Fighting Fat With Laser Lipolysis

Smart Lipo, aka laser lipolysis, is what some believe to be the most powerful new weapon in the war on fat and cellulite. The procedure is the kinder and gentler cousin of traditional liposuction, and the best part is that it can not only help patients lose inches, but can also help reduce the look of cellulite and sagging skin.

Plastic surgeon drawing on patient for liposuction
Martin Siepmann / Stockbyte / Getty Images

The Skinny on Smart Lipo

Laser lipolysis is a procedure in which localized fat deposits are reduced surgically by means of a special laser housed inside a tiny tube called a cannula. Unlike traditional liposuction, laser lipolysis does not use suction. This procedure offers benefits on par with traditional liposuction, although it is generally recommended for smaller areas. In fact, this procedure is gaining popularity for use on the face, especially as a way of re-defining the jawline and getting rid of the dreaded “second chin” that creeps up on some of us as we get older.​

Smart Lipo has many advantages over traditional liposuction. First, it is gentler and safer, partly due to the much smaller cannulas. Second, the smaller cannulas mean smaller incisions, so there is less scarring. Finally, because of the heat generated by this method, there is another very important benefit: The body’s own healing response causes tissues to contract, leaving skin tighter and smoother in the treated area. This is good news indeed, since the traditional liposuction method of merely “sucking out the fat” can sometimes leave patients with uneven contours and loose, sagging skin.

Who Is a Good Candidate?

Guidelines for who is a good candidate are generally on par with those of traditional liposuction. The ideal candidate also has maintained a stable weight for years and has specific problem areas for fat.

Risks and Complications

Although Smart Lipo is less invasive than traditional liposuction, it is still surgery, even though it is performed under local anesthesia. Therefore, it carries the same risks as most surgeries and some specific to the procedure itself. The most common risks and complications are bruising, infection, hematoma (pooling of blood underneath the skin), and scarring. Less common risks are excessive bleeding, shock, and burns of the skin or underlying tissues. (These are extremely rare with Smart Lipo.)

Recovery Tips

Once the procedure is finished, you will be taken to a recovery area where you will likely be given a compression garment to wear to control swelling in the treated areas and help your skin conform to your new body shape. Patients can expect low to moderate levels of pain and discomfort for the first 24-48 hours following surgery, and most patients are able to return to work within a few days. You will want to continue to wear the compression garments for at least a week afterward, but your surgeon will give you more specific instructions.


The total cost of Smart Lipo varies widely depending on the size and number of areas being treated, as well as the specific techniques used. The range per treated area is usually between $1,500-$7,500.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Smart Lipo?

    Smart Lipo, or laser lipolysis, is a type of surgery that removes specific fat deposits from the body using a laser. This is different than liposuction, a procedure that accomplishes similar goals using a suction. However, Smart Lipo is considered more safe and reduces the possibility of scarring.

  • Are there risks to Smart Lipo?

    Yes, there are some risks to receiving Smart Lipo. Common risks include bruising, infection, scarring, and hematoma. Very rare risks can include excessive bleeding, skin burns, underlying tissue burns, and shock.

  • Why is laser lipolysis used?

    Laser lipolysis is often used as a method of cosmetic surgery. Its more gentle application compared to traditional liposuction has made it a popular choice for facial cosmetic surgery.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Liposuction. US National Library of Medicine.

  2. Liposuction. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.

  3. Mcbean JC, Katz BE. Laser lipolysis: an update. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2011;4(7):25-34. 

  4. Smart Lipo Recovery. Smart Lipo.

  5. Smart Lipo Cost. Smart Lipo.

Additional Reading
  • Email interview with Paramus, New Jersey-based board certified plastic surgeon Sherwood Baxt, MD received on June 12, 2007