Each year, thousands of people across Australia embark on their own personal weight loss journeys. Whether it’s a couple of kilograms to gear up for a holiday or a complete lifestyle overhaul, it’s no secret that losing weight conscientiously and carefully is one of the best things you can do for your physical and emotional well-being. Many people who are actively losing weight are motivated by future images of themselves with the tight, toned bodies of lifelong fitness gurus. Unfortunately, large-volume weight loss that happens quickly, such as after bariatric surgery, can leave some with an excess of loose, sagging skin — a frustrating setback after months of hard work and discipline.
Although human skin is known for being exceptionally resilient, it loses elasticity as time goes on. Diminished production of crucial skin-firming chemicals such as hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin can be chalked up to aging, and we all recognize the familiar appearance of mature skin that no longer seems to defy gravity. Many younger people have a dual advantage when it comes to weight loss: efficient metabolism and skin that is more elastic and forgiving. For these people, gradual weight loss on its own is often enough to achieve the tighter, toned contours they envision.
Older patients may have a more difficult time, especially those who lose a significant amount of weight. Skin that’s been stretched by extra pounds may have a harder time bouncing back. This phenomenon is also seen in women who are left with excessive abdominal skin following pregnancy. As these individuals know all too well, no amount of dieting or exercise can reduce stretched skin. Some learn to live with it, while others turn to plastic surgery.
Today, many options exist for people who require surgical excision of excess skin. The most popular of these is arguably abdominoplasty, commonly referred to as a tummy tuck. Although many people believe that a tummy tuck’s primary purpose is to remove excess fat, it’s actually better suited to patients who are already at or near healthy weights. According to Columbia surgeon Dr. John Seaberg, liposuction is better suited for fat removal. Although many tummy tucks use liposuction to address smaller pockets of residual fat, they also cut away excess abdominal skin, making them especially popular with women who have had children or people who have lost a lot of weight.
Post-weight loss body contouring is an expanding subfield of plastic surgery, with many doctors choosing to limit the focus of their practices to the needs of this unique population. In addition to abdominoplasty, other body contouring surgeries, such as body lifts, arm lifts, breast lifts, and more each raise and reposition their targeted areas, cutting away loose skin and redraping it for smooth, natural-looking results that complement the patient’s own curves. As technology advances, more and more non-surgical skin tightening options are becoming available. Today, radiofrequency and ultrasound options such as Ultherapy® stimulate the body’s production of collagen to tighten and lift skin without surgery. Today, these procedures are used to correct facial aging, but in the future, more targeted technology may enable them to improve the look of other parts of the body, too.