Liposuction Recovery Week by Week

liposuction recovery

The ultimate guide to recovery after laser-assisted liposuction

Best ways to reduce swelling, bruising and discomfort after your lipo procedure

So you’ve recently had liposuction, and want your new and improved body shape as soon as possible. We get it!

Though the bruising, swelling and scar tissue of laser-assisted liposuction procedures like Smartlipo are significantly less than traditional liposuction, your body is still healing from a minimally invasive surgical procedure. Read on for our comprehensive guide to what to expect in the days and weeks after your laser-assisted liposuction procedure, and our medical team’s top tips to speed healing and recovery.

Always consult with your doctor before stopping or starting any medications or supplements.


Does swelling after liposuction last long?

Expect swelling to kick in the day after your Smartlipo procedure. We tell our clients that they’ll get a glimpse of their new body shape immediately after the procedure, before swelling starts, so they don’t panic when the treated areas look larger than usual.

Swelling happens as a result of inflammation from any surgery, but because Smartlipo is an in-office, minimally invasive procedure, swelling and fluid retention is less substantial than traditional liposuction.

The most significant swelling lasts for around three weeks after minimally invasive liposuction, then dramatically declines, and continues to decline in the weeks to follow.


How to get rid of excess fluid after Smartlipo

Tumescent fluid, which includes a local anesthetic and another drug to minimize bleeding, is infused into tissue during your Smartlipo procedure. This fluid also helps your doctor easily and precisely isolate the fat cells they’ll remove from your body, and — unlike traditional liposuction — has the added benefit of reducing stress on your body.

The leftover fluid is eliminated from your body via urine and sweat in the days after you recover from Smartlipo but can also make your body look swollen. To help eliminate this fluid and reduce water retention, CSLC Medical Director Dr. Gustav Lo suggests the following tips:


1. Wear compression garments

For the first two weeks after liposuction, wear compression garments 24/7 (except when showering).

“Compression is widely used in medical care to help improve blood flow to tissues, promote faster healing, and reduce inflammation and swelling,” says Lo. “I often recommend clients continue wearing compression after two weeks if water retention is an issue for them.”

As your swelling decreases in the days following your procedure, you may also need a smaller-sized compression garment that’s snug enough to apply pressure to your treatment area. Our favorite compression brand at CSLC (and what we provide our Smartlipo clients post procedure) is Minerva. Their bottom leggings are designed with a large, open crotch, which make it easy to go to the bathroom without struggling to pull off a tight compression garment.

If you’re a patient in a warmer location, such as our North Naples (Refined Image) Cosmetic Skin & Laser Center, you might find compression garments a challenge to wear in sweltering weather. We get it! Unfortunately, heat can increase water retention, so compression garments to reduce post-lipo swelling are even more crucial in hotter climates.


2. Elevate areas that are swelling or retaining water

If liposuction was performed anywhere on your lower body (saddlebags, knees, buttocks or inner thighs), you might notice telltale signs of bloating and water retention (also known as edema) on your ankles and calves a few days after your procedure. Or you might see swelling in your wrists and hands if you got Smartlipo on your arms.

Gravity effects how and where water pools in the body, so elevating the affected areas helps alleviate excess swelling and discomfort.

“Put your feet up on the couch, so your legs are at the same level or higher than your waist and upper body,” says CSLC Provider and Weight Loss Specialist, Anna Donaghy, NP-C. She also recommends patients lie on the floor or bed, and put their legs up vertically against a wall for 10-15 minutes at a time, 1-3 times a day, to help drain excess fluid back toward the heart.

If it’s your wrists and hands suffering from swelling, lift your arms above your head for several minutes a time, 2-4 times a day.


3. Drink water to reduce liposuction swelling

Though it seems contradictory, drinking more water or non-caffeinated fluids can help eliminate water retention and the swelling that comes from it. The less hydrated we are, the more our bodies hold on to water internally. Your body also needs adequate hydration after Smartlipo to support the healing process — water helps your organs, tissues and cells function more efficiently.


4. Move as much as possible

Since laser-assisted liposuction is an in-office procedure, many patients can return to gentle exercise the next day or sometimes even the same day.

“Movement promotes healing in multiple ways,” says CSLC Medical Director Dr. Gustav Lo. “It helps prevent blood pooling, and provides oxygen to cells, so they can help you recover more quickly.”

We encourage all our clients to walk and move frequently in the days after their liposuction surgery. You can return to more vigorous exercise after 3 days, depending on the area treated.

“You don’t want to do a bunch of crunches if you had lipo on your tummy,” says Lo. “It won’t harm you or mess up your result, but it sure will hurt!” Aerobic exercise machines like a stairclimber, elliptical or exercise bike (unless inner thighs were treated) are “completely fine,” advises Dr. Lo. “As long as it doesn’t hurt, you can do almost anything. But no swimming or hot tubs until the wounds are fully closed at about two weeks.”


5. Reduce sodium intake and consider Dandelion Extract to decrease post-lipo water retention

A high sodium intake can impact water retention in your limbs, so lowering your overall salt consumption is another good strategy for reducing post-liposuction swelling. However, don’t decrease your salt intake dramatically in the first 48 hours after your procedure. That’s because the tumescent fluid used during liposuction can alter your electrolyte levels.

“Salt consumption directly affects electrolytes in the body,” says Lo. “And because your body’s electrolyte levels are impacted by the fluids used in laser-assisted liposuction, it’s wise to wait a couple days before significantly reducing your salt intake.”

Rehydration drinks like Pedialyte help replenish vital minerals like calcium, chloride, and potassium after liposuction, as do fruits and vegetables.


Ways to minimize excessive bleeding during and after liposuction

During and shortly after your Smartlipo procedure, some bleeding at your incision points is normal, but studies have shown that NSAIDS (Advil, Motrin, Aleve…) may increase the risk of excess bleeding.

Fish oil, with its Omega-3 fats, is a beneficial supplement for heart health, but its ability to slow blood clotting can affect bleeding. Werly says the blood-thinning effects of fish oil can also make some patients bruise more easily after an operative procedure like Smartlipo.

To minimize excess bleeding (and bruising — keep reading for more advice on bruise remedies), we advise all our clients to stop taking both NSAIDS and fish oil two weeks prior to their liposuction procedure. You can resume taking both one week after your procedure. For pain, Tylenol (acetaminophen) is the safest pain reliever post-liposuction.


How severe is the bruising after liposuction?

Bruising is one of the most common side effects of liposuction because your capillaries (blood vessels) are injured when fat is removed from the targeted area.

When you fall or bump your arm against a hard corner, chances are you won’t start to bruise until the next day or so. It’s the same with liposuction.

You won’t see those characteristic purple, blue and green hues of a bruise immediately after your procedure, but expect areas of bruising in the days that follow. The timeline for bruising — and the severity — varies from patient to patient, depending on skin tone, medications, or medical conditions that make them more susceptible to visual skin trauma.

“Some of our clients know they’re easy bruisers,” says Donaghy, “so we tell them to expect that their liposuction-treated areas will look pretty banged up for a couple of weeks.”


3 ways to get rid of bruising after liposuction

The good news is, bruising doesn’t last long, and the following pre-and-post procedure interventions can help reduce and more rapidly heal skin discoloration after liposuction.

1. Stop taking NSAIDS and fish oil.

The same NSAID drugs and fish oil supplements that can increase operative bleeding may also aggravate bruising, since bruises are caused by broken blood vessels. That’s another reason why we recommend clients stop taking them two weeks before their procedure.

2. Supplement with pineapple and bromelain

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, may promote reduced swelling and pain from laser-assisted liposuction procedures like Smartlipo.

Studies show bromelain’s post-surgical effectiveness varies from person to person, but because pineapple is a nutrient-rich, healthy food, clients may consider adding it to their diets two weeks before and two weeks after their liposuction procedure.

3. Apply arnica gel or cream

“Several of our clients were pleasantly surprised at how quickly arnica cream reduced the appearance of their purple, bruised areas and wished they’d started applying it the day after their liposuction,” says Donaghy.

An herb in the sunflower family, Arnica Montana’s natural anti-inflammatory properties may help hasten the healing of bruises.

“While the research on arnica’s positive impact on bruising is still up for debate, some of our patients have reported anecdotally that it made a marked difference in the severity of their liposuction bruising when they applied it to the affected area 3-4 times a day,” says Dr. Gustav Lo.

Topical arnica is available in both cream and gel forms, but shouldn’t be applied to broken skin, so use caution to avoid direct contact on your s kin puncture sites and the area immediately surrounding them. Continue to apply to your skin until your bruises have disappeared. When treating bruises with arnica, it’s common to see fading first in the center of the bruised area, leaving an outside “ring” or edge to the bruise that fades later.


Why does my skin itch or feel numb after liposuction?

“Swelling, inflammation, itching and numbing or sensitive skin happens after liposuction because the nerve pathways are disrupted,” says Lo. “As the body repairs itself, it’s normal to feel intermittent numbness and itching because injured nerve pathways heal in cycles.”

Itching usually happens about two weeks after liposuction, when your affected nerves have recovered from the initial shock of the procedure and begin the process of waking up and healing.

Though it’s uncomfortable, it’s also a good sign — it means your body is beginning to repair and restore from the inside out. Whenever our cells are injured, our bodies get to work to repair the injury and regenerate new cells. This regenerative cell process is part of how skin-firming procedures like Morpheus and injectables like Sculptra help skin look smoother or more lifted.

“When we stimulate injury to cells in a controlled manner, it triggers all kinds of regenerative processes in the body,” says CSLC Founder and CEO Courtney Lo. “Collagen is stimulated, new cells are formed as old cells are replaced (also known as cellular turnover) and that’s exactly what we’re going for, because it’s what helps older skin look youthful again, and injured body parts heal.”

This cellular turnover — combined with temporary nerve damage — also happens to cause some of the itching and numbness you’ll likely feel in the weeks and months following liposuction.

Itchiness — on both the incision sites and the surrounding area — usually goes away after a few days, but numbness may continue, periodically, for several months after a procedure.

“Some treated areas are more prone to ongoing numbness than others,” says Anna Donaghy, NP-C. “The two most common spots for intermittent numbness months after liposuction are the upper arms and the flank area, but at the 6 month post-operative mark, the nerves are usually fully healed and any lingering numbness is gone.”


How can I reduce itching and numbness after lipo?

Antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, and topical oils such as coconut oil and almond oil, are two ways to reduce itchiness on your skin after liposuction. However, avoid applying oil directly on your puncture sites until they’ve fully closed and you get the sign off from your doctor.

Additionally, dry skin brushing with a body brush can bring instant relief to areas that itch or are numb, but don’t brush over your incisions until they’ve healed.

Just as compression is your friend to reduce post-lipo swelling, it may also help alleviate numbness, and some clients continue to wear compression 3-5 weeks after Smartlipo to improve their comfort and minimize numbness.

As your tissues and nerves recover, you might notice an increase in both itching and tingling in some skin areas. Arms, which have a fairly complex vascular and nerve system, are more likely to experience “pins and needles” feeling. This is where a combination of Benadryl, compression, hydration and moisturizing the affected area can help soothe sensitive skin and nerves.

Do scars from Smartlipo go away?

Around three weeks after laser-assisted liposuction, your skin puncture sites should be closed, beginning to fade and forming scar tissue.

Because Smartlipo incisions are so tiny (a few millimeters — less than the width of your pinky finger), they eventually disappear almost completely for most clients. Three years after her Smartlipo procedure, CSLC Marketing Director Leslie Wahlstrom could no longer see or easily find her incision scars.

How to lighten lipo scars

If you scar easily or have a darker skin tone, surgical scar tape — applied after your incisions are closed (beginning around the four-week mark) may help reduce their appearance. Surgical scar tape works best when its worn consistently for at least 12 hours a day, over the course of several weeks or months. There’s even surgical tape that can be washed and reapplied until it no longer adheres to the skin.

For clients who want faster scar reduction, Morpheus RF microneedling helps speed the healing of lipo scars, but should only be done two months post procedure, after incision wounds are completely closed and healed both superficially and in the deep layers of the dermis.

How long does it take for skin to tighten after liposuction?

Compared to traditional liposuction, which only reduces volume and can create a lumpy shape and loose skin, the lasers used in laser-assisted liposuction procedures like Smartlipo simultaneously tighten skin while reducing volume and elegantly contouring your body shape. Smartlipo’s heat-based method of eliminating fat is also a gentler approach than traditional liposuction’s large cannulas because there’s less pulling and disruption of the tissue structure.

But don’t expect laser-assisted liposuction to tighten skin overnight, cautions Courtney Lo. “The laser therapy used in Smartlipo works over time, stimulating skin collagen both at the surface level and in the subdermal layers,” she says.

Studies show the treated skin tightens 15-25% after laser-assisted liposuction, she adds. “Collagen doesn’t regenerate instantly, but rather builds in cycles or phases. We see skin tightening effects on liposuction clients starting at two months post-procedure, with additional improvement on laxity over time until about the six-month mark.”

How much will your skin tighten?

It varies from client to client. Genetics, age, skin condition, and even diet influence the extent of SmartLipo’s skin tightening effects. Older skin with less collagen, or those who had a greater volume of fat removed, see the best results from a combination approach that pairs laser-assisted liposuction with other skin tightening modalities such as Venus Legacy or BodyTite.

What helps treat the elasticity of the skin and tightens skin even more after liposuction?

Venus is a popular, pain-free skin firming and smoothing procedure that can be done in tandem the same day as your liposuction,” says Lo. “Used directly on the skin surface, it boosts both collagen and elastin and even helps improve the appearance of cellulite.”

BodyTite, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, works beautifully for additional skin tightening six months after SmartLipo. Perfect for those areas where contouring is key (inner and outer thighs, lower arms, abdomen), BodyTite heats subcutaneous tissue and melts small areas of unwanted fat. At the same time, it heats your external skin for optimal tightening.

Best of all, BodyTite’s results are fast, with far less downtime and side effects than liposuction.

BodyTite before and after



Laser-Assisted Liposuction Recovery Timeline

What good would a comprehensive guide to liposuction recovery be if it didn’t include an easy timeline to reference before and after your procedure? 🙂

liposuction recovery


Day 1 (Immediately After Liposuction):

– New body shape shows before swelling starts
– Expect liquid and a little blood to leak from wound sites
– Pain and tenderness
– Possible lightheadedness (from procedure fluid loss and gain)

Day 1 Recovery Tips:

– Wear compression 24/7
– Take the day off work
– No baths or showers
– Move gently (e.g. short walks) if you feel up to it
– Eat pineapple (optional, to minimize bruising)
– Rest

Week 1 (days 2-7):

– Pain subsides
– Swelling at its peak
– Treated areas begin to bruise
– Itching starts
– Incision sites begin to scab

Week 1 Recovery Tips:

– Wear compression 24/7, except when showering
– Resume working (2-3 days post procedure)
– Continue eating pineapple if desired
– Apply topical arnica to bruising as soon as it begins 3-4x a day (avoid incisions)
– Move frequently (light walks)
– Hydrate with plenty of water
– Elevate swollen, affected areas 15 minutes a day
– Antihistamines for itching if needed
– Shower, but do not submerge wound sites in water (no bathing for 2 weeks)
– Eat a diet high in protein and low in sodium

Week 2 (Days 8-14):

– Swelling decreases
– Bruising at its peak
– Treated areas begin to tingle or feel numb
– Incision sites start to close
– (Day 14/2 weeks after) Resume bathing and swimming

Week 2 Liposuction Recovery Tips:

– Wear compression 24/7, except when showering
– Continue applying arnica topically to bruised areas
– Moisturize affected skin areas
– Dry brush numb or tingly areas (avoid brushing incisions directly)
– Continue to drink water

4th Week and Beyond:

– Most bruising gone by week 3
– Incision sites closed, scar tissue begins to form
– Your new body shape reveals itself
– Clothing fits differently
– Intermittent numbness and nerve sensitivity in some treated areas

Week 4+ Liposuction Recovery Tips:

– Continue to wear compression for comfort as needed
– Apply scar tape to incisions (Only on fully healed incision sites. Clear with your doctor first.)
– Dry brush numb, sensitive areas
– Maintain a healthy diet (protein, fruits and vegetables and water all help your body continue to heal)

6 Months+:

Your final results and new shape emerge

6 Months + Liposuction Recovery Tips:

– Consider Venus, BodyTite or Morpheus for additional skin-tightening benefits
– Maintain a healthy diet to avoid weight gain
– Continue to apply scar tape to incisions if needed (chances are your scarring will be minimal with laser-assisted liposuction)



NSAIDS & Bleeding

Elevation for Edema

Dandelion root