Advice Centre How It Works Guide to laser lipolysis – what it is, how it works, results, side effects, costs, reviews

Guide to laser lipolysis – what it is, how it works, results, side effects, costs, reviews

Laser lipolysis (laser lipo, for short) is a body-contouring treatment designed to remove stubborn areas of fat and give you a slimmer, more defined figure.

In this guide, we explain:

  • what laser lipo is and how it works
  • where on the body you can have it, and what results you can expect
  • how much it costs
  • possible side effects of the procedure

We also direct you to some reviews of laser lipo – including SculpSure, our own body-sculpting treatment.

Quick links:

What is laser lipolysis?

Laser lipolysis is a body-contouring procedure that uses heat from laser devices to destroy fat cells.

Laser lipolysis (or laser lipo, for short) is a body-sculpting treatment that uses heat from light-based technology to melt fat cells.

It’s intended mainly to remove body fat that’s difficult to lose through diet or exercise, such as:

  • saddlebags (fat deposits on the upper outer thighs)
  • love handles (belly fat around the torso)
  • double chins

There are two types of laser lipo:

  • minimally invasive
  • non-invasive

“Invasive” means breaking the skin by making an incision.

Both procedures are explained here and compared here.

How does it work?

With non-invasive laser lipo, an applicator is secured to your body to heat the fat beneath your skin. Minimally invasive laser lipo is a surgical procedure involving local anaesthetic and incisions.

Non-invasive laser lipo

With this procedure, there are no incisions and there’s no suction.

  1. The doctor marks those areas of your body they’re going to treat.
  2. You lie on a bed and the doctor fits the special applicator to your skin.
  3. During the first few minutes of the treatment, you’ll feel a cooling sensation that helps keep your skin comfortable throughout the process.
  4. After that, you’ll feel alternating warm and cool sensations as the laser begins to destroy your fat cells. This will continue until the treatment is complete.

SculpSure is non-invasive, meaning it doesn’t break your skin. Read more about how SculpSure works here.

Minimally invasive laser lipo

This is surgical, meaning an incision is made in your skin and a laser inserted to break down the fat.

  1. The doctor uses a special marker to mark the areas of your body they’re treating.
  2. They inject you with a local anaesthetic so they can make a small incision in your skin to insert the rest of the anaesthetic.
    Having a local anaesthetic means you’ll be awake for the whole procedure. However, you shouldn’t feel anything other than a bit of pressure or heat on your skin.
  3. When the anaesthetic has taken hold, the doctor inserts the laser (which is inside a thin tube called a cannula) through the incision and into the fatty part of your body.
  4. The heat from the laser liquefies the fat, which the doctor then ‘aspirates’ (sucks out) or leaves inside your body to be absorbed naturally.
  5. This heat also prompts your body to produce new collagen, which helps tighten the skin.

Non-invasive vs minimally invasive: a quick comparison

Non-invasive (e.g. SculpSure)

Minimally invasive (e.g. SmartLipo)

Does it involve surgery?

No Yes

How long does it take to recover?

No downtime 1-2 days

Do I need anaesthetic?

No Local anaesthetic

How soon will I see results?

Within 6-12 weeks Within 1-3 months

Which areas can I have treated?

  • Chin
  • Neck
  • Abdomen
  • Waist and hips
  • Buttocks
  • Inner thigh
  • Outer thigh
  • Posterior thigh
  • Anterior thigh and knees
  • Calf
  • Lower back

Click here for a full list

  • Arms
  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Inner thighs
  • Outer thighs
  • Back of the neck

How long does each session take?

25 minutes 1 hour-1.5 hours

How many sessions do I need?

1-2 per area 1-2 per area

Does it destroy fat cells permanently?

Yes Yes

Will I bruise?

No Some bruising

Will I scar?

No Minor scarring

How much discomfort will I feel (0 = none; 10 = very uncomfortable)

2 5

How much does it cost?

From £1,000 From £1,000

What results can I expect from it?

Non-invasive laser lipo produces its best results after 12 weeks, while minimally invasive treatment can take up to three months.

If you have a non-invasive procedure like SculpSure, you should start to see results as early as six weeks after treatment, with the best results at around 12 weeks.

Minimally invasive laser lipo tends to produce a noticeable improvement between one and three months, with best results after six months.

Be aware that it can take your body three to six months to naturally metabolise liquefied fat to a point where you can see the effects.

Where can I read reviews of the treatment?

The RealSelf website is extremely helpful for reading reviews from genuine laser lipo patients, such as the following:

  • “I had twins a few years ago and anyone who has had a child can confirm that your body will likely never be the same.
    I had several areas done, including upper and lower abs, thighs and arms. My results have been fantastic and the surgeons are by far artisans of the trade. I have never been more confident and isn’t that a great thing to teach your kids?”
    sboyd1121
  • “I had my upper abs, lower abs and waist done July 7th, 2018. I have my chin scheduled at the end of August. So far I am happy with the results. I am happy to have the muffin top gone. I will say the healing time is much longer. Still pretty sore. But I can tolerate it.”kbass7
  • “I am a 35-year-old who maintains a healthy diet and exercise, but always carries fat in midsection. [I had] laser lipo on upper and lower abs, waist and back bra roll. All completed during one appointment. I’m 2 weeks out from procedure now and couldn’t be happier with results!”Mommapdx

Out of 782 reviews, 86% said laser lipo was worth getting. You can read more reviews of the procedure here.

Click here to read reviews of SculpSure, which 85% of patients said was worth it (based on 806 reviews).

How many treatments do I need?

One is enough to produce results but most practitioners will recommend at least two.

Although you’re likely to see a difference after just one treatment, for the best possible results it’s recommended you have two treatments on each area.

Where on my body can I have the treatment?

Areas most commonly treated with laser lipo include the chin, neck, chest, abdomen and thighs.

Non-invasive laser lipo such as SculpSure can treat the following areas:

  • Chin
  • Neck
  • Upper and lower abdomen
  • Waist and hips
  • Buttocks
  • Inner and outer thigh
  • Posterior thigh
  • Anterior thigh and knees
  • Calf
  • Lower back

Click here to read more about which parts of the body are most suitable for SculpSure, and click here to see some before-and-after pictures.

Minimally invasive body sculpting is proven to work on the following areas:

  • Arms
  • Chest
  • Upper and lower abdomen
  • Inner and outer thigh
  • Back of the neck

How much does it cost?

A non-invasive procedure costs around £1,000–£1,500. Minimally invasive laser lipo is usually more expensive, costing £3,500–£4,000 on average.

While prices for laser lipo do vary significantly depending on the surgery you visit and the surgeon’s experience and reputation, you can expect to pay the following, on average:

  • Non-invasive laser lipo: £1,000–£1,500
  • Minimally invasive laser lipo: £3,500–£4,000

If you find prices any lower than these, you could risk receiving a substandard quality of treatment so make sure you do your research!

What are the side effects?

With minimally invasive laser lipo, you’ll suffer some swelling, bruising and general soreness. Non‑invasive treatment may cause you some mild pain, but this will quickly subside.

Because minimally invasive laser lipo involves making an incision in your skin, it’s common for patients to bruise and swell and suffer some minor scarring. There’s also a very small risk of infection where your skin is cut open.

Other than some mild soreness immediately afterward, non-invasive treatment has fewer side effects and involves barely any recovery time.

Read more on SculpSure’s side effects on this page, and about the safety of the treatment here. You can read about the safety of laser lipo here.

Related content

Laser lipolysis FAQs—further questions about laser lipo answered

Aftercare for laser lipolysis treatment

SculpSure FAQs

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