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AirSculpt® Education


What is Subcutaneous Fat and How Can I Reduce It?

hand holding excessive belly fat on gray background. concept of surgery and subcutaneous fat breakdown.

Subcutaneous fat refers to the layer of pinchable fat that lies just below the skin. Responsible for storing energy and protecting the body, this fat is fine in moderate amounts, but too much can lead to or be a sign of health issues. Losing excess subcutaneous fat at home is most easily achieved with a healthy diet and regular exercise.  

What is Subcutaneous Fat?

The skin is made up of three layers, with the subcutaneous layer making up the deepest one below the dermis and epidermis. It is also sometimes called fluffy fat because it can be easily pinched. 

Subcutaneous fat is one of the body's two main types of fat, with the other being visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat's location just below the skin helps it serve several purposes; these include regulating body temperature, protecting interior organs from abrupt contact, and connecting the dermis, muscle, and bone structures. 

When someone has too much subcutaneous fat, it is often noticeable in the form of squishy, jiggly skin. The stomach, hips, thighs, and arms are the most common areas where people store this fat. The amount of subcutaneous fat you have depends on a combination of diet and exercise, along with less controllable factors like genetics.  

Visceral and subcutaneous fat around waistline. Location of visceral fat in abdominal cavity.

How is Subcutaneous Fat Different From Visceral Fat?

Whereas subcutaneous fat lies just beneath the skin, visceral fat is located deep within the body and is less impactful on your appearance. This fat helps protect the innermost organs like the stomach, liver, and intestines. 

Having a high level of subcutaneous fat is often correlated with higher amounts of visceral fat, but this is not always the case. Weight loss can help reduce both types of fat. 

What Causes Subcutaneous Fat?

A combination of factors affects how much subcutaneous fat you have. Everyone is born with subcutaneous fat, but genetics can cause someone to naturally accumulate a higher or lower amount than others at a similar body mass index (BMI). 

Outside of genetics, lifestyle factors like an unhealthy diet and lack of activity can contribute to higher subcutaneous fat levels. If you constantly eat more calories than you burn daily and have a low muscle mass, you will be likelier to develop subcutaneous fat. Finally, medical conditions like diabetes or insulin resistance can cause greater amounts of subcutaneous fat.

Is Subcutaneous Fat Bad For You?

Subcutaneous fat serves many purposes, so its presence is not dangerous in itself. However, having too much of it can be a sign or result of serious medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Myths and Mistakes to Avoid When Losing Subcutaneous Fat

Many people, despite their best intentions, cause more harm than good when they try to get rid of subcutaneous fat. Here are a few mistakes people often make when adopting a new, healthier lifestyle.  

Trying to Spot-Reduce Fat: Targeting fat in a particular region of the body, also known as spot reduction, is impossible. Arm workouts, for example, can help you grow muscles and tone the area, but they are not the most effective way to lose stubborn "batwing" flab.

Your body loses fat slowly when you eat fewer calories than you burn. Therefore, exercises that burn the most energy are most effective for losing subcutaneous fat. These include strength training, high-intensity cardio, and brisk walking.

Counting Calories, Not Steps: Being in a caloric deficit is the only way to lose subcutaneous fat naturally. However, not all deficits are created equal. Eating healthy, generous portions and exercising regularly is far better than remaining sedentary while starving yourself. A 500-calorie deficit achieved by burning 3,000 calories and consuming 2,500 is far better than burning 2,000 but only eating 1,500. 

Paying Little Attention to Nutrients: To lose subcutaneous fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit. However, the type of food consumed matters a lot.

Protein fills you for longer while helping promote lean muscle growth. Simple carbohydrates and sugar contribute to conditions like diabetes and metabolic issues while also causing cravings that lead to excess eating. A diet balanced with protein, veggies, fruits, and complex carbs can boost metabolism, reduce stubborn fat, help you lose weight, and prevent other health issues.

Ignoring Rest Days, Mental Health, and Sleep: It is common for beginners to exert too much energy in the gym or ignore signs of over-exertion. Rest days are essential in any workout routine, especially for those who strength train routinely.

Additionally, chronic stress can cause the body to produce excessive amounts of a hormone called cortisol, leading to weight gain and sugar cravings. Finally, not getting enough sleep can also increase hunger and affect your overall health negatively.

What is a Healthy Amount of Subcutaneous Fat?

Because subcutaneous fat comprises most of anyone's body fat, it is not too useful to measure it alone. Instead, measuring your body fat percentage or determining if you are overweight are helpful steps to evaluate your overall health. 

Body mass index (BMI) represents the ratio of your weight to your height and can be broken into three categories:   

  • Average weight: BMI of 18.5 to 24.9

  • Overweight: BMI of 25 to 29.9

  • Obese: BMI of 30 or higher

You can also measure your waist circumference to gauge your overall risk for health issues and excess subcutaneous fat. Women at a healthy weight usually have a waist size below 35 inches, and men below 40 inches.  

Finally, your waist-to-height ratio, which measures your waist circumference divided by your height, can provide insight into whether you have too much subcutaneous fat. A ratio below 0.5 is generally associated with a lower chance of health risks and weight-related issues. 

Body fat calipers, woman measuring subcutaneous percentage of fat on her belly. Young woman using skinfold calipers.

Four Ways To Remove Subcutaneous Fat

Your key focus should be entering a caloric deficit with nutritious eating and regular activity. Healthy lifestyle choices and specific cosmetic fat removal procedures can also help your fat-loss journey. 


To achieve a caloric deficit, you must constantly monitor how much food you eat. Do not simply try to starve yourself with a crash diet. Instead, track your calories to maintain a steady deficit that still provides you enough energy to function daily. Your diet should prioritize lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and protein. 


Any exercise that increases your heart rate and burns calories will help you lose fat. Aerobic activities, cardio, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are the most efficient ways to burn calories quickly. 

Strength training is a great way to build muscle while getting your heart rate up. Increasing muscle mass with strength training can also improve your basal metabolic rate (BMR). A higher BMR means your body will naturally burn more fat. Work with a professional trainer to determine the best workout plan for your body and specific fat-loss goals. 

Lifestyle Choices 

Sleeping for 7-8 hours reduces hunger and aids in post-workout recovery, making it easier to maintain a calorie deficit. Sleeping well and reducing stress can also lower the cortisol in your system, which causes your body to store excess fat. 

Cosmetic Fat Removal

As we noted above, it is critical to understand that losing subcutaneous fat in a specific body part is impossible. Once in a caloric deficit, you will notice fat begins to subside throughout the body in ways determined by your genetics. Unfortunately, many people already have a healthy BMI and lifestyle habits yet still struggle to reduce stubborn fat in certain areas. 

If your goal is to lose fat in a particular area, a cosmetic procedure is the only treatment option available. Nonsurgical treatments that claim to remove fat do not actually do so. Instead, they disrupt fat cells and cause them to empty their contents, meaning they can grow back if you gain weight.  

The AirSculpt® Innovation For Removing Subcutaneous Fat

Invasive fat removal surgery, like traditional liposuction, can target subcutaneous fat in specific areas, but this option involves weeks of downtime and usually requires general anesthesia. Luckily for patients across the globe, minimally invasive treatments like AirSculpt® offer liposuction-like results without the surgical elements. No needles, scalpels, stitches, or general anesthesia are used as fat cells are removed for good. 

Patented AirSculpt® technology vibrates back and forth rapidly, enabling surgeons to physically pluck fat cells one by one with unmatched precision. The entry points made are less than two millimeters wide, meaning you can achieve dramatic results without worrying about large liposuction scars. Whether it's a small pocket of diet-resistant underarm fat or the entire stomach and back region, this customizable treatment can target subcutaneous fat anywhere between the chin and ankles. 

Better yet, downtime is just 24 to 48 hours on average, and because fat cells do not regenerate, results are permanent! Patients feel motivated to start new exercise routines and maintain a healthy weight after AirSculpt® thanks to the easy recovery process.    

We should note that the treated area can expand if you gain weight after any fat removal procedure. Nonetheless, the newly achieved proportions will tend to be preserved as untreated areas grow more quickly than treated ones. 

If you're interested in learning more about this approach to subcutaneous fat removal, contact the AirSculpt® office closest to you to book a free consultation.


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