Like many people, I have a little bit of loose underarm and armpit skin that occasionally bothers me when I wear strapless tops and dresses. Of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this: I'm human, and millions (if not billions) of people likely have the same insecurity. I want to start by saying that this excess skin is completely normal—it isn't a sign that you're unhealthy or overweight; this is just an area where the body naturally stores fat (which is just stored energy, by the way). There are plenty of bodybuilders and Olympic athletes whose under arms look exactly like mine. But just like there's nothing wrong with having this bit of extra skin, there's also no shame in me being curious if there's something I can do about it.
I ultimately spoke to Rod J. Rohrich, M.D., F.A.C.S., a Texas-based plastic surgeon, about the options out there. (Spoiler alert: There are many, and you should always talk to your primary care physician or dermatologist about what you're interested in trying it out.) You should also bare in mind that there are plenty of plastic surgeons out there who profit off of your insecurities by convincing you that you need a treatment—so go with someone you trust.
So, what causes loose underarm skin? "It can be caused by a combination of aging, genetics, and weight gain and loss," says Rohrich. "There's no specific way to totally prevent it, but there are some ways to slow it down."
So, no—there's no instant fix or magic solution for our loose underarm skin, unless you decide you're ready to go under the knife. (More on that later.) But some of the below options are great ways to address the issue if you, like me, are tired of feeling insecure in any outfit that requires a strapless bra. Ahead, 7 proven ways to target tighten your armpits and underarms.
Try Arm-Toning Exercises
While you can't target fat reduction in a specific area of the body, you can target your muscles in the area to create a leaner appearance. Don't know where to start? Try some easy exercises you can do at home. "Any exercise that works the triceps is great for tightening underarms, since that's the muscle you're working," says Autumn Calabrese, celebrity trainer and author. The muscles, to be clear, are your triceps and triceps brachii—aka, the lateral head, the long head, and the medial head.
Calabrese recommends an exercise called tricep kickbacks: "Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a light to medium dumbbell in each hand. With a deep bend in your knees, hinge forward at your waist keeping the back flat & the abdominals held in tight. Pull the dumbbells up into your armpits to start. From here, extend the arms straight back and squeeze your triceps when you are fully extended. Return to the start position and repeat.
She also suggests an exercise called a "skull crusher," which is less scary than it sounds. "Lie down on a bench or the floor holding a dumbbell in each hand directly above your chest with your palms facing each other and your feet flat on the floor. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and slowly lower the weights toward the sides of your head without going over your face and avoiding flaring your elbows out."
Talk to Your Dermatologist About CoolSculpting
If you're not seeing results from exercising, it might be a good idea to talk to your dermatologist about noninvasive treatments like CoolSculpting.
We have a full CoolSculpting breakdown here—but if you're not familiar with it already, you may be able to get some clues from the name. It's a virtually painless treatment that uses an applicator to freeze (and subsequently destroy) fat cells for tighter skin and a smoother contour in the targeted area. You'll typically see results in about three weeks.
Bonus points: It takes only roughly 30 minutes, and there's no downtime associated with the treatment. So it's a great option if you're busy and want something that won't disrupt your lifestyle.
Radio-Frequency Assisted Lipolysis Can Be Extremely Effective
It may sound intense, but it's another totally noninvasive procedure.
"Radio-frequency assisted lipolysis (or RFAL) delivers results previously only achieved through more excisional surgical procedures," says Rohrich, who recommends BodyTite by InMode. "It's powered by radio-frequency assisted lipolysis, resulting in the coagulation of fat to produce the desired skin tightening and contouring."
Rohrich says the procedure can be performed under local anesthesia or light sedation with a small incision, and you only need one treatment for immediate results (which continue to improve up to six to twelve months afterwards).
There are also even less invasive options, like Evolve Tite, which harnesses the radio-frequency energy to "remodel skin and improve its appearance through volumetric heating to the skin and the sub-dermal layer." The treatments are allegedly painless, last 30–60 minutes, and require three to six treatments over the course of three to six weeks.
Contour With Microneedling (Seriously)
We already love microneedling our faces, but will it work for underarms? According to the pros, yes.
"Micro-needling penetrates deep into the skin and fat," says Rohrich. "And combined with radio-frequency for better results, will contour, remodel, and rebuild collagen for smoother, tighter skin."
Similarly to how microneedling's "micro pins" penetrate the skin on our faces, a professional microneedling session on your underarms will make your skin firmer, and majorly improve any texture issues or fine lines you're dealing with.
Consider Ultrasound Skin Tightening
While ultrasound skin tightening is a relatively new treatment, it's already creating a ton of buzz in the beauty world—because the results are real.
If you've had an ultrasound before, you probably know a little about them already. Via a handheld device, it delivers high-frequency sound waves which pass harmlessly through the skin. This boosts collagen under the skin's surface, while heating, firming, and tightening the deeper tissue under the skin's surface.
It's not for everyone, and this treatment is still being refined. But it's certainly worth asking your doctor about.
Or a Laser Skin Tightening Procedure
As you probably know by now, lasering is a great treatment for targeting a specific area of your body to improve the surface of skin.
It's no wonder lasering is so popular as an effective facial treatment: It improves skin texture, reduces fine lines and sun damage, and slightly thickens thinning skin, and will have similar results on underarm skin.
There are pros and cons. Pro: It's another noninvasive treatment with little to no downtime. Con: For best results, you'll need multiple treatments. Also, it improves the skin texture more than it technically lifts and tightens the area, so you'll likely see minimal results, rather than any drastic change.
Consider the Pros and Cons of Surgical Options
And if all else fails, it could be worth talking to your doctor about potential surgery. When it comes to tightening underarms, the results you'll see from a board-certified plastic surgeon are unlike anything else on this list. It's the gold standard—because surgeons can literally remove excess skin and fat, and target specific areas with hidden, discreet incisions.
Also, surgery might be the only option for those with significant loose underarm skin from, for example, massive weight loss.
Of course, it's not a decision to be taken lightly. It goes without saying that invasive procedures like skin removals, body lifts, and liposuction have longer recovery periods, so you'll likely be out-of-commission more than you might prefer. There are also a number of complications that can occur, some if which can (very rarely) be fatal. You should also keep in mind that there are surgeons out there who benefit from insecurities (in fact, they profit off of them). If you choose to go the surgery route (and truly only you can decide!), be sure to go with a someone you trust, weigh all of the pros and cons,