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Ready or not, summer is just around the corner — time to cast off the bulky sweaters and oh-so-forgiving layers to unveil the real you.

Hitting the gym and watching your diet goes far in tuning up your body. But time, age and previous events, such as pregnancies, can leave lasting reminders like stubborn cellulite and jiggly skin.

If you are looking for a little boost to get beach and bikini ready this summer, consider a cosmetic procedure this spring. Today’s medical advances in body contouring are safer and less invasive, with minimal downtime while recovering.

Liposuction

This procedure, often referred to as "lipo,” slims and reshapes specific areas of the body by removing excess fat deposits that have settled in, despite diet and exercise. It is the second most popular cosmetic surgical procedure, behind breast augmentation, and has been practiced and perfected over the past 40 years.

In 2016, more than 200,000 liposuction procedures were performed in the United States, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). 

Liposuction falls in two broad categories: traditional liposuction and laser-assisted liposuction.

In traditional liposuction, patients are put under general anesthesia and it is done in an operating room. A mixture of saline and an anesthetic is injected in the area to be treated and then the fat is sucked out through a device called a cannula, similar to a metal straw. 

Laser-assisted liposuction can be safely performed in a doctor’s office. A numbing solution is injected through small incision sites, then a small laser is used to liquify the fat, making it easier to remove.

According to the ASPS, the best candidates for a liposuction procedure are:

  • Adults within 30 percent of their ideal weight who have firm, elastic skin and good muscle tone
  • Healthy individuals who do not have a life-threatening illness or medical conditions that can impair healing
  • Nonsmokers

As with most cosmetic procedures, liposuction is not a treatment for obesity, or a substitute for proper diet and exercise. And contrary to popular assumption, it is not an effective treatment for cellulite — the dimpled skin that typically appears on the thighs, hips and buttocks — or loose saggy skin.

Areas of the body where liposuction can be effective include the thighs, hips and buttocks, abdomen and waist, upper arms, back, inner knees, cheeks, chin and neck, calves and ankles.

Average cost: $3,200

CoolSculpting

This relatively new cosmetic procedure uses controlled cooling to eliminate stubborn fat that resists all efforts to go away through diet and exercise alone. Like liposuction, the goal is body contouring, targeting specific areas where fat cells have settled in to stay.

“CoolSculpting is not a weight loss procedure — it is the destruction of fat cells,” explained Jenn Cobbs, master injector and clinical director of SkinReMEDI by Natural Body in Alpharetta. “Fat cells do not actually weigh very much, so the client will experience a change in appearance and in the way their clothes fit after CoolSculpting.”

She said the best candidates are those within 20-30 pounds of their ideal weight, at a stable weight or in the process of losing weight.

“Humans are born with a certain number of fat cells — as we gain weight, they swell and as we lose weight, they shrink,” said Cobbs. “CoolSculpting permanently destroys a percentage of those cells, [so] they will not return.”

CoolSculpting is FDA-cleared (as is liposuction), with proven results in target areas where fat is stubbornly resistant, regardless of diet and exercise. Only accredited doctors and treatment centers, such as medical spas and clinics, can perform the procedure. 

A single treatment takes 35-60 minutes, depending on the size of the treated area. Immediately after, a deep-tissue massage is done to mobilize the fat that has been frozen and improve the drainage of the fat.

“The majority of clients are looking to correct the trouble spots first,” said Cobbs. “The double chin, abdomen, flanks, inner thigh and upper arms are the most commonly treated areas. Many clients return for additional areas once they see the results.”

The results typically take two to four months to fully develop, but Cobbs said many clients report visible changes as early as three weeks after treatment.

Average cost: $2,000 - $4,000 per session

Tummy tuck surgery

Tummy tuck surgery, also known as abdominoplasty, removes excess fat and skin from the abdomen, and, in most cases, restores muscles to create a smoother, firmer midsection profile.

Even women of normal body weight can develop an abdomen that protrudes or is loose and sagging because of variety of factors. Those include aging, heredity, pregnancy, prior surgery or repeated cycles of weight gain and weight loss.

A tummy tuck should always be done in a doctor’s office, with a surgeon qualified to perform the relatively invasive procedure. Often a tummy tuck is done in conjunction with liposuction to optimal results.

"The most important consideration for patients should be choosing a board-certified, ASPS-member surgeon," said past ASPS President Dr. Debra Johnson. "Before you undergo any procedure, make sure you're putting yourself in the hands of only the most qualified and highly trained plastic surgeons. The cost of any procedure is not nearly as important as doing your homework and selecting a surgeon whose primary focus is your safety."

A tummy tuck differs from liposuction and CoolSculpting in complexity, so it may take one to two weeks before a patient can return to normal activities, and up to two months to return to pre-operative form. 

Although the results of a tummy tuck are technically permanent, the effect of the procedure can be diminished by significant fluctuations in weight, said Johnson. For this reason, individuals who are planning substantial weight loss or women who may be considering future pregnancies would be advised to postpone a tummy tuck.

Average cost: $5,800.

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