10 Biggest Liposuction Myths: Weight Gain, Pain, Recovery, and More

Liposuction before and after pictures of men and women from RealSelf.com

Written by: Gina Carbone

Many a medical myth has been spread about liposuction (79% Worth It Rating), and depending on the piece of fiction, the procedure is either given too much credit or too much blame. Mostly these myths are just confusing, and the last thing you want is to be is confused about an invasive procedure like lipo. Without further ado, here are the 10 biggest liposuction myths busted by RealSelf doctors.

MYTH 1: Lipo Is a Good Weight Loss Tool

Want to drive a plastic surgeon batty? Tell him or her you want liposuction because you’re looking to lose weight. Seattle plastic surgeon Richard Rand says, "You cannot safely lose any significant weight from liposuction, period. The only proper use of this procedure is in contouring problem areas after diet and exercise have failed. In a rare case, some liposuction can jumpstart a weight loss program, but this use should be very rare."

MYTH 2: Lipo Gets Rid of Cellulite

Wouldn't it be great if you could get rid of all that cellulite out as you shape your body? Alas, that's just not how lipo works. "Liposuction is not used for the treatment of cellulite," says Houston plastic surgeon Bob Basu. "You should consider Cellulaze for cellulite." Orange County plastic surgeon Larry Nichter confirms that liposuction won’t get rid of cellulite, and says that some issues can actually worsen lipo results! Namely, obesity and weight yo-yoing, which tend to destroy skin elasticity — post-lipo, the skin will sag instead of snapping back once the fat is gone.

VIDEO: Does liposuction remove cellulite?:

MYTH 3: Fat Will Come Back Somewhere Else After Lipo

The “fat return” fear is something plastic surgeons hear about pretty often — which is understandable! — but you’ll get an earful from any doc you ask. As Memphis plastic surgeon Peter Aldea explains, “New fat does not Zen-like ‘find its way’ elsewhere after liposuction. This is one of the most common liposuction myths out there [...] Liposuction removes PART of the fat in an area, BUT if the body is overwhelmed by a large amount of calories that are NOT burned they are stored PROPORTIONATELY in every remaining fat cell in the body.”

Fat cells aren't distributed evenly to begin with, and after lipo (or any type of fat cell removal) they definitely won't be distributed evenly. Even though individual fat cells grow evenly, there will be fewer in the places where the lipo happened, so those places won't fill out the same way they used to (which is what lipo patients want). Remaining fat cells in the rest of the body will pick up the slack. These cells will gain fat evenly, but not in the areas you're used to gaining in, since the fat cells in those places were liposuctioned out. The more fat cells removed, the more the remaining fat cells will gain when you gain weight. Make sense?

Bellevue plastic surgeon George Marosan assures, “The changes from liposuction are permanent if you maintain your weight afterwards. If you gain significant weight, you will ‘fill out’ in all areas of fat deposition (genetically and hormonally determined), but you will maintain your contour from liposuction.”

VIDEO: Will fat come back after liposuction?:

Tools used in liposuction called cannulas.
Tools used in liposuction called cannulas. (Photo credit: dockapeps on Instagram)

MYTH 4: Liposuction Doesn’t Hurt

How's this for honesty? "The truth be known that liposuction HURTS!!" proclaims Fairfax plastic surgeon Christopher Hess. "Okay it's not crippling, but for the first 3 days you'll hate your surgeon. Most patients complain that it's a soreness when going from a resting position to one of motion. This will last for several weeks." If you’re wondering what consumers have to say about the pain, RealSelf community member Double-L titled her review, “Liposuction hurts like HELL but I look great.”

Miami plastic surgeon Pat Pazmino adds that severe pain is unusual and that "Immediately after the surgery, [patients] will experience a moderate amount of pain, swelling, and bruising. [...] Most patients state that the first two days after liposuction are the most uncomfortable and they can return to work shortly after that."

MYTH 5: You’re Too Old For Lipo at [Insert Age]

Sometimes age really is just a number. Beverly Hills dermatologic surgeon David Hansen asserts that liposuction can work for all ages since your age isn’t the main determining factor. “I've done patients in their 80s with good success,” he says.

Here’s a real life example: When a 71-year-old woman and RealSelf community member with no health problems and no current medications asked if lipo would be safe for her, she was given a qualified thumbs up. Manhattan dermatologist Ronald Shelton weighed in with, "In all likelihood, yes [lipo would be safe for her], [her] now than compared with 20 or more years ago.” The lesson here? Don’t expect a miracle, but don’t shut the door on the idea without talking to a specialist first!

MYTH 6: An Obese Patient Is the Best Candidate For Lipo

Totally false. It may sound counterintuitive, but the ideal candidate is actually just a little overweight. As Beverly Hills plastic surgeon William Bruno explains, "A good candidate for liposuction is someone who is fairly close to their ideal body weight, but has localized fatty deposits that are resistant to diet and exercise.” Dr. Bruno continues, “[The candidate] must have relatively good skin tone and elasticity in order to ensure a good result with minimal contour irregularities." He says that liposuction should not be performed on someone who is extremely overweight, which you'll hear echoed by plastic surgeons across the board.

MYTH 7: Liposuction Is Just For Women

No way, man! If you’re a guy considering liposuction, know that you are not alone. Scottsdale plastic surgeon Robert Cohen said, "One of the most common reasons men come to my plastic surgery practice is for liposuction. Over the years, plastic surgery for men, particularly liposuction, has increased significantly in popularity." Toronto plastic surgeon Frank Lista is seeing the same trend: "Men are coming to see us for liposuction almost as often as women. Men who are close to their ideal weight, but have persistent stubborn fat deposits on their abdomens, love handles, or chest find that liposuction can significantly improve the way they look. The operation is very similar in men as it is in women. Liposuction is quickly becoming one of the most popular operations we perform in men." Surprised?

MORE: Beyond Brotox: Are More Men Getting Cosmetic Surgery?

MYTH 8: The More Fat Removed, the Better

Actually, the more fat you remove, the higher the chances for risks you don’t want to deal with. Chicago plastic surgeon Otto Placik addressed a prospective patient’s fears about liposuction giving her irregularities, lumps, and bumps: “[These fears are] most likely driven by the fact that patients request aggressive treatment of localized fatty deposits. The more [fat] that is removed, the greater the potential risk of developing these problems.”

One of Dr. Placik’s tongue-in-cheek beliefs is: “You've never had too much liposuction until you've had too much.” Many of his patients ask him to remove as much fat as possible, but being more conservative with fat removal is the low-risk route. The American Society of Plastic Surgery recommends limiting liposuction to 5 liters (about 11 pounds) in an outpatient setting.

VIDEO: Are liposuction results permanent?:

How soon can you start working out after liposuction?
Photo credit: charlotteliene on Instagram

MYTH 9: You Can Get Back to Work and Exercise Right Away

Every patient is different, and it does depend on what you had done, but lipo is not like teeth cleaning. There is a recovery period. Miami plastic surgeon Jon Harrell notes that recovery can go anywhere from 2-10 days. "For most individuals I recommend they take about a week off of work. For patients having small amounts of liposuction, they may only need 2-3 days. Swelling usually starts to go away in earnest at about 7-10 days after surgery and patients look good in clothes by this time.”

Dr. Harrell recommends about a two-week ramp up to any strenuous activity. He says, “For most patients, I find that they are back to full speed by 4-6 weeks after surgery even though their swelling will be reducing for probably 3-5 months. Bruising is rarely an issue after two weeks following surgery."

MYTH 10: Lipo and a Tummy Tuck Do the Same Thing

Not quite. But let's say you're a mom of three and you’re considering lipo or a tummy tuck, but aren’t sure which one to pick or if there’s even a difference between the two. Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Anita Patel explains, "Liposuction is a great way to get rid of fat, but will not get rid of stretch marks or extra skin, and will not bring together stretched apart abdominal muscles [...] A tummy tuck can get rid of extra lower abdominal fat, skin, some (occasionally all) stretch marks, and bring together the abdominal muscles to get you back to a pre-pregnancy figure."

Boston plastic surgeon Brooke Seckel says tummy tuck and lipo can actually be done together to great results. He continues, “The key is the amount of loose skin and fat in the abdomen following pregnancy. If the problem is primarily loose skin with very little fat, then a tummy tuck alone will remove loose skin and tighten the tummy. However, if there are significant amounts of fat, then a liposuction will also be needed.” Here’s more about that.

Tummy tuck versus liposuction results pictures.

Any other lipo myths you’ve heard out there? Please share in the comments below!

Also,  here are more resources on liposuction, with detailed answers and advice from specialists.