While breast implants might be the most commonly recognized symbol of plastic surgery, recent statistics show liposuction has claimed the throne as the most popular cosmetic surgical procedure. For nearly a decade and a half, breast augmentations held the top spot, but patient preferences have shifted. According to data from The Aesthetic Society, liposuction experienced an astounding 85 percent surge in demand compared to 2019, outperforming other popular surgical procedures like abdominoplasty and breast augmentations. Experts say this shift can be attributed to various factors, including evolving demographics and motivations, advancements in liposuction techniques and technology, and the enduring appeal of surgical precision.
The Pandemic Effect
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced significant lifestyle changes, altering diet, activity levels, and leading to weight gain for many individuals. Chicago, IL plastic surgeon Andrea Martin, MD observed a common phrase during liposuction consultations: “COVID weight.” This weight gain during quarantine fueled the demand for liposuction as people sought to shed those extra pounds. “While liposuction is not a good weight-loss treatment, it is an excellent way to target the stubborn areas of fat that are resistant to diet, exercise, and other weight-loss measures. As we all know, it’s a lot easier to gain weight than lose it.”
The pandemic also accelerated the influence of social media, exposing people to idealized body images. Dr. Martin notes that this exposure has broadened the demographic of individuals seeking liposuction. “Simultaneously, people’s reliance on social media during quarantine, and the resultant increased exposure to ‘perfect,’ edited and filtered bodies seems to have broadened the population seeking liposuction, as everyone searches to achieve, and show off, their ‘ideal’ body.” Additionally, the stigma surrounding liposuction and aesthetic surgery, in general, has diminished, partly due to the influence of social media.
Recent innovations in liposuction techniques and technologies have significantly contributed to its growing popularity. Nashville plastic surgeon Daniel A Hatef, MD highlights the use of energy-based devices utilizing radiofrequency or ultrasound to emulsify fat and tighten tissues. “We have a better grasp of the anatomy of the fat, and how to use more aggressive removal in some areas, and less aggressive removal in others,” he explains. “This allows us to get more natural contours, rather than the flat bellies we were creating in the early 2000s. As well, energy-based devices that deliver radiofrequency or ultrasound help to emulsify fat and tighten tissues. Rapidly moving cannulas also help us to remove fat more smoothly and efficiently so that we don’t leave unnatural contours.”
One remarkable advancement is high-definition liposuction, which goes beyond mere fat reduction to sculpt and define specific body areas. Liposuction has evolved into a precise tool for achieving well-defined, aesthetically pleasing results. “Improved technology and techniques have allowed for high-definition liposculpting to augment and contour various areas of the body like the face, breasts and gluteal regions,” says Vero Beach, FL plastic surgeon Jimmy Chim, MD. “It’s no longer just a fat debulking procedure.”
Liposuction vs. Nonsurgical Alternatives
Despite rising interest in minimally invasive procedures, liposuction has several key advantages. Dr. Chim underscores that liposuction offers more predictable and controllable results compared to nonsurgical alternatives. While nonsurgical treatments have more limited indications, liposuction can address a broader range of body types, sizes, and areas. “Energy-based tightening has also expanded the demographics, allowing us to perform liposuction on older patients with looser skin,” he says. “All of this is additive to the expanding male patient population, many of which are pursuing liposculpting procedures.”
Furthermore, liposuction often requires fewer sessions than nonsurgical options, making it a time-efficient choice. “Greater awareness and flexibility with downtime due to remote schedules have also led to its popularity,” says Dr. Hatef. ”Liposuction has always been the most popular way to address body contouring needs, because of its minimal-incision nature. It is not minimally invasive; however, it is associated with a long but well-worth-it downtime.”
As trends in cosmetic surgery evolve, liposuction remains a steadfast option for individuals looking to achieve their ideal physique. “Liposuction procedures have always been on the rise,” adds Dr. Chim. ”While we are seeing a continued uptrend that was only temporarily affected by the pandemic. I think patients want to know the value they’re getting, and the predictability and reproducibility of liposuction results has yet to be replicated.”