Advice Centre How It Works Everything You Need To Know About Body Sculpting

Everything You Need To Know About Body Sculpting

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General questions

Non-surgical body sculpting

Surgical body sculpting

General questions about body sculpting

What is it?

The range of surgical and non-surgical procedures used to help patients slim down and shed body fat.

Body sculpting is the name given to the wide range of medical procedures carried out to:

  • shrink areas of stubborn body fat
  • reshape the body to give it a slimmer appearance

There are many different body sculpting techniques—some surgical, some not. Which one is best for you would be determined in a consultation with the medical professional you visit for your treatment.

The term ‘body sculpting’ is also used to describe special gym exercises that are designed to have the same contouring and reshaping effects.

How is it different to body contouring?

It isn’t. Body contouring is simply another name for body sculpting.

Body contouring and body sculpting are different names for the same kind of treatment.

How does it work?

The techniques differ, but the aim is to destroy fat cells so they’re unable to grow back.

Body sculpting contours your body by permanently killing off the fat cells under your skin. There are many different ways to do this—see How is it done? below.

It isn’t designed to remove large amounts of fat, or to be an alternative to exercise and a healthy diet. For this reason, it’s aimed at people who are already at or around their ideal body weight.

How is it done?

What happens during treatment depends on which type you choose. Some procedures involve surgery, others don’t.

It depends whether the treatment is surgical or non-surgical.

  • Surgical procedures are invasive or minimally invasive—they involve making incisions in your skin. Liposuction is one example.
  • Non-surgical procedures are non-invasive—they can be done without cutting into your body. Instead, they use techniques such as laser lipolysis, ultrasound or fat freezing to destroy fat cells beneath the skin.

Surgical procedures are explained in more detail below. There’s more information about non-surgical procedures here.

Is it effective? Does it last?

Some methods work better than others, but body sculpting is proven to help people shed fat and achieve a slimmer figure.

As body sculpting techniques vary so widely, some are more effective than others. However, most are proven to have some benefit and provide lasting results.

Pros and cons of body sculpting
  Non-surgical (e.g. laser lipolysis, fat freezing) Surgical (e.g. liposuction)


  • No downtime
  • No surgery
  • Few side effects
  • Help tighten loose skin
  • Long-lasting results
  • Removes significantly more fat than non-surgical procedures
  • Long-lasting results


  • Not recommended for patients with certain conditions
  • Longer recovery time
  • Can be painful
  • Higher risk of complications
  • More side effects
  • Expensive

Where can I see before-and-after photos of people who have had body sculpting treatment?

The RealSelf website has reviews of many different body sculpting procedures from people who have had the treatment done and posted before and after photos of the results.

Just type in the name of the procedure in the search field and you’ll be taken to the relevant page.

Non-surgical body sculpting

Body sculpting using heat/lasers

How does it work?

A procedure called laser lipolysis (or ‘laser lipo’) uses heat from light-based technology to melt fat cells.

Involving no surgery whatsoever, the technique employs special applicators that are secured to your body. These devices heat your skin to destroy the fat underneath and leave you with a slimmer, more contoured figure.

SculpSure is one example of this type of treatment. Learn exactly how it works here or read our comprehensive FAQs.

Need to know more? Read our laser lipolysis FAQs.

Does it hurt?

Patients who have undergone non-invasive laser lipolysis such as SculpSure describe the treatment as feeling like a deep warmth with intermittent coolness, with a mild ache and some light swelling afterwards.

Read how non-invasive and minimally invasive laser lipolysis compare here.

How long does it take to recover?

Most non-surgical body sculpting procedures are so quick and simple that you won’t need any downtime. Any discomfort you feel will die down quickly and have no bearing on your everyday activities.

Read more about aftercare for laser lipolysis and aftercare for SculpSure in particular.

Are there any side effects?

Other than a bit of mild discomfort and swelling, you’re unlikely to suffer any side effects, short term or long term, from laser lipolysis.

Read how SculpSure’s side effects compare to other body contouring procedures here.

Does it get rid of cellulite?

Although laser lipolysis tightens the skin, it can’t remove cellulite. However, other treatments are available which are designed specifically for that purpose, such as Cellulaze and PelleFirm.

What does it cost?

You can expect to pay between £1,000 and £2,000 for one course of laser lipolysis, although the cost does depend on how many areas of your body you’re having treated.

Where can I read reviews of the different methods of treatment?

You can read reviews written by genuine laser lipolysis patients at the RealSelf website.

Body sculpting by fat freezing

How does it work?

The fat freezing technique is known as non-invasive cryogenic lipolysis, and tends to be referred to by its brand name, CoolSculpting.

The procedure uses suction pads to suck, freeze and then destroy the fat cells.

Does it hurt?

Generally, no. The cold temperature may cause some numbness in the area you’ve had treated, but this will subside after a short time.

How long does it take to recover?

After the procedure, one of the medical professionals will massage the treated areas. Once they’ve done this, you’ll be free to go back to your normal routine.

You’ll be asked to avoid strenuous physical activity and exercise until your doctor gives you the all-clear.

Are there any side effects?

CoolSculpting can have some side effects, including:

  • swelling and bruising
  • tingling or stinging
  • tenderness
  • cramps or aching
  • itching
  • sensitive skin

These generally go away within days or weeks.

There are more serious side effects—such as delayed onset pain and nerve damage—but these are rare.

Does it get rid of cellulite?

No. Cellulite is caused by superficial fat caught in fibres within the skin. CoolSculpting is designed to treat deeper areas of body fat.

What does it cost?

The average cost of CoolSculpting in the UK is around £1,850.

Where can I read reviews of the different methods of treatment?

You can read reviews written by genuine CoolSculpting patients at the RealSelf website.

Read how SculpSure and CoolSculpting compare

Body sculpting by ultrasonic cavitation

How does it work?

Ultrasonic cavitation uses low-frequency ultrasound waves from a device known as a transducer to melt fat cells beneath the skin.

The waves from the transducer produce heat, which penetrates the deeper layers of the skin and causes the fat cells to die.

Does it hurt?

It shouldn’t. Patients say the sensation is similar to how your body feels after an intense workout at the gym.

How long does it take to recover?

There’s no recovery period—you should be able to return to your daily life the same day.

Are there any side effects?

There are no long-term side effects, but some patients have reported suffering:

  • irritated or tender skin
  • mild aches and pains
  • headaches
  • a higher body temperature

Does it get rid of cellulite?

It’s hard to say. In some quarters, ultrasonic cavitation is seen as a useful method of removing cellulite, while other medical professionals question its effectiveness and recommend other treatments, such as Cellulaze, PelleFirm and Cellfina.

In this case, it’s probably best to seek the advice of a qualified medical professional.

What does it cost?

Ultrasonic cavitation costs, on average, around £200 to £300 per session.

Where can I read reviews of the different methods of treatment?

You can read reviews written by genuine ultrasonic cavitation patients at the RealSelf website.

Read how SculpSure and ultrasonic cavitation compare

Surgical body sculpting


How does it work?

Liposuction involves sucking out small pockets of fat—usually around the buttocks, hips, thighs and tummy—with a special tube known as a cannula.

The procedure is usually carried out under general anaesthetic and tends to require an overnight stay in hospital.

Does it hurt?

Commonly, yes. You’re likely to feel bruised, swollen and sore for a few weeks after the treatment, and need strong painkillers to control the pain.

How long does it take to recover?

It usually takes about two weeks to recover fully, but it does depend on the size of the area you have treated. A large area might need 10 days of healing before you can go back to work, a smaller area only two or three days.

The doctors will ask you to avoid doing anything strenuous for four to six weeks and you may need to wear a compression garment to help the swelling go down.

Are there any side effects?

Common side effects from liposuction include:

  • swelling and bruising
  • some minor scarring where the incisions were made
  • numbness around the treated area

Does it get rid of cellulite?

Liposuction can permanently remove fat from your body and change your figure, but it won’t get rid of cellulite.

What does it cost?

In the UK, liposuction can cost anywhere between £2,000 to £6,000, depending on where you go and which parts of your body you’re having treated.

It isn’t available on the NHS, except when used to treat certain health conditions (such as lipoedema).

Where can I read reviews of the different methods of treatment?

You can read reviews written by genuine liposuction patients at the RealSelf website.

Read how SculpSure and liposuction compare

Body sculpting by fat transfer

How does it work?

Fat transfer (also known as fat grafting or fat injections) involves:

  • using a minimally invasive form of liposuction (such as VASERlipo) to remove fat from one part of the body
  • purifying the fat by separating the healthy cells from the damaged ones
  • injecting the healthy fat into another part of the body to give it more volume

The process is generally used to treat people who want more ample breasts or buttocks or smoother, tighter skin.

Does it hurt?

How much pain you feel will depend on which part of your body you’re having treated. Fat transfer to the face will generally be less painful than the same procedure carried out on the breasts or buttocks, as there is much less fat to transfer.

How long does it take to recover?

You may feel some discomfort in the areas where the liposuction was done, but this should go down after a few days. You’re also likely to suffer some bruising and swelling around the same areas, and this might take up to two weeks to go down.

As with traditional liposuction, your doctor will probably ask you to:

  • wear a compression garment for several weeks after treatment
  • avoid strenuous activity unless you’re given the all-clear to resume

Are there any side effects?

There are few, if any, side effects. The main complication is a reaction to the medication you’re prescribed for after the surgery, but your doctor will explain any possible side effects during your consultation.

Does it get rid of cellulite?

It can have some effect in improving the appearance of rippled skin, but a form of treatment specifically designed to remove cellulite (such as Cellulaze and PelleFirm) is your best option.

What does it cost?

Fat transfer for the face can cost between £4,000 and £5,000, while treatment for other areas of the body is generally priced at £6,500 to £7,000. However, the cost will increase the more areas you have treated.

Where can I read reviews of the different methods of treatment?

You can read reviews written by genuine fat transfer patients at the RealSelf website.

Related content

SculpSure vs CoolSculpting: Comparing the two treatments

How SculpSure works

Laser lipo FAQs

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