Tummy Tuck vs. CoolSculpting®: What's the Difference?

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If there’s one area that really takes a hit during pregnancy, it’s your tummy. Not only does your skin stretch (and later sag, after childbirth), but the muscles separate, and stubborn fat seems to take up permanent residence around your midsection. And while diet and exercise can definitely help, sometimes, you need to call in a professional.


Cosmetic surgery procedures like a tummy tuck have long been considered the standard for reshaping and repairing your waistline after pregnancy and childbirth. But now, a nonsurgical option is also available — CoolSculpting®. So, what's the difference? Let's take a closer look:


•      Tummy tuck: A tummy tuck is a plastic surgery procedure that removes sagging skin and unwanted fat from your abdomen. It can also tighten your underlying muscles to make your stomach flatter and firmer. Tummy tuck surgery requires about 6 weeks of recovery time, depending on how involved your surgery is.

A tummy tuck is often combined with other cosmetic procedures, such as breast augmentation. Using several surgeries to address multiple areas of a woman's body that are affected by pregnancy and childbirth is called a Mommy Makeover.


•      CoolSculpting: CoolSculpting is a nonsurgical, noninvasive procedure that helps you lose inches by freezing your fat cells. CoolSculpting uses a unique technology called Cryolipolysis® to freeze and kill unwanted fat cells without harming your skin. The procedure can usually be performed in about an hour and requires no downtime. Side effects are minimal and usually short-lived. They may include redness, swelling, and soreness.


So, how can you decide which is right for you? Here are some things to consider:


•      Do you have loose, sagging skin?

If your tummy troubles include excess skin, a tummy tuck is your best bet. Although CoolSculpting can sometimes have a slight firming effect, it cannot remove extra flaps or folds of skin that often accompany pregnancy, weight loss, and aging.


•      How much time do you have to recover?

The recovery time for a surgical procedure like tummy tuck will be much more extensive than for a noninvasive treatment like CoolSculpting, which requires zero downtime. If you can’t take at least 1 week off work to recover from tummy tuck surgery, CoolSculpting is the way to go.


•      How dramatic do you want your results to be?

People who are fairly happy with their midsections but who have a few stubborn bumps or bulges are usually ideal candidates for CoolSculpting. If, however, you are looking for more significant improvements, a tummy tuck is the better choice. Tummy tuck surgery provides much more dramatic results than CoolSculpting because it not only eliminates pockets of fat, but also removes excess skin (and sometimes stretchmarks), and tightens the abdominal muscles.

Tummy tuck surgery can also be customized, depending on the amount of skin and fat that need to be removed. Some may only need a mini tummy tuck without muscle tightening, while others may require a complete or “circumferential” tummy tuck. This method removes skin and fat from around the entire midsection and back.


•      What's your budget?

According to RealSelf.com, a tummy tuck will run you about $8,150 on average. However, it could be more or less, depending on where you live, where your surgery is performed, and the surgeon's fees.

CoolSculpting costs about $2,000–$4,000, according to the CoolSculpting website. However, this price may be more or less, depending on the number of areas you have treated and how many treatment sessions you choose. (Note: You will need multiple sessions for complete results.)


•      Are you comfortable with scarring?

Scarring is an inevitable part of tummy tuck surgery, and unfortunately, it is typically fairly extensive — often from hip bone to hip bone. However, according to the website of Lewis Plastic Surgery, a plastic surgery practice offering tummy tuck in Richmond, VA, your incisions will flatten and fade over the course of 9–12 months. The practice also states, “While the incisions will never completely be invisible, they do decrease greatly with time, and are usually easily covered with clothing and bathing suits.”