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Do I Need a Tummy Tuck or Liposuction?

We all have that small amount of belly fat that just won't seem to go away. Often times, this lowers our self confidence, and makes us not able to feel as good about our bodies. 

Everyone deserves to look and feel good, and there is no reason a tiny amount of excess skin and fat in your abdominal area should keep you from this. 

If you have tried natural ways to get rid of belly fat, and nothing seems to be working, a cosmetic procedure may be best to get rid of that unwanted fat. The two best treatments to consider are Liposuction and Tummy Tucks

But which one is right for you? In this guide, we will go in depth into both of these procedures, their pros and cons, who they are best for, how much they cost, and more. Let's dive in! 

I. Understanding The Difference Between Tummy Tucks and Liposuction 

While both of these procedures can help to get rid of body fat and sculpt the abdominal section, there are however, some key differences in terms of:

  • Procedure
  • Recovery time
  • Areas they are meant to target

Whether you are considering enhancing yourself this month, next month, this year, or next year, having information about different techniques and what to expect can prepare you for this part of your beauty journey.


1. Tummy Tucks 

A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is a surgery performed by a plastic surgeon, that removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen. 

Note: There are tummy tucks and mini-tummy tucks. Find out the difference between them, and which one is best for you in this guide.

How is a Tummy Tuck Performed? 

An abdominoplasty begins with the patient being put under anesthesia. After sedation, the surgeon performs the following steps:  

  1. Makes an incision at the bottom of the skin covering the abdominal wall
  2. Sews and shapes muscles if necessary
  3. Pull the skin tight 
  4. Cut off any excess
  5. Close the incision

How Long Does the Surgery Take? 

On average, the procedure takes about 2 hours, but can be a bit shorter or longer, depending on your specific situation. 

Tummy Tuck Results: Before and After Photos

Here are a few before and after photos of tummy tuck patients:



Note: These results are considered permanent. The abdominal wall will be stronger and the excess skin cannot return, unless the individual becomes pregnant, thus stretching the area out. This can also happen to both men and women who undergo a serious fluctuation in weight.

Who Should Avoid a Tummy Tuck? 

  • Those with a BMI over 30
  • Women who want to get pregnant soon
  • People with chronic heart conditions

Additionally, an Experienced Tummy Tuck Surgeon will let you know of any other reasons that a tummy tuck might not be best for you, and can also suggest other solutions. 

What Are the Possible Complications from a Tummy Tuck? 

For the most part, tummy tuck surgery is very safe.  In fact, there is less than a 4% risk of complications in the United States.

In the small chance that there are complications, the most common ones are: 

  • Change in sensation to the abdominal tissue and upper thighs
  • Fluid accumulation under the skin
  • Damage to fatty tissue deep in the abdominal area

The second two can require additional surgery or treatment to fix. 

Looking to learn more about the safety of tummy tucks? Check out this comprehensive guide that has everything you need to know. 

What's the Recovery Time Like?

Recovery time from tummy tuck surgery is longer than liposuction, often taking about two weeks, with the body fully healing within 3-4 weeks. 

First 2-3 Days                               

Patient will experience intense pain which can be relieved with medication. The first few days should involve little to no physical activity, and patients should not shower for the first 48 hours so as to not disturb the incision. 

First 1-3 Weeks 

Most patients can return to work after about 2 weeks, but should still stay away from most exercise besides walking. However, many patients experience intense pain within the first 1-2 weeks, and even into the 3rd week.

4-8 Weeks 

During this time period, most intense pain should be gone, but regular pain is normal. Physical activity should still be avoided if it is anything more than walking, stretching, or very low intensity arobic exercises. 

In the 6th week, you may begin picking up very light objects, but almost all lifting should still be avoided if possible. 

2 - 6 Months 

For the first 3 months, you should still subside from most exercise. After this period, you may begin running, and other high intensity workouts, but should still avoid lifting anything heavy for up to 6 months. 

Most regular pain should subside after the first 2-3 months, though slight pain can still persists from time to time. 

6 Months - 1 Year

Typically, it takes about 6 months to a year in order to make a full recovery. This is  because your muscle, tissue, and nerves have to heal after a tummy tuck.

After the first 6 months, you should be able to completely engage in full exercise, and have entirely healed wounds. By the end of the first year, most of your nerves should be completely healed, signaling a full recovery. 

After surgery, you will need someone to drive you home. It is essential that you follow your doctor's orders, which typically include: 

  • Get lots of rest
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Eat healthy 
  • Stay away from exercise and strain 
  • Stay in contact with them 

The more you adhere to these doctor's orders, the better off you will be after surgery. This will allow for quick healing, and likely lead to better results. 

Learn More: For some amazing tips to a quick tummy tuck recovery, check out this comprehensive guide 


2. Liposuction

Depending on the type of liposuction you get, it can be a minimally invasive, invasive, or non-invasive procedure that removes fat deposits from specific area, reducing bulges and contouring the body.

How is a Liposuction Performed? 

  1. First, The surgeon will make small incisions around the fat deposit site
  2. Next, they will move a thin tube under the skin to loosen the fat cells
  3. Lastly, they will use a medical vacuum will be used to suck out the dislodged fat deposits

How Long Does Lipo Take? 

It can take several sessions for the desired results to be achieved. Each session is typically 2 hours. There are many different areas of the body that liposuction can be performed on, including: 

  • Arms
  • Legs 
  • Thighs
  • Face 
  • Back 
  • Buttocks 
  • Breasts 
  • Stomach
  • Chin

This includes things like double chin, muffin tops, fat on the sides of the abdomen and chest, and much more. 

How Long Do the Results Last? 

These results are meant to be permanent. BUT, if the individual gains additional weight, fat will re accumulate in the body in other areas.

Liposuction Results: Before and After (Photos)

Here are a few before and after photos of liposuction patients:



Note: These results are considered permanent. If the patient gains weight in the future, the skin can stretch out again. Also, some patients may have excess skin as a result of liposuction in some areas. If in the stomach, this may also require a tummy tuck. 

Who Should Avoid Liposuction? 

  • Those who are obese
  • Women looking to bring back abdominal muscles after pregnancy

If you are obese, your doctor may recommend that you lose a certain amount of weight before considering this procedure. 

For mothers who have suffered abdominal muscle damage from pregnancy, a tummy tuck will be more effective for you, as physically cuts and surgically tightens your abs. This can help mothers to get their figure and confidence back. 

Note: If there is any loose skin in the abdominal area, or the abdominal muscle wall has been stretched, liposuction alone is not necessarily the best treatment because liposuction cannot tighten loose skin contrary to what some surgeons may claim. In such situations, performing liposuction alone might actually leave the skin less taut and even droopy. 

If this has happened to you, and you are looking to get rid of excess skin, a tummy tuck is the right move. 

What Are Some Possible Complications From Liposuction? 

Most liposuction procedures are safe, quick, and almost painless. However, occasionally there can be complications such as:  

  • Temporary numbness to the area
  • Contour irregularities on the top layer of skin
  • Temporary pocket of fluid forming under the skin

These do not occur frequently, and are treatable. Usually, these complications will only last a few days or weeks, and can be addressed by your doctor. Working with an expert liposuction surgeon who has the precision and experience also helps to reduce any risks of complications. 

What is Recovery from Liposuction Like? 

First 2-3 Days                               

Patient will feel pain similar to bruising, and other types of pain. This can be managed with pain medication. Swelling and bruising, as well as red coloration usually occur around the treated area.

Physical exercise and strain is not recommended, and patients should not return to work for at least 3 days or so.

First 1-2 Weeks 

Most of the initial pain should begin to subside, however, you will still experience moderate pain throughout this period. Some of the bruising and swelling will subside, but most will persist through this period. 

During this time is when any complications will begin to arise, so patients should keep a steady eye on the treatment area, to monitor fluids and inform their doctor of any problems.

2-5 Weeks 

At this point, incisions are typically fully healed, and patients can return to work again barring any physical strain or exercise. 

Slight exercises are permitted after the 3rd week, but should be done carefully. Bruising and inflammation typically subside in this time period. 

6 Weeks and Beyond 

After this period, patients should be able to stop wearing their compression garments. All incisions, bruising and other visible side effects should vanish, leaving behind beautiful results. 

Regular physical activity and high impact activity can be performed again, and patients should be fully healed and healthy. 

After surgery, you will need someone to drive you home. It is essential that you follow your doctor's orders for a safe and quick recovery. Typically, this will include: 

  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating well 
  • Wearing your garments 
  • Avoiding strain and exercise 
  • Staying in contact 
  • Monitoring the treatment area 

Note: Compression garments should be given to patients by the doctor, and should be worn until their notice. Typically, this lasts throughout the entire 6 week liposuction recovery timeline

Who is Liposuction Best For?

Liposuction is a treatment which sculpts the body by getting rid of unwanted fat under the skin by way of tiny incisions. The common areas that are treated with liposuction include:

  • Abdomen
  • Love handles
  • Brawl rules
  • Hips
  • Thighs
  • Arms
  • Neck

The procedure not only removes fat deposits from targeted areas, but it reduces any bulges that fat might produce and also improves the contour of the body.

If there is any loose skin in the abdominal area, or the abdominal muscle wall has been stretched, liposuction alone is not necessarily the best treatment because it cannot tighten the loose skin contrary to what some Smartlipo and Bodytite surgeons will claim. In such situations, performing liposuction alone might actually leave the skin less taut and even droopy.

The biggest advantages to choosing liposuction is that it is a minimally-invasive procedure, so the down time is next to nothing and the scarring is very small.

Liposuction is the best solution for patients who have extra fat deposits under their skin but otherwise have a flat abdominal wall with good skin tone. It is best for candidates to be within 20% of their ideal body weight.

Note: there are many different types of liposuction. To find out which one is best for you, check out this comprehensive guide

Who is a Tummy Tuck Best for?

A tummy tuck is a procedure that produces a dramatically flatter belly. It consists of making a bikini line incision from one hip to the next, tightening the abdominal wall, and removing any excess skin.

There are many things that can cause the skin around the stomach to stretch permanently and the use of a tummy tuck restores a naturally flat and contoured stomach, rectifying any issues surrounding extra skin.

Many patients choose to combine a tummy tuck with liposuction so that they can both remove the fatty layer and complete an overall enhancement by tightening the entire area and strengthening the abdominal muscles.

Tummy tucks are best for people who need excess skin removed, and also for people who need the actual muscle and tissue in their stomach to be tightened surgically. 

Recovery time from tummy tuck surgery is longer than liposuction, often taking about two weeks, with the body fully healing within 3-4 weeks. 

Note: there are tummy tucks and mini-tummy tucks. Find out the difference between them, and which one is best for you in this guide.

Find Out Whether Liposuction or a Tummy Tuck is Better For You

Still not sure which treatment is right for you? No problem, here are a few more quick resources which should help you learn a bit more: 

For even more information on tummy tucks, liposuction, and other cosmetic surgeries that help you get rid of excess fat, our blog has everything you need.

If you would like to get a professional opinion on which treatment is best for you, take our self evaluation, or ask us anything here

The Best Tummy Tucks and Liposuction in San Francisco 

Looking for an experienced and skillful plastic surgeon to perform your liposuction or tummy tuck surgery? 

My name is Dr. Larry Fan, and I have performed over 5,000 cosmetic procedures, including tummy tucks, liposuction, and many more. As the founder of 77 Plastic Surgery, I am extremely proud to be able to help my clients look and feel their best. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel confident in how they look. 

For 10 Years Running, I have been voted one of America's Top Plastic Surgeons, providing amazing results for my clients. I personally perform every single surgery at 77, and am confident that I have the expertise, and passion to give you the body you have always wanted. 

If you would like to schedule a consultation in order to learn more about pricing, procedure, and which procedure is best for you, please contact me here. I would love to discuss with you everything you need to know, and help answer any questions you may have. 

Wondering if you're a candidate?


About the Author

Dr. Larry Fan is a Harvard educated, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon in San Francisco, CA. He is a Master Artist who is known for creating beautiful, stunning, and natural results. Dr. Fan has been named One of America's Top Plastic Surgeons for the past 10 years running and has received several national awards for his work in Plastic Surgery. He has successfully performed more than 10,000 cosmetic procedures of the face, breasts, and body over a 20 year period. Dr Fan has been an invited speaker at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons, and has been featured in national media outlets such as CNN, NBC, and ABC.

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