Arm Lifts Soar in Popularity

Arm lifts have grown in popularity over the past few years, with an increase of 4000% since the year 2000. Driven mostly by patients who have lost massive amounts of weight, the procedure has received a shot in the arm by celebrities’ sleeveless physiques (hello, Michelle Obama!). Known affectionately as “bat wings,” the extra hanging skin dangling from outstretched arms is difficult to improve through exercise or weight lifting. After working hard to improve their arms, many people come to us seeking help. Here are their FAQs.

Q: How can I get rid of this hanging skin?

  • A: If the hanging skin were loose fabric on a mannequin, you could get rid of it by cutting it away with scissors. That’s roughly the idea of an arm lift, formally known as a “brachioplasty.” The result is a scar extending along the length of the inside back of the arm. In most arm positions, the scar is hidden.

Q: Can’t you just pull the skin and remove it with a scar in the armpit?

  • A: That seems like a great idea. After all, while patients are pulling their skin, it looks great. The problem is that once that pulling force is removed, the skin relaxes and falls back into place. Patients who are fortunate enough to have extra skin only near the armpit might be candidates, but usually the skin hangs from armpit to elbow. Removing it requires an incision that extends along the inside of the length of the upper arm.

Q: Can you tighten the skin without surgery?

  • A: Non-invasive treatments, such as Thermage, tighten skin by heating the tissues. This is a great option for patients who have lost some tone, but don’t have a significant amount of hanging skin.

Q: Can liposuction help?

  • A: Patients with full arms with adipose (fatty) tissue can benefit from liposuction, but in general those with loose skin won’t see an improvement. It is possible for liposuction to result in loose arm skin, so we often combine liposuction of the arms with a skin-tightening laser liposuction for Marin, Sonoma and Napa County patients.

Q: Can I prevent loose arm skin?

  • A: Most patients seeking a brachioplasty (some as part of post-bariatric surgery) have lost a significant amount of weight or have lost skin and tissue tone as they have aged. Often patients do triceps exercises in hopes of tightening up their skin. Unfortunately, the skin doesn’t tighten, but the shape can improve as the lovely hills and valleys of a fit arm become more visible. Over 15,000 women underwent brachioplasty in 2012. After the procedure, our Sonoma and Marin County surgery patients tell us they love being able to wear sleeves without breaking the elastic, and they love to be able to go sleeveless. Although the scar is long, it can be concealed, and our patients love saying “good bye bat wings!”
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