Dramatic weight loss can be an intense experience, from the stress of changing your lifestyle to the excitement of looking forward to feeling more confident in your health and your appearance. For many patients who lose significant amounts of weight, this includes an extra step after the weight loss itself – surgery to remove sagging skin that has been left behind. If you or a loved one is considering post-weight loss plastic surgery, it’s important to have accurate information, so as a double board-certified plastic surgeon who’s been working with weight loss patients for over thirty years, I’ve identified some of the most common myths about cosmetic surgery for excess skin.
Post-bariatric or post weight loss plastic surgery is not one specific procedure, but rather a group of procedures designed to remove sagging skin, including a tummy tuck, lower body lift, panniculectomy, upper arm lift, and thigh lift, as well as male breast reduction for some men and a breast lift for some women. Depending on where the excess skin appears on the body, a patient often has a combination of a few of these procedures.
Myth #2: Post-weight loss plastic surgery is only for those who had bariatric surgery.
While people who lose weight using bariatric surgery are the most likely ones to be left with excess skin simply because they lose weight very quickly, those who use methods like diet and exercise often find themselves with sagging skin as well. Both types of patients have achieved highly successful results with cosmetic surgery.
Myth #3: Cosmetic surgery after weight loss will get rid of stretch marks.
Stretch marks are defects within the skin itself, and plastic surgery simply removes excess skin and reshapes the remaining skin. As a result, the only stretch marks your surgery will affect are those that are on the skin that is being removed.
Myth #4: Post-weight loss plastic surgery is purely cosmetic.
Hanging skin can cause a variety of problems, from rashes and discomfort to even mobility issues in severe cases. For patients who have successfully lost weight, staying motivated to maintain their weight loss is crucial, and excess skin removal can make a powerful difference by making exercise easier and more comfortable while also allowing patients to finally enjoy the appearance they’ve been working toward.
Myth #5: Excess skin removal after weight loss is only for the body.
Sagging skin due to weight loss is typically the most significant on the areas that have seen the largest change, like the abdomen. However, most patients also lose weight in their necks and faces, which sometimes results in lax skin that makes them look older than they are. Surgeries like neck lifts and facelifts (or even facial filler injections like Restylane® and Juvéderm®) can restore a more youthful look to these areas.
Myth #6: Plastic surgery will make you look the way you did before the weight gain.
It’s important to go into surgery with realistic expectations, and while procedures like a tummy tuck or lower body lift can create a dramatic improvement in your appearance, they do result in scarring and they do have their limits, so be aware that your body will not necessarily look the way it did before weight fluctuations, aging, and in some cases, pregnancy.
Myth #7: You can have post-weight loss plastic surgery as soon as you hit your goal weight.
In order to achieve and maintain the best possible results, you should ensure that you have reached a stable weight before pursuing surgery. Future weight fluctuations can diminish your aesthetic results, so while you may be understandably eager to have excess skin removed, you’re more likely to be happier in the long run if you wait until you’re sure your weight is stable.
Myth #8: You’ll be able to see the results right away.
Plastic surgery is a process, and it can take as long as three months or sometimes longer for your body to fully heal and eliminate swelling so that you can see your final results. It can take even longer before your scars fade into their final appearance. So as excited as you may be to see your newly slimmer figure, it’s important to be patient and give your body time to recover.
Educating yourself is one of the most important steps you can take toward having a successful plastic surgery with results you can enjoy for decades to come. Resources like this blog can be a great start, but to learn more about your specific case and whether you’re a candidate for post-weight loss cosmetic surgery, schedule a consultation with me, Dr. Franklyn Elliott. Or, for more helpful tips, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.