more. Although these methods remove fatty tissue, fat cells still remain, meaning they can still inflate and deflate depending, voiding the results of your surgery. Patients should also be in overall good health. Chronic medical conditions can increase your risk of complications during surgery. Candidates are either nonsmokers or cease smoking six weeks prior and post-surgery. Expectations must also be realistic. Discuss the technique, your recovery, and expected results to ensure your optimal look is achieved.


Questions to Ask at a Consultation

During your consultation, ask the following:

  1. Are you board certified? 
  2. How many years of plastic surgery training and experience do you have?
  3. Is this an in-office or hospital-based procedure, and do you have hospital privileges? If so, where?
  4. Am I a good candidate for body contouring?
  5. What procedure will help me achieve my desired results?
  6. How will you perform the procedure?
  7. How long will recovery be, and what will it look like?
  8. What can I do to ensure my desired outcome?
  9. How do you handle complications, and what happens if I’m dissatisfied?
  10. Do you have examples, such as before-and-after images of previous work?

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Slim woman showing flat stomach with hands below and above

Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

Want to learn more about an Abdominoplasty? Check out our guide
An abdominoplasty, aka tummy tuck, removes excess skin and tissue from the abdominal area, plus the tightening of the underlying muscles, to achieve a flatter tummy. During a consultation, patients should discuss their goals with the plastic surgeon to determine the kind required.
The four main types include:
Standard: The most common, a standard abdominoplasty focuses on the midsection.
Mini: This targets the lower abdomen, only. 
Extended: This procedure is more involved than the previous, focusing on the lower abdomen, hips, and sides of the lower back. 
Reverse: This addresses the upper abdomen. 

Each tummy tuck begins with anesthesia, whether it be general or intravenous sedation. Typically, it requires the former, and will take place in an out-patient healthcare setting, such as a hospital with an anesthesiologist on staff. Once patients are sedated, the surgeon will begin by making an incision. The type of tummy tuck will determine its placement. Next, the surgeon will repair weak muscles and remove excess skin. In some instances, incisions will be made around the belly button, and your navel will need to be repositioned. Once completed, the surgeon will close the incision. 

Your surgeon will advise you how to prepare for surgery to ensure a smooth recovery process. Leading up to the procedure, you’ll want to stop smoking, avoid certain medications and supplements, and make arrangements with a caregiver for the first few days after surgery. When recovering, your surgeon will instruct how to care for your incisions, surgical dressings, and drains, if used. Patients should also avoid alcohol and smoking, and hold off on exercising and working for a few weeks.

A full recovery timeline can be found here. If you’re interested in learning about the types of foods you can eat prior to and post-surgery, check out ‘The Best Diet Before & After a Tummy Tuck.’

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Arm & Thigh Lifts

The goal of both an arm and thigh lift is similar: Remove excess skin and fat tissue to create smoother skin and improve contours. These surgeries result in the defined and toned arms and thighs most patients dream of. 

An arm lift, also known as a brachioplasty, targets the additional fat and skin on the upper arm between the armpit and elbow. This surgery requires incisions on the undersides of the arms. Afterward, the underlying tissue is tightened and excess skin removed. The remaining skin is repositioned to create toned arms. Incisions are closed with stitches or surgical tape. This procedure can be completed with either sedation and local anesthesia, or general anesthesia. 

A thigh lift can be performed on the inner or outer thigh. If an inner thigh lift is administered, incisions are made down the groin area, wrapping around the back of the thigh. Other possibilities include an incision at the knee, or solely in the groin region. For an outer thigh lift, these can run from the groin, around the hip, and across the back. Similar to an arm lift, both tighten underlying muscle and tissue, and remove excess skin. Once the remaining skin is repositioned, the surgeon will close the openings. Thigh lifts require either intravenous sedation or general anesthesia.

To prepare for each of these surgeries, surgeons will review your medical history and complete a physical exam. You may also be given guidelines, such as to stop smoking or avoid certain medications. You’ll want to arrange for help in the days after surgery, and your surgeon will likely also outline tips to follow. These may include the medications to take, compression garments to wear, or the number of days you’ll have to wait before going back to work or lifting heavy objects.

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Womans defined butt

Brazilian Butt Lift

A Brazilian butt lift involves liposuction and augmentation to achieve your ideal backside. The procedure is meant to increase your buttock volume and reduce fat in your abdomen, hips, lower back, and thighs. Overall, it enhances your entire lower half

The technique begins with liposuction, which suctions out unwanted fat typically from the abdomen, hips, lower back or thighs. This is prepared for transfer, and injected into the buttocks to improve size and shape. This can be completed under general anesthesia, IV sedation, or a combo of local and light by-mouth sedation. This utilizes microincisions, so it is unlikely to result in scarring.

To prepare, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen, avoid smoking, and ask a friend or family member to drive you home after surgery and care for you the following day. After surgery, your surgeon will supply a list of instructions to adhere to. You may also have to attend several follow-up appointments, wear compression garments, and use off-loading pillows while sitting.

To learn about the cost of a Brazilian butt lift, check out our blog ‘What Factors Affect the Cost of a Brazilian Butt Lift?

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Body Lift

If you’re looking to enhance your abdomen, buttocks, and thighs at once, the body lift may be the perfect choice. It shapes and tones, while removing sagging, unwanted fat and skin in the aforementioned areas. In some cases, if you’re looking to remove excess fat, your surgeon may suggest liposuction in addition to a body lift. 

Because a body lift is so extensive, it’s important to discuss the technique at length with your surgeon to ensure it’s right for you. Typically, patients are put under either intravenous sedation or general anesthesia, depending on medical history and the amount of skin needed to be excised. Once sedated, the surgeon will make an incision similar to the pattern of a bikini line along the abdomen, groin, waist, thighs, and buttocks. The excess apron of skin is then removed. The underlying muscles are tightened, and the remaining skin pulled down and sutured at the incision site.

Prior to the surgery, you’ll need to have a medical physical test, avoid or begin taking certain medications, and stop smoking. You will also want to ask a friend or family member to drive you to and from the surgery, and take care of you for a few days afterward. Post-surgery, you will have a hard time lifting objects and performing normal activities. Your surgeon will instruct how to care for the incision, drains, or bandages.

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Woman in bathing suit grasping love handles to show extra skin


Liposuction is perhaps the most sought-after procedure, as it dispels fat from the body. The technique reduces the number of fat cells in your body, but some will remain that can inflate and deflate, depending on future habits. It can be used on areas that haven’t responded to a healthy diet and exercise regimen, such as the chin, neck, upper arms, chest, back, abdomen, buttocks, hips, and thighs. 

Liposuction can be completed under either local, sedation, or general anesthesia. A surgeon may mark circles and lines on the areas to be treated during surgery. To remove the fat, small incisions will be made and a cannula inserted. This thin tube is attached to a vacuum that sucks up the fat. Once completed, the surgeon may or may not close the openings. 

Prior to surgery, your plastic surgeon will share guidance, review your medical history, and instruct you to stop smoking and avoid certain medications. You may also need several lab tests. Post-op, you may be able to walk out on your own, depending on the anesthesia. You’ll need to wear a compression garment and a few days before returning to work.

For a comprehensive outline of liposuction prep and recovery, check out our blog.

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Although similar to a tummy tuck, the difference between a panniculectomy and abdominoplasty is that the abdominal muscles aren’t tightened during the former. The procedure solely focuses on the removal of the “hanging skin and fat from your lower abdomen to create a smoother abdominal profile,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Typically, patients undergo this technique after major weight loss. 

The surgery begins with intravenous sedation or general anesthesia, depending on the patient. Then, the surgeon will make a horizontal incision between the pubic hairline and belly button. The length depends on the amount of skin needed to be excised. In some instances, it’s similar to the incisions of a tummy tuck, and a second may be made around the belly button. Once the sagging skin is removed, the remaining is pulled down and sutured at the incision site. The navel may be repositioned. 

The preparation is also similar to that of a tummy tuck. Patients will be required to undergo lab testing and medical evaluations, stop smoking, and avoid a variety of medications. After surgery, gauze, bandages, or other surgical dressings may be applied to the incisions. You may also receive a compression garment to wear. Your surgeon will instruct how to care for the site, what medications to take, and the dates of follow-up appointments.

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Pricing & Financials

Unfortunately, most plastic surgeries aren’t covered by insurance, however, it’s important to double check your plan to confirm. There are certain criteria that must be met for an insurance company to cover your procedure. Typically, if a treatment is considered cosmetic and solely for changing your appearance, it won’t be covered. If reconstructive—performed “on abnormal structures of the body, caused by congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infection, tumors, or disease,” according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)— it may be.

Except for a panniculectomy performed for a functional reason, body contouring procedures are most likely not covered by your insurance. The ASPS states: “Panniculectomy should be considered a reconstructive procedure when performed to correct or relieve structural defects of the abdominal wall, improve skin health within the fold beneath the pannus, and/or help improve chronic low back pain due to functional incompetence of the anterior abdominal wall.”

In the instance you’re undergoing an uncovered technique, plastic surgeons offer a variety of financing options—from healthcare credit cards and payment plans, to loans.

For more information, check out our Financing Your Plastic Surgery page, and call (516) 864-0700 or email us to learn more about financing opportunities for body contouring.

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Slim woman in underwear pointing out slim physique

Are There Non-Surgical Options?

If you’re apprehensive about surgery in general, or worried about potential risks or complications, there are several non-surgical body contouring options available. However, not all provide the best results. For example, coolsculpting only reduces fat 20 to 25 percent, and there are a percentage of patients who get paradoxical adipose hyperplasia. This complication occurs when the frozen fat cells become hard instead of being absorbed. Another often highly touted option utilizes heat to jump-start skin contractions that reduce fat and tighten the skin. Most of these devices utilize a tiny laser that isn’t beneficial for a large surface area such as an abdomen, arms, or thighs, however. 

Although these options may not provide great results, there are two others that have proved effective:


SmartLipo is a noninvasive procedure that utilizes lasers to melt fat for easy extraction. Heating tissue allows some contraction. This treatment can be used on all areas of the body, Dr Buglino recommends its use on smaller areas such as submental (neck).

For more information, check out our blog: ‘Everything You Need to Know About SmartLipo.’


Renuvion is a technology that delivers a combination of radiofrequency energy and helium plasma. This modality may be used with liposuction or as a stand alone to provide tissue contraction.

Fillers & Injectables

Fillers and injectables aren’t just for the face. They can also be used on areas of the body you want to smooth out or plump up. Although the results of these treatments aren’t even close to those of a tummy tuck, liposuction, or Brazilian butt lift, they can still even out dimpling or cellulite to contour the body.

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Body Contouring With Dr. Buglino

If you’re interested in enhancing your appearance, contouring your body, and smoothing your skin, it’s time to book an appointment with Buglino Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. Dr. Anthony Buglino has performed hundreds of body contouring procedures on both men and women. From liposuction to tummy tucks to full body lifts, Dr. Buglino does it all

After earning his medical degree from Nova Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine in Florida, he completed a general surgery residency at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, a Weill Cornell affiliate. . During his final year of residency, he served as chief resident. Dr Buglino trained at The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center

Dr. Buglino then completed a competitive fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He trained under leading surgeons at renowned medical centers around New York. He’s since opened his own practice, and now specializes in body contouring and facial procedures, breast surgeries, reconstructive surgeries, fillers and injectables, non-surgical treatments, and more.

If you’re interested in any of the body contouring procedures discussed above, or want to find out which is best for you, contact us today.

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