Removing Extra Skin After Weight Loss

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2023

Losing a significant amount of weight is an achievement that can improve one's health and well-being. But for many people who have had substantial weight loss, the resulting excess skin can pose physical and emotional challenges. Excess skin removal, also known as body contouring or body lift surgery, offers a potential solution.1

What is excess skin removal?

Excess skin develops when the skin stretches from weight gain. After weight loss (especially rapid weight loss), the skin does not tighten and conform to the new shape of the body. The result is sagging, loose skin.1

Excess skin removal is a surgical procedure that removes loose and sagging skin on the body. This procedure is typically for people who have lost a substantial amount of weight – usually 100 pounds or more – either through bariatric surgery or lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.1

Who performs excess skin removal procedures?

Excess skin removal procedures are done by board-certified plastic surgeons who specialize in body contouring and reconstructive surgeries. These surgeons have the expertise and training to safely address excess skin after weight loss.1,2

A qualified surgeon will assess your needs and suggest the best treatment for you.1,2

Options for excess skin removal

There are many procedures for excess skin removal.

Lower body lift (circumferential body lift)

A lower body lift targets loose skin in various areas of the lower body. A lower body lift can target the:1,2

  • Stomach
  • Thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Back

During a lower body lift, a surgeon makes incisions in certain locations to remove excess skin and fat. They then move and tighten the remaining skin for a smoother appearance.1,2

Tummy tuck (abdominoplasty)

This procedure focuses on the stomach area. A tummy tuck is for people who have loose skin in the stomach area. This skin can result in a protruding or sagging belly. A tummy tuck can:1,2

  • Remove excess skin and fat
  • Repair weakened or separated abdominal muscles
  • Create a firmer and flatter profile

Arm lift (brachioplasty)

An arm lift targets the upper arms. The arms often develop loose skin and a "bat-wing" appearance following weight loss. This procedure removes excess skin and fat, resulting in a tighter and more toned appearance.1,2

Other procedures

There are other excess skin removal procedures as well, including:2

  • Face lift
  • Back lift
  • Breast lift
  • Neck contouring
  • Panniculectomy (addresses excess skin that hangs below the belly button)

Are you a candidate for excess skin removal?

Your doctor will do a thorough physical exam and assessment to learn whether you are a good candidate for this type of surgery. To be a candidate, you must:1,2

  • Be in good general health – Medical issues like diabetes may increase the risks associated with the procedure.
  • Not smoke – Smoking can slow the healing process and can increase risk of complications.
  • Have a stable weight – Weight changes after surgery may compromise the results and require follow-up procedures. You must have had a stable weight for at least 6 months to be a candidate for excess skin removal.
  • Have realistic expectations – This is a major surgery that involves recovery time. People must be prepared for the physical and emotional aspects of the surgery.
  • Be able to take time off from work – After surgery, your body will need plenty of time to heal.

What are the side effects of excess skin removal?

After having excess skin removal, you can expect some pain and discomfort for several weeks. This is completely normal. Depending on how extensive the procedure is – and how much of the body is addressed – it may take longer to heal. Your doctor may prescribe pain medicine to help.1,2

You likely will have some scarring from the incisions, too. This is also normal. Your surgeon will do their best to reduce scarring as much as possible. They will try to make the incisions in areas of the body that are less noticeable.1,2

What are the possible risks of excess skin removal?

Just like any major surgery, excess skin removal comes with possible risks and complications. These can include:1

  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infections
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Nerve damage

Talk with your surgeon about your concerns and any questions you may have.

Choosing a surgeon

Choosing a skilled plastic surgeon is crucial for reducing any complications and getting the best results. Do your homework. Research and meet with multiple surgeons. Ask for their credentials, before-and-after photos, and patient testimonials. A qualified surgeon with expertise in body contouring will be able to provide you with this proof of their work.1,2

If excess skin is affecting your quality of life, meet with a qualified plastic surgeon. They can help guide you through the process and recommend the procedures that can help you the most.1,2

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