After months or even years of trying to lose weight, successfully reaching your goal weight can leave you looking and feeling great. However, some people who lose a significant amount of weight are left with saggy excess skin that won’t tighten up on its own. In such cases, a cosmetic surgeon who specializes in skin removal after weight loss can help.
“After weight loss, excess skin can be a concern just about anywhere on the lower or upper body, as well as around the torso,” says Manish Champaneria, a plastic surgeon at Scripps Clinic Del Mar. “Having this skin removed and reshaping the body contours can improve the way clothes fit, make it easier to exercise and do other physical activities and just help people feel more comfortable and pleased with their ‘new’ look.”
If you are considering skin removal surgery after losing weight, you should meet the following qualifications:
- You’ve reached your goal weight and maintained a stable weight for at least six months. Small weight fluctuations after the surgery are not an issue, but significant weight gain can stretch the skin and cause more loose skin.
- Your overall health is good. You should be healthy and have no medical conditions or other risk factors that would prevent you from having the procedure.
- You are realistic about what to expect. While skin removal surgery can significantly improve your body contours and give you a more attractive shape, you should not expect to have a supermodel’s figure.
- You understand the risks. As with any surgery, skin removal procedures have risks, such as bleeding, infection and complications. Be sure to discuss the risks with your surgeon.
Depending on your individual needs and goals, your surgeon may recommend one or more of the following procedures:
One of the most common surgeries after weight loss, a lower body lift removes loose skin around the buttocks, thighs and abdomen. After removing the extra skin, the surgeon will tighten the stretched muscles of the abdomen and lift the remaining skin to create a more contoured lower body.
If excess skin affects the thighs and buttocks but not the abdomen, the surgeon may remove the sagging skin and contour the remaining tissue to restore shape to the lower body.
Patients who have apron-like excess skin hanging below the navel may benefit from a abdominoplasty/panniculectomy, which removes the skin to firm the lower torso area.
Rolls of extra skin on the back can be removed with a back lift, which may combine skin removal with liposuction to firm and contour the back.
After weight loss, women may notice that their breasts are less full and firm. Breast lift surgery removes excess skin and firms and lifts the breasts; some women may choose to have breast implants as well.
Arm lift surgery removes sagging skin from the underside of the upper arm to create a firmer, more contoured appearance.
Keep in mind that most skin removal surgeries involve large incisions. You may spend a day or two in the hospital, followed by recovery at home. Depending on the procedure, you may need to miss a week or more of work and avoid physical activity for several weeks or more. Also, you may have visible scars, although the surgeon will try to make scars as inconspicuous as possible, often by hiding them in natural creases in the skin.
The results of skin removal surgery generally last for many years provided your weight does not change significantly.
“If you decide to have skin removal surgery, do your research and choose a board-certified cosmetic surgeon who has experience in the type of procedure you’re considering,” recommends Dr. Champaneria. “Schedule a consultation to discuss your goals and ask to see before-and-after photos of patients who have had the same procedure. You’ve worked hard to lose that weight, and you want to be thrilled with the results.”