Skin removal surgery includes a range of body contouring procedures performed after major weight loss to address excess skin folds on the arms, legs, torso and/or buttocks, helping patients achieve a more natural, aesthetically pleasing shape. If you are burdened by extra skin after losing weight, getting rid of it can dramatically enhance your comfort and self-confidence, help you exercise with greater ease, and improve the way clothing fits.
Our guide below contains helpful information for those considering a skin removal procedure:
- Am I a good candidate for skin removal surgery?
- Choosing a cosmetic surgeon
- What procedures may be involved?
- Recovery & results after post weight loss body contouring
- You have reached your goal weight and your weight has remained stable for at least 6 months. Improved body contours from skin removal surgery should last for many years, but significant weight fluctuations after surgery can negatively impact results
- You are in good general health. This is for your safety; certain medical conditions can increase risks of surgery.
- You have realistic expectations about surgery. Skin removal can dramatically improve your appearance but will not give you a “perfect” body.
- You understand that you may have visible scars when wearing certain garments, such as swimsuits.
- You are able to take several weeks off to recover.
Skin removal surgery is a specialized subset of cosmetic surgery and should only be performed by a highly experienced, qualified cosmetic surgeon with specific training in body contouring procedures. For your safety and to ensure a beautiful outcome, make sure any surgeon you are considering regularly performs body contouring after weight.
Always confirm a cosmetic surgeon’s training and experience. Choosing a cosmetic surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is a good first step. ABCS diplomates have undergone formal training in body contouring surgery and exclusively operate in fully accredited surgical facilities. Learn why this is important »
Finally, look at before and after photos, paying special attention to the results of patients whose bodies look similar to yours—this will help you get an idea for that cosmetic surgeon’s aesthetic style.
Post weight loss skin removal is personalized to a patient’s individual needs and goals; no two procedures are exactly alike. Typically, surgery involves a combination of body lifting procedures and is tailored to address a patient’s areas of greatest concern. Your cosmetic surgeon may perform one or more of the following procedures.
A lower body lift tightens tissues on the abdomen, buttocks, and thighs. It is one of the most common post weight loss procedures, and also one of the most extensive. Surgery involves a long incision, placed just above the hip bone, which runs around the circumference of the body. Through this incision, the cosmetic surgeon tightens stretched abdominal muscles (similar to a tummy tuck), removes excess, sagging skin from the front and back of the torso, and lifts the remaining tissues to restore a firmer, shapelier lower body appearance.
Many weight loss patients are left with a significant “apron” of skin, called a pannus, hanging from below the belly button. A panniculectomy removes this apron of skin to restore a smoother, firmer torso. The incision is similar to that for a tummy tuck, located just above the pubic bone. While a panniculectomy can dramatically improve a patient’s comfort and help clothing fit better, it will not significantly tighten abdominal contours when performed as a standalone procedure.
Dramatic weight loss often results in an excess of skin gathered around the buttocks and thighs. A thigh and buttock lift removes excess skin and fat and restores a firmer, smoother, and more slender appearance to the legs and buttocks. This procedure can help jeans and shorts fit much more comfortably, as well as achieve a more youthful, shapely appearance to the legs and lower body.
Incisions for thigh and buttock lift surgery vary depending on the location and amount of skin to be removed. An experienced cosmetic surgeon will place incisions in the least conspicuous places possible, such as the groin, the natural crease beneath the buttocks or low on the hips, where scars can be concealed by a swimsuit.
Extra skin on the upper body can result in “bra rolls,” sagging breasts, or loose, hanging skin on the upper arms. Upper body lift surgery targets these areas to restore a firmer, more youthful appearance. Procedure options include:
- Arm lift. Through an incision along the underside of the upper arm, loose skin and excess fat are removed to restore a firmer, shapelier upper arm appearance.
- Back lift/ bra line lift. This procedure often combines liposuction and skin removal to reduce “bra rolls” and restore a smoother, firmer upper back contour. Incisions are typically located along the bra line, where scars can be easily concealed by clothing.
- Breast lift surgery. Many female patients are bothered by sagging or “deflated” breasts following weight loss. A breast lift removes excess skin and reshapes the breast to achieve a firmer, lifted contour and improve symmetry. Breast implants can be placed during a breast lift to restore lost volume or increase size. Learn more about breast lift surgery »
Depending on your needs, your cosmetic surgeon may recommend other procedures to improve body contours after weight loss, such as: tummy tuck surgery, liposuction, facelift, neck contouring, or feminine rejuvenation.
Your recovery will depend on the procedures you have as well as the extent of skin removal. If you are only having an upper arm lift or breast lift, for example, you may be able to return to work within one week and be ready to resume exercise within one month.
More extensive procedures, such as lower body lift, will require a longer recovery and may require a short inpatient stay. Temporary drains may be placed for the first 1 to 2 weeks to ease swelling, and discomfort can be significant for the first few days. Lifting, strenuous exercise, and physical jobs are typically off-limits for 6+ weeks after extensive lower body lift procedures.
The rewards for a more involved recovery are a more youthful, natural appearance and a significant improvement in comfort and self-confidence that can last a lifetime.