Here's What You Should Know About Loose-Skin Surgery

Erin Jahns

We're beauty editors, so it's our job to want answers. And quite frankly, when it comes to plastic surgery, the job isn't hard—nope, not in the least. From cheek implants to face-lifts to liposuction, our curiosities feel limitless, especially when we stumble upon a treatment that's slightly more obscure, like, say, loose-skin surgery. In an age where nothing seems off-limits, it becomes easy to feel all too familiar with trendy procedures like lip fillers, breast implants, facial reconstruction, and the like. Essentially, they've brought brand-new meaning to the age-old phrase a household name.

Prior to writing this article (and picking the brains of five different plastic surgeons), I didn't have a super-firm grasp on what loose-skin surgery was. Yes, I did my research (and had lots of vague images of excess skin floating around my brain), but unlike when I looked up lip injections, my research on loose-skin surgery didn't spew out images that could have come straight from the tabloids. What does loose-skin surgery involve? Who can get it? What parts of the body can it target?

Intrigued, I called upon top plastic surgeons (who perform these kinds of surgeries on a daily basis) and asked them what everyone wants to know about loose-skin surgery. No really—what does everyone want to know? Here, plastic surgeons reveal the most frequently asked questions they receive and their oh-so-interesting answers. Fair warning: They get specific. Keep reading to learn everything you ever wanted to know about loose-skin surgery.

I have loose skin post-pregnancy/weight loss. What type of surgery would you recommend?

Though exercise and diet can help with the appearance of excess skin in the abdominal region, New York City–based plastic surgeon Adam Kolker, MD, tells us that a tummy tuck is the ultimate fix: "A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is the surgical process by which the separated abdominal muscles can be repaired, excess skin can be removed, and regional fat can be reduced, resulting in a firmer, flatter, more youthful midsection contour. Incision length is predicated on the amount of excess skin that requires removal."

Board-certified plastic surgeon Melissa Doft, MD, adds, "A patient who has good skin tone will benefit from liposuction. If a patient has extra skin, then it is necessary to remove the extra skin as well as the fat so she may opt for liposuction and a tummy tuck."

I lost volume and perkiness after breastfeeding. Will a breast lift or implants help remove my loose skin?

According to our experts, it depends on the situation. But in some cases, you may want to consider both procedures. Adam Kolker, MD, explains, "Sag, volume loss, and unsatisfactory breast shape can develop postpartum, following weight change, over time, or it can be congenital. Removing and tightening excess skin with a breast lift, with or without restoration of lost volume with an implant, may be indicated."

Plastic surgeon David Shaefer, MD, of Shaefer Plastic Surgery adds, "There are three things that we look for in planning a breast rejuvenation procedure: 1) Loose skin, 2) nipple/areola position, and 3) breast tissue. If patients have very loose breast skin and/or a low or sagging nipple/areola complex, then a surgical breast-lift is definitely required. If patients have small breasts but no loose skin and are looking for volume enhancement, then breast implants are likely the best choice."

What type of surgical procedure can alleviate extra skin around my neck and face?

Adam Kolker, MD, FACS, explains, "As we age, the visible changes manifest on a number of levels: Skin may become more lax and inelastic, jowls become deeper and more pronounced, and the neck slackens. A face-lift is indicated in circumstances where deeper tissue repositioning, particularly of the jowls and neck, and removal of skin excess is required." He adds, "There has been a paradigm shift in facial rejuvenation, and a face-lift today is quite different than the face-lift of years past; 'tight' or 'pulled' have been definitively replaced by soft, gentle, delicate, youthful, and natural."

Will I need to lose weight before getting a tummy tuck?

This is an important one and something plastic surgeons get asked a lot regarding loose-skin surgery. Jennifer Walden, MD, tells us, "It is important to be within 10% of your ideal body weight prior to surgery. The goal to be at this ideal weight prior to surgery is because your weight loss or gain can alter your surgical results. The more weight you gain, the more your skin will stretch, and the more you lose, the more laxity your skin will have."

How old do I have to be to get a face- or neck-lift?

"There is no magical age in which a face-/neck-lift should be performed," says Walden. "It is more about the integrity of your skin. Looking at your lower face and neck, do you have loose/sagging skin and prominent muscle bands? Are your jowls prominent? If so, this may mean you are a reasonable candidate. Typically women and men who have signs of facial aging that they find bothersome are in their 50s and older. In younger patients, laser- and light-based modalities may be used, such as AcuPulse and/or PiQo4 for texture, tone, clarity, and pigmentary issues."

Do I need surgery, or can I shrink my skin with exercise?

Muse Plastic Surgery founder Wright Jones, MD, tells us that as far as exercise goes, you should do it thoughtfully. According to Jones, "Loose skin is due to excess skin with loss of elasticity and/or loss of underlying volume. Therefore, the best way to decrease loose skin is to excise the extra skin or improve the elasticity. Or volume can be added to the tissue underneath the skin. Exercise is imperative but does neither of the things to improve skin redundancy. It can even make excess skin worse if a significant amount of weight is lost."

Will I have scarring?

Probably. "Whenever an area of the body is cut a scar will form," says Jones. "This is a natural part of the healing process. The scars will take about nine to 12 months to fully mature and look their best. The final outcome depends not only on the surgeon's technique but also on a patient's genetics, skin type, and how well they take care of the scar after surgery."

How long will results last after surgery?

Results can vary, but according to Jones, they should last for a significant amount of time: "Results can be sustained for up to five, 10, or even 20 years. However, a multitude of factors will affect the longevity, such as skincare, aging, weight fluctuations, diet, heredity, and sun exposure."

Walden agrees: "This answer will vary from patient to patient. Some factors that lead into surgical result longevity are genetics, skin tone, environmental factors, etc. Typical results can last 10 to 15 years."

What kind of procedures can lift my butt?

According to David Shafer, MD, FACS, more and more patients are coming in and requesting options for a less-than-perky butt. He tells us, "Whether from genetics, weight loss, or aging, the buttocks can start to sag and look deflated. Buttocks rejuvenation procedures included a surgical butt-lift or the popular Brazilian butt-lift. With a traditional buttocks lift, an incision is made above the buttocks, and the skin is lifted."

Will fillers do the same thing as a face-lift?

Apparently, that's a no. Melissa Doft, MD, tells us, "When a patient truly has extra skin, a loose neck, or jowls, fillers and ultherapy will not resolve the problem. Only a face-lift can remove excess skin, tightening a neck and repositioning your jowls. Fillers are great to add volume to cheeks and nasolabial folds. Ultherapy is best for a patient who wants to tighten their skin but who does not have extra skin."

However, sometimes you can combine fillers with a surgical procedure that will remove loose skin. Shafer adds, "There is only so much that fillers can do, and many patients are good candidates for face-lift (surgical removal of loose skin) to achieve the best result. In many cases, I suggest a combination of surgery and fillers, which has the benefit of tightening the loose skin with surgery and adding volume and contour with fillers. This combination and result in a very natural and refreshed appearance."

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