Limitations of Liposuction

It’s an issue plastic surgeons deal with every day—setting realistic expectations for their patients. It’s no fun to burst the bubble of people expecting miracles or people who may not fully understand the limitations of plastic surgery. However, it is quite necessary to be plain and honest about possible outcomes and what is truly realistic.

plastic surgeon marking womans body for surgery
ronstik / Getty Images

Of the five most commonly performed plastic surgery procedures, liposuction seems to have the most misconceptions about what it can do. Below is a list of things liposuction will not do for you.


Won't Remove Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are scars. The scars from stretch marks occur in the dermis, the layer under the epidermis which is the topmost skin layer. Once they occur, they may fade but will never fully disappear.


Won't Eliminate Cellulite

Cellulite is caused by:

  • Fibers pulling down on the skin
  • Fat pushing against the skin

Liposuction can help reduce the amount of fat pushing out against the skin, but it does nothing for the fibers that are pulling on the skin and causing dimpling. Liposuction will not eliminate cellulite and could possibly make it worse in patients with loose skin.


Won't Reduce Weight

Liposuction will not dramatically reduce your weight, nor should it. Ideally, people should be of a reasonable weight for their height when undergoing liposuction.

The small areas of fat that these people want to be treated with liposuction will not change their weight as fat is not dense, and therefore, does not weigh much.


Doesn't Replace Bariatric Surgery

Liposuction is a body-contouring procedure, not a weight loss procedure. This is an important fact. For those who are overweight, liposuction may be of use if it is understood that it is not for weight loss.

People who are very overweight should take into consideration that there is a limit on how much fat can be removed during one surgery.

Even if a good amount of fat is removed, it may not make such a weight difference but clothes may look better and be more comfortable.

Even if fat is removed via liposuction, without a change in nutrition and exercise habits, the effects of liposuction can be overcome.

Liposuction may still be useful in spot-reducing certain areas, such as the chin area.


Won't End Poor Eating Habits

It is possible to out-eat your liposuction result. After liposuction, the number of fat cells in an area is reduced, but not eliminated. Remaining fat cells can expand with weight gain or shrink with weight loss.

Incorporating a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins and minimizes fats and sugar/sweets will help maintain your results. Liposuction does not give you a license to eat whatever you want. You’ll be hugely disappointed if this is your goal.


Won't Substitute for Exercise

After liposuction, you should remain active for both your inner and outer health. Increased activity will help you maintain your results.


Doesn't Remove Visceral Fat

Liposuction occurs above the muscle and below the skin. An abdomen that is protuberant or rotund due to the fat that is under the muscle and around the internal organs cannot be reduced with liposuction. This type of fat is called intraabdominal fat or visceral fat.

This fat pushes out on the muscles that form the abdominal wall. Even if fat is removed from above the muscle, it will just be a smaller version of the rounded belly. For fat on the inside of the belly, proper nutrition and exercise are the only remedies.


Can't Turn You Into a Model

Unless your physique was close to that of a swimsuit model before plastic surgery and you had just a little fat pocket or two that needed reducing, you’re not going to look like a swimsuit model after liposuction. Liposuction will simply enhance your existing physique.


Won't Overhaul Your Life

Liposuction is merely a procedure to reduce unwanted fat in certain areas. While it may help to help you feel better about yourself and improve your self-esteem, it will not guarantee a job promotion, help you snag a new romantic partner or save a relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much weight can you lose with liposuction?

    Liposuction removes subcutaneous fat. However, it is not an effective weight-loss tool. The procedure is used for body sculpting. Depending on the type and location of the liposuction, you can expect to lose between 5 and 10 pounds.

  • Can you get liposuction if you are an obese person?

    It depends. Most plastic surgeons will not perform elective surgery on a person with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. (Keep in mind that although it's a flawed metric that doesn't reflect body composition and other factors, healthcare providers still rely on BMI to evaluate some treatment decisions.) Liposuction is not an effective treatment for weight loss.

  • What is the safest form of liposuction?

    While all FDA-approved methods of liposuction are deemed safe, Tumescent liposuction has been shown to be the safest method.

    Tumescent liposuction differs from traditional liposuction in that uses a local anesthetic instead of general anesthesia. It also uses smaller cannulas to suction out fat cells.

Correction - June 12, 2023: This article was updated to remove the statement indicating that liposuction cannot tighten skin. Laser liposuction can stimulate collagen growth and tighten skin.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dixit VV, Wagh MS. Unfavourable outcomes of liposuction and their managementIndian J Plast Surg. 2013;46(2):377–392. doi:10.4103/0970-0358.118617

  2. Saariniemi KM, Salmi AM, Peltoniemi HH, Charpentier P, Kuokkanen HO. Does liposuction improve body image and symptoms of eating disorders?Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2015;3(7):e461. doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000000440

  3. Lipp MB, Butterwick K, Angra K, Chunhara C, Goldman MP. Evaluation of long-term outcome and patient satisfaction results after tumescent liposuction. Dermatol Surg. 2020;46 Suppl 1:S31-S37. doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000002498

  4. Venkataram J. Tumescent liposuction: a review. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2008;1(2):49-57. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.44159