If you are on a weight loss journey, you know the road has many bumps along the way. One of the most challenging stretches comes when you’ve lost significant weight, but you feel unable to enjoy your success because your shape doesn’t match your vision for yourself.
This is most often because every lost pound comes with the disappointing trade-off of sagging skin. This disheartening fact can create a lack of motivation to continue, resulting in a weight loss plateau—or even gaining pounds back.
Even if your weight loss journey has been all natural (with diet and exercise) up to this point, an expert surgeon can help to shape your skin to match your new underlying shape. Here’s how post-weight loss plastic surgery works.
- How do you tighten skin after weight loss?
- My buttocks have lost volume after weight loss. What are my options to improve this?
- How much does it cost to remove excess skin after weight loss?
- How long does it take to recover from plastic surgery to remove excess skin?
- Does health insurance cover excess skin removal after bariatric surgery? What about after natural weight loss?
- Do I need to lose more weight before I have body lifting procedures? What BMI is too high for plastic surgery?
- Can I use plastic surgery to lose weight?
- How many pounds of skin is removed in a body lift? Will I weigh less afterward?
How do you tighten skin after weight loss?
Excess skin after weight loss is often localized in the tummy area, but it can also extend throughout the waist, buttocks, and thighs. The procedure that will best reveal your underlying shape depends on your body, but often involves a circumferential body lift (a.k.a. belt lipectomy).
A body lift removes excess skin and fat, as well as stretch marks, throughout the abdomen, buttocks, and upper thighs, and is composed of 3 plastic surgeries in 1:
- An extended tummy tuck to create a firm foundation of muscle in the abdominal wall and remove excess abdominal skin
- A waist lift/reduction, including a lateral thigh lift, to tighten excess skin in the waist and outer thigh
- A buttock lift to tighten throughout the buttocks and in the outer edges of the thigh down towards the knee
- A lower back lift to remove excess skin in your lower back and posterior flanks
- A mons/pubic lift/reduction to tighten up and/or reduce a sagging pubic area
Depending on each patient’s particular anatomy and needs, post-weight loss surgery may include other procedures, or only some of those listed above. Patients often choose to include a buttock augmentation within the body lift procedure to replace lost volume. Other common procedures include an arm lift, breast lift, facelift, and liposuction.
My buttocks have lost volume after weight loss. What are my options to improve this?
To restore volume in the buttocks, options include a buttock auto-augmentation and a Brazilian buttock augmentation (Brazilian butt lift).
For weight loss patients who are opting for a body lift, we can perform a buttock auto-augmentation within the same procedure to add contour to the buttocks. This procedure involves using healthy skin and fat removed from another area of the body to restore volume without an implant.
For patients who do not have enough excess tissue for auto-augmentation, we can perform a Brazilian buttock augmentation. This buttock sculpting procedure involves using careful liposuction technique to harvest fat from another area of your body, purifying the fat, and injecting it into the buttock mound to create a rounded contour.
How much does it cost to remove excess skin after weight loss?
The cost of post-weight loss surgery may range from $7,000 to $30,000 or more. The caliber of the surgeon and the extent of the procedure(s) performed have the biggest impact on the cost, with facility fees, anesthesia charges, and your pre- and post-op care also factoring into the total cost of surgery.
How long does it take to recover from plastic surgery to remove excess skin?
Your recovery time for plastic surgery after weight loss depends on which procedures are included in your surgery. If you undergo a circumferential body lift, alone or in combination with other procedures like breast lift or facelift, you can expect a recovery time of about 4-6 weeks. Typically, we recommend patients stage out additional procedures beyond the body lift, waiting 3-6 months after the body lift is performed.
If you undergo a less extensive procedure—like arm lift, breast lift, facelift, or liposuction—your recovery will take around 2-4 weeks. A tummy tuck alone typically requires about 2 weeks for recovery to return to a desk job.
During recovery, you will be encouraged to walk around to promote good circulation and prevent blood clots. Still, it is important to avoid strenuous exercise or heavy lifting for the duration of your recovery. Swelling can continue for several months, so there will be a delay before you see your final results. Note that scars continue to fade for a full year after surgery.
Rest assured that Dr. Basu and our supportive nursing team will talk you through your personalized post-operative instructions before your surgery, so you will know what to expect based on the specifics of your procedure.
Dr. Basu uses a nerve block during surgery to improve your recovery experience
To minimize your recovery time, Dr. Basu performs a nerve block during all body lift procedures, using the local anesthetic Exparel® to numb the area around the surgical site. This numbing effect can last for up to 72 hours (and sometimes longer), and helps patients recover more comfortably and with less pain medication.
Does health insurance cover excess skin removal after bariatric surgery? What about after natural weight loss?
Unfortunately, health insurance companies most often deem these procedures “cosmetic” and do not offer coverage, whether the weight was lost through diet and exercise or after bariatric surgery. In very rare cases, insurance may agree a skin excision procedure is medically necessary and offer coverage.
Most patients use patient financing to cover this post weight loss investment in their health and appearance. Our patient care coordinators are happy to go over your financing options and work with you to make the procedure you need financially attainable.
Do I need to lose more weight before I have body lifting procedures? What BMI is too high for plastic surgery?
At Basu Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery, we require patients to have a body mass index (BMI) below 40 before undergoing plastic surgery. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both men and women. Patients need to understand that elevated BMI does carry increased risk for delayed healing and other complications.
While BMI is not the only important factor that we consider in determining if you are a good candidate for surgery, it is very important to have a low enough BMI that it is safe for you to go under anesthesia for surgery and have an optimal recovery. (There is a well-documented higher risk of complications related to surgery and anesthesia for those with higher BMIs.)
Can I use plastic surgery to lose weight?
Skin excision procedures—such as body lift, tummy tuck, or arm lift—and sculpting procedures—like liposuction—are not weight loss procedures. (By contrast, bariatric surgery is intended to help patients lose weight.) Rather, these procedures are intended to make patients more comfortable and reveal their new shape after they have lost a significant amount of weight and are left with excess, sagging skin, often after bariatric surgery.
Still, removing uncomfortable excess skin can help you in your weight loss journey in a few ways: Plastic surgery can help you exercise more comfortably and offer a confidence boost that helps you stay on track. Studies show that tummy tuck patients keep weight off better than patients who lost weight but did not undergo body contouring surgery. Thus, even if your weight loss journey is not yet 100% complete, certain procedures can be helpful as you approach your goal weight.
How many pounds of skin is removed in a body lift? Will I be lighter afterward, when I step on the scale?
A body lift certainly removes a substantial amount of excess skin, but this procedure does not help you lose weight in the way that bariatric surgery or diet and exercise might. You’ll simply see a decrease of about 5-10 pounds in weight after you are fully healed due to the skin that has been removed (this may vary based on how much excess skin is removed). While you won’t lose a substantial amount of weight from plastic surgery alone, you will see a dramatic impact on your shape: clothes will fit much better, and, because of these shape improvements, your clothing size will be smaller.
Schedule your consultation at Basu Aesthetics + Plastic Surgery in Houston
Dr. Bob Basu is a board certified plastic surgeon in Houston, a member of the American Society of Bariatric Plastic Surgeons, and a body contouring expert who specializes in plastic surgery after significant weight loss. Dr. Basu is happy to meet with you in a consultation to discuss what results are possible for you with a post-weight loss procedure. If you have a BMI below 40 (use this tool to calculate your BMI) and are prepared for the cost of a combination procedure, schedule your consultation today by calling 713.799.2278 or contacting our practice online.