How to Get Rid of Loose Skin Without Surgery

loose abdominal skin
Loose Abdominal Skin.

Millicent Odunze

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It's not uncommon to have loose skin after weight loss, especially in your arms, abdomen, chest, butt, and thighs. This can be uncomfortable physically, such as if it pulls at you or rubs against other skin, but it can affect you psychologically too, changing the way you interact with the world.

If you are looking for ways to tighten your loose skin, you may be wondering if you should have surgery or if it would be better to go with a less invasive, non-surgical option. Answering that question is a bit complex because it depends on your situation and expectations.

Which Option Is Best?

Non-surgical skin tightening generally involves using treatments designed to make the skin more firm. In some cases, this is achieved by promoting collagen or elastin production. Collagen makes the skin firm and elastin helps keep it tight. Other treatments make the skin look more smooth by breaking down the fibrous tissue that creates cellulite.

Surgery, on the other hand, involves cutting away and removing the excess skin due to weight loss. Several surgical skin removal options exist. A panniculectomy, for instance, is a removal of the skin "apron" that hangs below the belly button, or you can get an upper or lower body lift.

Deciding whether to remove loose skin with surgery or whether a non-surgical tightening option would be best requires doing a comparison so you better understand what to expect from each one. Look at factors such as recovery times, long-term impacts, and more. This chart should help.

Non-Surgical Skin Tightening
  • Minimal recovery time, if any

  • No permanent scars or marks

  • No surgical safety risks

  • No pre-procedure weight maintenance requirements

Surgical Skin Tightening
  • Several weeks to recover

  • Scarring that may be visible

  • Surgery isn't safe for everyone

  • Best if your weight has been stable for six months or more

Dr. Bruce Katz, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Director of the Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Clinic at Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Director of the Juva Skin & Laser Center in New York, adds that there are other considerations as well.

"In general, good candidates for non-surgical methods are patients who have skin that is not pendulous or redundant," says Dr. Katz, which refers to loose skin that folds over on itself. Additionally, if your skin is healthy and not sun-damaged, Dr. Katz says that it "responds better to treatment."

Whatever you decide, it is important to discuss with your decision with your doctor first. Make sure the treatment you want is safe for you given your current health and physical condition.

Some people who have had successful weight loss decide that surgery is the best option, but not every patient is a good candidate for these procedures. If skin surgery occurs after bariatric surgery, for instance, there is a 60 percent risk of developing complications.

Non-Surgical Methods

If your loose skin can be treated without surgery, there are several non-invasive or minimally invasive options to choose from. Here is a closer look at a few of the options that are available.

vShape Ultra

During vShape treatment, two different radio frequencies are applied to the skin via ultrasound. These frequencies are used to impact both the top layer and deeper layer of skin. The deep heat provided promotes collagen production, causing the skin to tighten.

One of the benefits of vShape is that it can be performed anywhere that loose skin exists (even around the face).​ This allows you to target the areas you want to firm most. Technicians are also able to target specific skin depths, offering optimal results.

vShape offers minimal discomfort, with most patients feeling a moderate level of vibration and heat in the area treated. Redness and swelling may also occur if applied over thin skin. Though, it requires no actual downtime for recovery after the procedure.

Most patients require four to five sessions (30 to 45 minutes each) and the skin continues to produce collagen for up to six months after the final treatment, offering results that last up to five years. The typical cost is $500 to 800 per treatment.

ThermiTight

This minimally invasive procedure also uses radio frequency with the purpose of stimulating your body's natural collagen production. During a ThermiTight procedure, local anesthesia is applied to the area where you want to tighten loose skin, whether on your face, neck, breasts, arms, abdomen, thighs, or knees.

One advantage over vShape is that ThermiTight typically only requires one treatment session. It can be used on any skin type or tone, though is not appropriate for people who have a fever, a skin infection in the application area, or women who are pregnant.

Possible side effects of this non-surgical skin tightening option include pain where the frequency is applied, skin rash (erythema), and swelling caused by trapped fluid (edema). Some of these issues can take weeks to fully resolve.

ThermiTight results last between three and five years but may need to be repeated after that due to normal aging. The typical cost is $3,500 to $5,000, depending on location.

VelaShape

VelaShape uses slightly different technology. During the skin tightening procedure, the VelaShape machine combines infrared, bi-polar radio frequency, pulsed vacuum, and massage rollers to treat the thighs, buttocks, love handles, or abdomen.

The goal behind VelaShape is to reduce the appearance of cellulite by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin. This results in smoother and smaller thighs and abdomen, and a more toned body. Treatments are non-invasive and painless.

VelaShape is best suited for people with a body mass index (BMI) under 30. It also provides better results if the dimpling of the skin can be seen while standing but not while lying down.

Patients generally see a gradual tightening of the skin and cellulite reduction with VelaShape. Three to four treatments are often needed and the cost varies depending on body part but can range from $300 to 800 per treatment.

EMSCULPT

EMSCULPT is a treatment designed to build muscle in the abs, butt, arms, or legs without exercise. While it doesn't change skin strength or elasticity, it can help to promote muscle growth to make your body look tighter.

The way it works is by causing your muscles to involuntarily contract. This contraction strengthens and tones the muscle. Each procedure lasts about 30 minutes and you generally need a minimum of four sessions, scheduled 2-3 days apart.

EMSCULPT was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration on October 21, 2016 as a medical device. Both the large and small applicator deliver thousands of contractions, and there are chair applicators too.

If you choose to use EMSCULPT, it will feel like you've engaged in an intense workout. The cost varies based on location but each treatment is typically around $1000, making the complete four-session procedure about $4000.

Other Considerations

Even though you can tighten loose skin without surgery, it doesn't necessarily mean that you should. Every procedure comes with some level of risk, so it's important to take into consideration your own health and whether these risks are elevated for you.

Dr. Katz further cautions that patients must be willing to commit to a healthy diet and exercise program to maintain their tighter skin after a treatment. He recommends that patients maintain a consistent weight to keep the skin from stretching out again.

If you lost weight recently, you may want to wait up to a year to see if you regain some or all of your weight before investing in a procedure.

A Word From Verywell

For some patients, the time and money invested in a skin-tightening procedure may provide enough motivation to stick to their new diet and keep the weight from coming back. But every patient is unique.

Evaluate all of your options and consider your long-term plan before you choose the best treatment for your loose skin. Include your doctor in your decision-making process to ensure that the option you choose is safe.

It can be frustrating to learn that a skin tightening option may not be the best option for you. Or if you have to wait to have loose skin removed. However, safety is the number one priority. If you are healthy and well, you can enjoy your weight loss to the fullest extent possible.

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Article Sources
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