Which type of body sculpting or liposculture should I have? Rosie Taylor looks at the array of treatments on offer.
If you’ve decided you want to go ahead with body sculpting surgery (or liposculpture, liposuction or lipo, as it’s also known), you may be baffled by the range of techniques on offer.
There are several different types of body sculpting and, to make matters more complicated, many similar techniques have different brand names. This means clinics may offer different-sounding treatments which are practically the same but trademarked by different brands. On top of this, new technology is being developed all the time.
It can feel impossible to know where to start, so we’ve compared some of the most common techniques to help you out.
Traditional or surgical liposuction
This is where fat is removed through a cannula (a thin, hollow wire or plastic tube) inserted into the skin. A high-powered vacuum is applied through the cannula, which sucks out the unwanted fat. The treatment was first piloted in the 1920s and has been developed over nearly a century.
Pros: It can be cheaper than other treatments and there is no risk of burns.
Cons: It may only target the middle of the fat layer you want to get rid of, so it is not ideal for defining muscle or reducing sagging skin.
Ultrasound assisted liposuction (UAL)
Common brand name: VASER
Developed in 1998 in the USA, VASER stands for Vibration Amplification of Sound Energy at Resonance. It is a form of ultrasound assisted liposuction (UAL) which uses a tool to focus ultrasonic waves through a probe on areas of fat. It liquefies the fat in target areas, while protecting other parts of the body from the waves.
Pros: VASER targets the full fat layer, including close to the skin and muscle, making it good at sculpting around muscles, such as on the abdomen.
Cons: Ultrasound probes can heat up and cause burns if not carefully monitored. VASER can be relatively expensive.
Radio frequency assisted liposuction (RFAL)
Common brand name: Body Tite
Body Tite was developed in 2009 and is trademarked by Invasix Ltd, an Israeli-based cosmetics firm. It is a form of radio frequency assisted liposuction (RFAL) which fires a radio frequency current between two electrodes to liquefy fat.
A surgeon will place an electrode internally using a cannula and put the external electrode on the skin above. The energy running between the two dislodges and heats fat cells, which ‘melts’ them and makes them easier to extract.
Pros: You may not need a general anaesthetic and bruising and swelling tends to be less than some other methods. The heat encourages skin to retract and tighten afterwards.
Cons: Research shows it may not be any more effective than other, cheaper types of liposuction.
Water assisted liposuction (WAL)
Common brand names: Body Jet, AquaLipo
Water assisted liposuction uses a high pressure jet to dislodge fat cells so they can be removed. A solution is injected through a narrow cannula into the fat area, where it acts as an anaesthetic. The jet pushes the fat cells loose and the liquid and fat particle mixture is then suctioned away. The technology was developed by German surgeons and launched in 2003 by German medical firm Human Med AD.
Pros: Targets precise areas and can capture fat to be transferred to other areas (such as for a buttock lift or implant).
Cons: The liquid pumped into the body may cause symptoms of fluid imbalance – this can develop into a serious problem affecting the heart, lungs or kidneys if not carefully monitored and treated.
Laser or light assisted liposuction (LAL)
Common brand name: SmartLipo
SmartLipo was developed in 2006 in the USA as a form of laser assisted liposuction (LAL). The laser is inserted into the fat area with the cannula, where it breaks down fat particles so they can be suctioned away.
Pros: It is particularly useful for areas of very dense fat deposits or where skin is also sagging, such as after pregnancy or weight loss, as causes skin to tighten.
Cons: Risk of burns. Some patients have reported persistent bruising, changes to skin colour and hair loss after treatment.